10 March 2016 | Fraser Talbot
BIFM currently has more than 2,000 learners undertaking a BIFM qualification in facilities management through face-to-face or self-directed learning.
For many, this will be their first experience of formal learning since school or higher education. Returning to study after a period away can be daunting, especially when it is combined with work and personal commitments. To help with a return to study it is advisable for learners to identify their preferred learning style and how this will affect the study process.
A learning style can be defined as "an individual's natural or habitual pattern of acquiring and processing information in learning situations. A core concept is that individuals differ in how they learn" (boundless.com). Put simply, in the same way that we all have different personalities we all have differing preferences for how we learn, and the better we understand our preferences, the more we can maximise our learning experiences.
One of the most widely used models of learning styles is The Index Of Learning Styles questionnaire developed by Dr Richard Felder and Barbara Soloman.
According to this model, there are four dimensions of learning styles. These dimensions are best thought of as a continuum with one learning preference on the far left and the other on the far right. The four dimensions are Sensory to Intuitive, Visual to Verbal, Active to Reflective and Sequential to Global. Taking one of the dimensions, a visual learner will look for visual representations of information such as graphs and diagrams whereas a verbal learner will prefer an explanation with words.
If you are a new learner, take time to reflect where your preference lies and then you can stretch beyond this to develop a more balanced approach to learning. This will improve your learning effectiveness and can open you up to new ways of perceiving the world. Balance is key; if you stay too far on one of the dimensions you limit your ability to take on new information and understand it clearly and effectively.
It is also important to understand the concept of the learning cycle. This is a model developed by American educational theorist David Kolb and stresses the importance of taking time to review experiences, reflect upon them, make links with previous experiences of learning and create plans to enhance future development. An example of the learning cycle in action is consideration of a 'significant experience'.
Learning emerges from a variety of situations, from your experience as an FM practitioner and as you engage with the BIFM qualifications. We want to encourage you to develop your capacity to extract as much learning as possible from these 'significant experiences' through taking time to reflect, linking the experience to previous experiences or learning and taking the outcomes of this reflection forward into future practice.
Fraser Talbot is professional standards and education manager at BIFM