The IDEAL: Honey & Mumford’s 4 Types of Learners

In 1986, Peter Honey and Alan Mumford, classified learners into four types. Vastly different in its approach from the VAK model that was first proposed in the 1920s by a group of psychologists and later reviewed and repurposed more recently into a four-style model (VARK®) by Fleming and Mills in 1992, by including Reading as the fourth style, the Honey and Mumford model classifies learners as:

  • Activist
  • Theorist
  • Pragmatist
  • Reflector

Quite simply,

  • Activists like to experience their learning – they learn by doing.
  • Theorists want to know the why that underlies whatever they learn
  • Pragmatists like to know the real world (i.e. practical application) of their learning
  • Reflectors learn by observing and thinking it over to synthesize their conclusions.

Honey and Mumford Learner types and Learning Styles model - Activist, Theorist, Reflector, Pragmatist

As in the case of the VAK model, Honey and Mumford’s learning styles overlap in learners and they are a function of their chosen path (a research scientist who as a child was a pragmatist could due to habituations transform into a combination of a theorist and reflector, while a theorist who ends up as an instructional designer (yours truly) could turn into a pragmatist. However, one or the other learning styles dominate a person’s preferences.

In a classroom or a group of online learners, you could expect an even sprinkling of these learning styles. If you’d like to go deeper and be exact (or, in other words, if you are a Reflector with a penchant for precision,) you could use a questionnaire to get the exact learning style of each member of your audience. This, as any practicing trainer or instructional designer would know, isn’t easy.

On a personal note: I was completed bowled over when I visited Peter Honey’s site. He’s a learning specialist, an artist, and a humorist! (You know who else has her hands in three different pies.) Check out his refreshing take on his own biography.

Coffeebeans, as always, wants her paw in the pie.

Coffeebeans Cartoons on Learning, Training, Instructional Design - Honey and Mumford Model

Download your free PDF of this article for a more detailed insight into the Honey Mumford model, which also discusses the application of the model both to online content creation and training design so that your content addresses all the four learner types. You are welcome to share the PDF with your colleagues and friends.