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A02

Assignment
Over the next few days select a student, friend, or family member to observe.  During the observation look for behaviors in this person that are characteristic of each of the different learning styles.  Record the comments that are made, questions that are asked, and actions that are taken that indicate a preference for a particular learning style.  Use the "Learning Styles Preferences" chart (Figure 2-B) located below to record your findings.
Method:
In preparation for summarizing James in the chart, I reviewed my own impression of him, but I also talked to him, visited his work place, watched him interact with a team from another state agency as they worked on a planning strategy presentation, talked to workers he supervises and talked to his teenaged daughter.

Rationale:
I selected an adult friend rather than a current student because this year I do not have a Cambodian student and I was concerned that the power difference between teacher and student combined with the cultural differences would confound my attempt to identify behavior with a basis in learning style.  With the adult there was no power difference, and although there is still a cultural difference I thought I might be able to mitigate the effects by (1) considering someone of long term association and (2) triangulating information from different sources and from different contexts -- which I would not be able to do with a student.


Subject:
James is a professional middle aged white male who was born and raised in the southeastern United States.  He is the director of a state government research office that applies technology to the analysis potential effects of proposed policies.  He has graduate training but never finished his dissertation, though he supervises Ph.D.s. I have known James almost fifteen years and he was my husband's the best man at our wedding.  I selected James at random (names from a hat) but I think he is representative of my small circle of adult friends (well educated, research oriented with several publication/presentations annually, and with interests in technology and anthropology, has taught at the university level but has a career outside academia per se).


Individual Response
Summary


Learning Style
Description of Individual's Behavior
ST
Has the capability to rapidly master the basic details of new software applications. By working with instruction manuals  he installs, operates and trains staff in Beta software on an almost weekly basis. He finds dealing with details a "maddening" necessity of his job.
NT
One of James' strengths is his ability to the ways in which different software that is underdevelopment around the world could be of use in the analysis of  varying policy scenarios.  Not only does he identify these applications-in-development, but he finds creative ways to create research partnerships with the development organizations so that his office acquires use of the software and both agencies benefit.
SF
While James can often assess the interests and capabilities of his staff and match them to specific tasks within a project, there are times when rather than have to deal with the staff he would rather just take on unnecessarily large amounts of work himself.  He also has great confidence to do tasks better than any of his staff and in most activity related to server based delivery of information over the Internet he is probably correct.
NF
James' ability to quickly assess the utility of software in development is amplified by his ability to express his vision of the importance of his work so that he has been consistently successful in forging partnerships with other government agencies and private corporations as well.

The combination of James' NT-NF guided management has kept the agency in the forefront of applied research related to Geographic Information Systems in state governments.  However, James' interpersonal skill set has kept him in danger of experiencing burnout. (James himself seems to be aware of this risk, but he seems unwilling to undertake a strategy of change.)
What insights have you gained about the individual?

Although I know most of the 'facts' before I undertook this exercise, writing the summary down in chart form helped me to see relationships among the facts I really had not quite recognized.  In particular, prior to this exercise I had considered his work habits that center around impossibly long hours, to be a function of a passionate interest in the work and an inherent lack of organization.  But now I strongly suspect that much of the work issue is more a result of a desire to avoid potential conflict with staff, or an aversion to taking time to develop staff skills.

How might these insights cause you to respond differently to his or her behavior?

I think I was vaguely aware of most of this information before I began the exercise, but by writing it out in the chart format it has helped, perhaps, to clarify my friends management style as it relates to learning style.  In the future I will be more encouraging and supportive of his efforts to delegate tasks and to devote more time and energy to self maintenance. (As in, "Gee, couldn't any of your subordinates do that this week? Why don't you and your daughter join us on the camping trip this week-end?" As opposed to "You're a good man James but you're going to be dead of a heart attack before the year's out if you keep driving yourself like this.")