In 1982 British researchers Peter Honey and Alan Mumford published a model of adult learning that emphasised the role of experience and the way an individual processes that experience. This model became the basis of the Honey & Mumford Learning Styles Questionnaire (or LSQ), a self-evaluation test for employees that asks them about work behaviours and infers from the answers their preferred style of learning. The Honey & Mumford LSQ has since become a widely used assessment in the business world.
Honey and Mumford theorised that adult learning is basically a four-step process. First, the learner has some kind of a concrete experience. Second, the learner reflects on that experience. Third, the learner develops a more generalised principle from the experience. Finally, the learner applies the principle to the real world, and the results of that application lead to new concrete experiences.
According to Honey and Mumford, adults have individual strengths in one or more steps of the learning cycle, and they learn most effectively when engaged in those steps. Thus, every step in the cycle corresponds to an adult learning style. Learners who prefer gaining concrete experience are called "Activists." Those who excel at observation and reflection are labelled "Reflectors." Learners who enjoy developing abstract principles from experience are called "Theorists," and those who are better at putting principals to work are called "Pragmatists."
The 80 questions on the Honey & Mumford LSQ do not directly ask about learning styles; instead, they seek information on work behaviours and attitudes that correspond to each style. Adults taking the LSQ are asked to agree or disagree with statements such as "I like involving myself with others and being where the centre of activities is," or "I am practical, down to earth, realistic." Agreement with the first question might indicate an Activist learner, while agreement with the second would be consistent with a Pragmatist.
While the LSQ results don't indicate the only way an adult can learn, they can provide insights that can help them learn more effectively. In addition, corporate trainers can use the information to design instructional material that corresponds to the learner's most effective learning style. Information from the LSQ is also used to help managers predict how employees will perform as team members, as analysts, as planners and in other roles that favour certain personality types.