Learning Styles

Learning style refers to the ability of an individual to learn. A manager’s long-term success depends more on the ability to learn than on the mastery of the specific skills or technical knowledge.

Kolb’s Learning Styles Model

Kolb’s model of learning styles is one of the best-known and widely used learning style theories. Kolb’s learning theory sets out four distinct learning styles (or preferences), which are based on a four-stage learning cycle. Much of Kolb’s theory is concerned with the learner’s internal cognitive processes.

“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping experience and transforming it.” (David A. Kolb, 1984).

These four learning styles are: accommodation, divergence, assimilation and convergence. The four learning styles are based on dimensions: feeling versus thinking and doing versus observing.

  1. Accommodator: An accommodator learns by doing and feeling. He tends to learn primarily from hands-on experience. He tends to act on gut feeling rather than on logical analysis. An accommodator tends to rely more heavily on people for information while making decisions. He seeks action-oriented careers such as marketing, politics, public relations and management.
  2. Diverger: A diverger learns by observing and feeling. The diverger has the ability to view concrete situations from different angles. When solving problems, diverger enjoys brainstorming. He takes time and analyses many alternatives. Diverger is imaginative and sensitive to the needs of the other people. He seeks careers in entertainment, arts and services sector.
  3. Converger: A converger learns by doing and thinking.
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Learning Curve in an Organizational Context

A highly useful learning concept which is valid for a wide range of situation is the organizational learning curve, a diagrammatic presentation of the amount learned in relation to time. A typical learning curve will show on the Y-axis the amount learnt and the X-axis the passage of time.

Characteristics of the Organizational Learning Curve

Certain characteristics are common to all learning curves. One such feature is the initial spurt. At the beginning, it is natural that the rate of learning exhibits spurt. Usually, the graph levels off at some stage, indicating that maximum performance has been achieved. Apparently at the beginning of the learning process, the subject is highly motivated and seems to exhibit a significant surge of effort. Many experienced trainers exploit this initial spurt by selecting the most important items to be communicated and presenting them as a package to the students at the beginning of the training unit. In many ways, it is possible to exemplify the initial spurt with the aphorism “the first step is the best step”

Another feature of the organizational learning curve is the learning plateau. At some point in the learning process there is a flattening off in terms of the improvement, a plateau. Frequently, the process of learning is marked by discontinuities and involves escalating from one plateau to another. Most learners are only too aware of the experience of finding themselves on a plateau, which manifests itself in the feeling that they are never going to get anywhere.… Read the rest

Concept of Reinforcement in Organizational Behavior

Reinforcement is the attempt to develop or strengthen desirable behavior. There are two types of reinforcement in organizational behavior: positive and negative.

Positive reinforcement strengthens and enhances behavior by the presentation of positive reinforcers. There are primary reinforcers and secondary reinforcers. Primary reinforcers satisfy basic biological needs and include food and water. However, primary reinforcers don not always reinforce. For instance, food may not be a reinforcer to someone who has just completed a five course meal. Most behaviors in organizations are influenced by secondary reinforcers. These include such benefits as money, status, grades, trophies and praise from others. These include such benefits as money, status, grades, trophies and praise from others. These become positive reinforcers because of their associations with the primary reinforcers and hence are often called conditioned reinforcers.

It should be noted that an event that functions as a positive reinforce at one time or in one context may have a different effect at another time or in another place. For example, food may serve as a positive reinforcer for a person who is hungry, but not when the person, as stated above, has already a large meal. Clearly, a stimulus that functions as a positive reinforcer for one person may fail to operate in a similar manner for another person.

Within itself, positive reinforcement has several principles.

  • The principle of contingent reinforcement states that the reinforcer must be administered only if the desired behavior has occurred. A reinforcer administered when the desired behavior has not been performed becomes ineffective.
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Components of Learning Process

Learning is an important psychological process that-determines human behavior. Learning can be defined as “relatively permanent change in behavior that occurs as a result of experience or reinforced practice”.

There are four important points in the definition of learning:

  1. Learning involves a change in behavior, though this change is not necessarily an improvement over previous behavior. Learning generally has the connotation of improved behavior, but bad habits, prejudices, stereotypes, and work restrictions are also learned.
  2. The, behavioral change must be relatively permanent. Any temporary change in behavior is not a part of learning.
  3. The behavioral change must be based oh some form of practice or experience.
  4. The practice or experience must be reinforced in order so as to facilitate learning to occur.

The components of learning process are: drive, cue stimuli, response, reinforcement and retention.

  • Drive: Learning frequently occurs in the presence of drive – any strong stimulus that impels action. Drives are basically of two types -primary (or physiological); and secondary (or psychological). These two categories of drives often interact with each other. Individuals operate under many drives at the same time. To predict a behavior, it is necessary to establish which drives are stimulating the most.
  • Cue Stimuli: Cue stimuli are those factors that exist in the environment as perceived by the individual. The idea is to discover the conditions under which stimulus will increase the probability of eliciting a specific response. There may be two types of stimuli with respect to their results in terms of response concerned: stimulus generalization and stimulus discrimination.
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Goal-Setting Theory of Motivation

This approach to motivation has been pioneered in the USA by Edwin Locke and his associates in 1960s and refined in 1980s. Goal-setting theory of motivation suggests that managers and subordinates should set goals for an individual on a regular basis, as suggested by Management by Objectives (MBO). These goals should be moderately difficult and very specific and of type that an employee will accept and make a commitment to accomplishing them. Rewards should be tied directly to accomplished goals. When involved in goal-settings, employees see how their effort will lead to performance, rewards and personal satisfaction.

Salient features of Goal-setting theory of motivation  are as follows:

  • Specific goal fixes the needs of resources and efforts.
  • It increases performance.
  • Difficult goals result higher performance than easy job.
  • Better feedback of results leads to better performances than lack of feedback.
  • Participation of employees in goal has mixed result.
  • Participation of setting goal, however, increases acceptance of goal and involvements.

The mere act of goal setting does not ensure higher levels of motivation among employees. In fact, there seem to be three important criteria that goals must meet if they are to influence the behavior of organization members. They are goal specificity, goal difficulty and goal acceptance.

  1. Goal Specificity: Goals must be stated in specific terms if they are to motivate effective performance. It should answer the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the expectations of the goal. Goals must be set in terms of measurable criteria of work performance, i.e., number of units produced, new sales etc.
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Leadership Theories

Leadership is an integral part of management and plays a vital role in managerial operations. Leadership provides direction, guidance, and confidence to the employees and helps in the attainment of goals in much easier way. In business and industrial organizations, managers play the role of leader and acquire leadership of subordinates, their efforts towards the achievement of organizational goals and activate the individuals of an organization to make them work. Leadership influences behavior of the individuals. It has an ability to attract others and potential to make them follow the instructions. Individuals can be induced to contribute their optimum towards the attainment of organizational goals through effective leadership. Leadership acquires dominance and the followers accept the directives and control of a leader. Leadership provides direction and vision for future to an organization.

A number of theories and approaches to study leadership have been developed. There are broadly three leadership theories in Organizational Behavior studies.

1. Trait Theory of Leadership

This theory of studying leadership is taken into consideration to analyze the personal, psychological and physical traits of strong leaders. The assumption made in this theory was that some basic traits or set of traits differentiates leaders from non-leaders. For example, the leadership traits might include intelligence, assertiveness, above average height, self-confidence, initiative and understanding of interpersonal human relations. The existence of these traits determines the importance of leadership. Possession of these traits helps the individuals to gain possession of leadership. Since all individuals do not have these qualities, only those who have them would be considered potential leaders.… Read the rest