The Concrete Sequential Learning Style

I’ve discovered that the quickest way to frustrate multiple students at one time is to give my abstract random side full rein in the classroom. When in full blown random mode, I throw out the little classroom procedures that we painstakingly established together at the beginning of the school year, and decide that today, for fun, we'll do things a new way. This not only frustrates my concrete sequential students, but is actually experienced by them as chaos instead of a fun, creative activity.

At our school, as kids arrived in the morning, they were ushered into the cafeteria to either eat breakfast or wait for their teachers to come lead the class to their classroom. Speaking of which, this reminds me of the time my principal (random through and through) decided to let the staff experience first-hand what it feels like to be a substitute teacher when lesson plans are not completed and readily available. His intention was probably great, but what resulted from his creative activity was chaos. 

Here is what happened:

On this morning, Mr. D stood at the cafeteria microphone and instead of calling teachers up to collect their kids he announced that we were going to have a fruit basket upside-down day. Kindergarten teacher 1 was to take a fifth-grade class, 5th-grade teacher 1 was to take a 1st-grade class, etc. This experiment was carried out in spite of the fact that most of the kindergarten students were bawling their eyes out, other kids were dumbfounded, many were anxious, and most of the teachers were hopping mad. It probably goes without saying that very little learning occurred that day.

As parents and teachers working with all sorts of learners, we naturally teach and guide from within our own dominant learning styles. While it is difficult to completely adapt ourselves to all the learning needs of the children in our care, it is valuable to understand as much as possible the makeup of each type of learner so that we can better understand their behaviors, learning needs, and how to best approach them. 

If I am a concrete sequential parent or teacher, I might have a hard time with children who are dominantly abstract random. Conversely, if I am the abstract random adult, I might find myself growing impatient with those in my class who are dominant concrete sequential. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to teaching various types of learners. While there are many other factors that make up a person’s learning style, to understand a person’s primary way of taking in and processing information is essential to understanding a person.

Dr. Gregorc’s Mind-Styles™ model forms the basis of our snapshot into learning styles.

Learning Style Summaries

Concrete-Sequential: Organized, stable, productive, perfectionist

Abstract-Sequential: Precise, conceptual, visionary, opinionated

Concrete-Random: Curious, hands-on, impulsive, impatient

Abstract-Random: Spontaneous, adaptable, social, perceptive

Concrete Sequential Learners Prefer

  • A quiet, neat, orderly environment
  • Clear expectations and step by step directions
  • Enough information to ensure success
  • To know the accepted way of doing something
  • Hands-on projects that result in a specific product
  • To see an example of what is expected
  • Approval for specific work done
  • Established routines for doing things
  • To fine tune their work until it is perfect
  • Literal communication
  • Consistency
  • A time frame

What Is Hard for the Concrete Sequential Learner

  • Having to make up the steps to solve a problem
  • Having unclear or incomplete directions
  • An unclear final product
  • Working with abstract ideas
  • Being asked to “use your imagination”
  • Having to infer or intuit where something is not clearly stated
  • Open-ended questions with no right or wrong answer
  • Discussions for the sake of discussions
  • Working in groups
  • Working in a disorganized space
  • Seeing the big picture
  • Making predictions from “what if” questions
  • Dealing with opposite views
  • Making choices

As you might see, this type of learner will be most uncomfortable with a parent or teacher who likes to shake things up a bit. They won’t necessarily welcome statements such as, “Sit anywhere you want today,” or “Here are the art materials and tools. Make anything you want.” If we have established a system for choosing the leader of the line, such as picking a name out of a hat, it will be disturbing to the CS child if on this day you decide to just pick someone because you are running late on getting to the cafeteria for lunch.

Understanding the Concrete Sequential Learner

While CS learners might be viewed negatively at times (perfectionist, inflexible, impatient, detail oriented, stubborn), their gifts lie in their great organization, their attention to detail, their tendency to always complete tasks, their productivity, and their dependability. The very best approach when working with CS children is to strive to be as consistent as possible, to be organized, to stick to routines or at least allow the children to follow established routines, to display common sense, and to explain expectations and desired outcomes as clearly as possible. It will also be important to not talk in generalities, but to be as literal and specific as possible, especially when you expect something from the child. If things will be changed, it is kind to give the child advance warning so they can be prepared.

For Example

If you are giving a writing assignment, a CS child might prefer this type of directions:

“Today we are going to write a description of a vehicle. You may choose to write about a bus, an airplane, or a train. Write three paragraphs with at least three sentences in each one. Each paragraph needs to describe a specific characteristic of the vehicle you chose to write about. Be sure to use adjectives.”

The CS child will not do as well with this type of assignment:

“Today we are going to write about vehicles. You can choose any vehicle you want. When you have finished writing, you may draw a picture of the vehicle you chose.”

Additional Resources

The Way They Learn by Cynthia Tobias 

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