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LEARNING STYLES AND TRANSACTIONAL ANALYSIS


By José M. Tafoya

Introduction

Some of the more interesting questions that I have posed in the course of my life
as student and practitioner of the human development are: How can I be a more
effective learner and instructor? And, how can I facilitate the process of learning to
my groups of learners? My encounter with transactional analysis and with the
accelerated learning has been crucial to obtain really positive responses to these
questions.

Since Eric Berne corroborated that ego states are a universal phenomenon, the
whole world has been representing a great variety of personalities. And in a more
specific form, each organization is composed of a microcosmos with an interesting
variety of ego states. At the same time each organization constitutes a living
organism that can be studied as a set of collective ego states.

Organizations from 2 to 100,000 employees represent a rich and complex variety


of ego states that lead to different learning styles. This is a total demonstration of
the great richness that this diversity implies.

We may infer the same for any scholar system, either universities, public or private
secondary schools or postgraduate studies centres. This includes every kind of
courses, workshops, seminars and congresses. Therefore, if we want to be
effective in the teaching process when we are in front of a group of participants, it
is unavoidable to consider the different ego states as well as our own ego states as
professors or instructors.

How to improve the learning process?

In the conventional educative schemes, there is a frequent lack of consistency


between the programs content and the learner’s necessities. And simultaneously
programs designs and methodologies rarely consider the variety of learners, so
from its origins, such curricular development has a limited impact on learners.
Furthermore, if the docent at the moment of teaching uses a single learning style, it
is possible that if he disregards other styles or preferences he will not be able to
communicate with the majority of students. We, the professors so as students,
have our own preferred and non preferred ego state and learning style.

Within the frame of organizations, it is not rare to find that courses not only
disregard those learning styles preferred by a good number or learners but such
courses do not relate importantly to the job and career profile within the
organization. This has important financial impacts on the organizations that make
that training and development are an investment sometimes poorly profitable
whose results are also hard to be assessed.
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In this way, a basic principle that is very important to consider from the point of
view of the trainer about learners is that: Everyone is different and it is convenient
to consider those varieties if the objective is to impact effectively on more people
during the learning processes.

Transactional Analysis: Some Basics Concepts

Berne defined an ego state as a consistent pattern of feelings and experiences


directly related to a corresponding consistent pattern of behaviour. He structurally
identified three of these patterns and denominated them colloquially: Parent, Adult
and Child. These names are used to describe in a simple and practical way the
content and functions of each of the ego states, for instance: values and rules,
problems solutions and feelings, respectively. The ego states Parent and Child
may exhibit two different behavioural demonstrations that can be described in
functional terms as: Controlling (Prejudicial, Critical) Parent, Nurturing (Natural)
Parent, Adapted Child and Natural (Free) Child. The Egogram, according to Jack
Dusay, is a bar graph which describes the personality in terms of the functional ego
states by means of the amount of energy that is released to the exterior.

Dusay asserted that the common denominator in the change consists of a


transformation of the psychological energy. He explained this by means of his
growth model denominated Constancy Hypothesis: When the energy in one ego
state increases, another decreases. This means that the total energy available in
any individual is divided among the different ego states in a fluid manner. This
means that when a level of energy increases associated to an ego state, there
should be a corresponding decrease in another ego state in order to compensate
or balance the energy equilibrium. Hence that, despite any change in the individual
psychological energy, the total amount of energy will be held constant.

When I experienced changes in my ego states because of training and


transactional psychotherapy, my performance as person and as instructor
underwent important improvements since this allowed me to access different and
also more potent teaching styles. This can be understood and noticed in a more
clearly way using the Egograms (Figures 1 and 2).
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Aimed at explaining with more details his updating model, Dusay described
something which we could denominate “desirable” egogram and is illustrated via
two examples. The first has been denominated bell shaped egogram (Figure 3) in
which the Adult is the tallest and is flanked by the Nurturing Parent and the Free
Child, both have amounts of psychological energy whose height is the closest to
the Adult. In this figure the Nurturing Parent and the Free Child are flanked by the
Critical Parent and the Adapted Child but both with lower energy levels.
The second is the flat top egogram (Figure 4) which shows the ego states of a
person with equal amounts of energy. This second example implies the possibility
of functioning appropriately at every ego state, in accordance with the
requirements of the situation (situational quality of the personality) and the
capability of acting with flexibility (quality to change the ego states at will).

Without the purpose of asserting that it is possible for me to operate most of time
any of my ego states under a situational way, according to my experience with this
tool in the course of all these years I can assert that I have been able to access to
a wider range of learning styles thanks to this instrument. All this has produced
better and larger number of results. For instance, I can describe that our human
developmental program was recognized as one of the most important success
factors which brought about that the National Electric Company would be awarded
with the National Quality Award by first time. In fact, a survey conducted within the
company aimed at defining the elements that contributed to the Award, our
program obtained the third place in the rank of importance in the group of factors
which contributed to the mentioned Award. Our program was barely below
variables like the leadership of the manager and his staff and the implemented
quality model.

Experiences with Accelerated Learning

During my contact with the accelerated learning, one of the first approaches related
to the learning styles was the Neuro-linguistic Programming, which teaches us that
we perceive our surrounding by means of three perception channels: visual,
auditive and kinaesthetic (taste, smell and touch). NLP describes that majority of
people have preferences, this is, they perceive the world using their favourite
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channel and they communicate predominantly by means of such channel. From


the facilitator point of view, to know her own channels and students’ channels is
very useful because it will allow with the appropriate mixture of them during the
learning sessions and therefore they will be able to reach the majority of his
audience.

In another hand, the theory of Multiple Intelligences postulated by Howard Gardner


provides a means to develop high impact training programs. We can say that
learning styles of a person are balanced with the eight intelligences identified in
praxis. The facilitator has to take into account that at least there are eight manners
to design and show the content of any specific theme or subject. Precisely by
nature of these learning styles, a novel educative process was developed.
According to this, students receive a sensorial stimulation rich in information
presentation and processing, they establish connections by means of the use of
each of the intelligences, and they construct on previous knowledge thus
reinforcing their memory, attain conclusions and enrich the experience of learning.

As another important instrument, the accelerated learning has further incorporated


a wide range of activations through the knowledge and research of brain
physiology such as the integration of the left and right hemispheres, the stimulation
of the brain subcortical areas up-down and front-back.

In our regular accelerated learning workshops for teachers, students and parents,
we have found in the course of the years that invariably, evaluations show that the
eight intelligences were applied during the learning process and that learning
activities stimulated in the brain more areas than the conventional classes. All this
has been translated into a rich learning experience for the students.

Egograms and Learning Styles

We can assert that ego states are active part of our life, starting with the manner
we solve problems, take decisions, we relate with other people, we face
challenges, we reach or we do not reach our goals, we manage the stress and
ending up with the way we learn.

When we direct our energy towards learning activities linked with our preferred ego
states, we develop our own teaching learning styles. For instance, we as docents
can practice a Parental form of teaching, by being directive, rigid and bound to the
traditional instruction methods or we may have a more Adult approach which is
oriented to the analysis and solution of problems. These styles may even be very
evident for others, which reinforce these styles because of the satisfactory results.
The most common is to find that majority of the population has a predominant ego
state and therefore a preferred learning style even though there may be two or
more dominant ego states or states at the same height as will be discussed later.

Learning styles are influenced by those things that we like the most and encourage
us to learn and by that which we like the least and less encourages us. As it was
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discussed before for drivers, there are strengths and weaknesses. We feel more
comfortable with those activities that we command and in the same way we feel
less attracted by those activities for which we are less capable or even clumsy.
Therefore it is feasible to identify our areas of strength and opportunity within the
framework of our learning styles with the purpose of taking advantage of them.

In the following paragraphs I will describe the learning styles in accordance with
the most common types of egograms and combinations thereof. Although each
person can exhibit several egograms depending on situations contexts and stages
of life, we regularly show a preferred egogram which is also visible for the people
around us. Of course the ego states and the egogram in consequence, can be
changed, extended, improved and enriched in accordance with personal
determination; this is, ego states are neither static nor rigid, even that it is true that
some personal patterns can be established in the course of the years, these
patterns become effectiveness habits, as has been stated by Stephen Covey.

LEARNING STYLES

Controlled Style (Critical Parent Egogram)

Learners with a predominant ego state of Critical Parent are mainly interested in
following precisely step by step objectives, programs, guidelines, instructions, rules
and procedures as they were established. They do not like to experiment or run
risks, they prefer to maintain themselves separated from the groups they also
avoid to be involved too much in group activities. Their strength is the study by
means of discernment, discussions and judgments. Furthermore, guidelines
solving, texts reading, data memorizing, independent tasks and projects with dead
lines are some of the effective educative dynamics with this kind of learners.

As person who shows a strong controlled style, the facilitator or trainer will trend to
exhibit a traditional educative approach to encourage the interest in the precise
knowledge. She will show a higher orientation towards tasks over interpersonal
relationships. She prefers to be conservative before changes since she always
knows what is better. She is firm since she believes in the use of the rational
authority. She provides for structure and has an appropriate management of time
and projects with dead lines (Adult). On another hand, this style typically do not
socialize too much with the other group members (low Free Child), she results to
be a good follower of rules (Adapted Child) policies and directives so as
organizational programs of the zero-defect type, safety, TQC and 5´s. When the
strongly predominant ego state is the Controlled Parent, the greatest weakness
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consists of authoritarism, prejudices and obstruction to any manifestation of


creativity and change.

Supportive Style (Nurturing Parent Egogram)

These learners are proclivity to share, cooperate and support, therefore, they
easily take part in group activities. In groups they will have more or less fun and
enjoyment in their life depending on the height of Free Child. Although they can
observe rules, regularly they allow themselves to think (Adult) about the reasons
that are behind such rules. They like to do things in accordance with their own way
(low Adapted Child) and are sufficiently practical to perform them reasonably well.
These learners exercise leadership by encouraging the other members to attain
their best. They feel better when they learn in a cooperative way, by means of
group techniques and dynamics like brainstorms, small bodies and groups, so as
the integration of artistic and social activities.

As a teaching process, this is a participative style with a strong humanistic


orientation which nurtures the development of other members of the group. The
facilitator shows cleverness to nurture the other members of the group since he or
she is capable of showing empathy and of establishing links with learners by
stating the communication in high priority. He or she is capable of creating a
favourable atmosphere for learning and provides protection to his learners. He is
efficient and practical to make things happen (Adult). He grants acknowledgement
and learners and colleagues approach him searching for support and orientation.
When the Nurturing Parent predominates in excess, he becomes overprotective,
fact which lessens capability and independence to the other members of the group
even he hinders their growth.

Logical Style (Adult Egogram)

These learners are basically oriented to the task; they are objective and interested
in having all the facts in order to analyze them before going into a deeper
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understanding. They perceive the information abstractly and they are reflexive in
their processing. Their highest qualities are the management of logics, the decision
taking and problems solving. They are clever for the quantitative aspects, for the
logical and analytical thinking, for the search of information so as to attain
effectively their goals (high Adult). They prepare their concepts and integrate their
perceptions to the already learned. They prefer to work independently (low
Adapted Child) and regularly they are devoted to their studies. They learn
effectively from readings, they enjoy the independent research, facts and data
collection, consults to expert and the technical and precision techniques.

Trainers oriented to this teaching style approach strongly to the task (Controlled
Parent). They like the information management, especially if the information is
technical and concrete. Frequently their favourite themes will be those related to
the exact sciences or enginery. Since their interests lie on the transmission of
knowledge, facts and details, their approach to students will be cold and distant
more than regular. Communication will mould to discussions about knowledge,
facts analysis, figures management, discussions about the best methods and
equipments. Their less preferred theme or weakness is found in the aspects of
Free Child, showing trends towards perfectionism, excess work and loneliness. In
the same way, they trend to contain feelings and enthusiasm.

Creative Style (Free Child Egogram)

These learners are oriented to people. They are spontaneous, creative, innovative,
intuitive and dynamic. Their preferred way of perceiving information is concrete and
processed in a reflexive form (Adult). Their way of mind is global, imaginative and
holistic. They perceive the complete image of things. They like to learn by
themselves based on the discovery and experimentation (high Free Child), they
like to represent roles and to participate in games and dynamics, especially those
which imply challenges and experimentation. They exercise their leadership by
participating in groups and by personal interaction.

From the educative point of view, this preference is oriented to the trainers with
open mind and vision of the future. They are facilitators of the inner and visionary
personal growth. They nurture the authenticity of people. Frequently this style is
opposed to the established culture and to the conventional approaches (low
Adapted Child). They prefer to teach by means of practical experiences, by doing
manual labour, by constructing with different materials, by performing tasks
manually and by the kinaesthetic experimentation. They also are interested in
evaluating practically their ideas. They are interested in people and promote
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cooperative efforts (Nurturing Parent). Weak areas deal with the lack of balance
between parties since a high Free Child also requires a good Adult and healthy
Nurturing Parent. On the opposite, the lack of an Adult may bring about
consequences like acting out of control or “loose the ground”. On another hand, a
low Nurturing Parent can bring about that the person lacks sensitivity or empathy in
such a way that he can hurt feelings of other people. They are affected by the work
under pressure and they fear to run risks.

Cooperative Style (Compliant Positive Adapted Child


Egogram)

Learners with this style have a strong orientation towards people and have a trend
to perform things as they are supposed to be done (high positive Adapted Child).
They are obedient; they wait for instructions and bind them. Regularly they seek to
work in cooperation with others and even they like to please. One of the
weaknesses of this style lies precisely on this issue. Too much adaptability to the
expectations of other people ends up with dependence. They learn by listening and
interacting with the other members, by sharing ideas and personalizing the
information. They require to be involved personally and to be in harmony. This kind
of learners prefer guided exercises and specific objectives, clear instructions even
repeated several times so as conventional and detailed teaching. They like
meticulous tasks; they are patient and perseverant for following administrative
processes and procedures.

The highest strength of this style is given in combination with a good Adult ego
state. This is translated into a teaching style based on good information (Adult) and
good human relationships. In addition to the above mentioned the strength of this
style consists of the easiness for having good relationships with the other members
of the group and being good negotiators. For this kind of facilitators, the group
control is a key issue since as Adapted Child is predominant, this task may be
difficult.
As a weakness, these people avoid conflicts and might be involved in interactions
but only superficially; this is at a level of social agreement merely. Within the frame
of the teacher student relationship this behaviour represents for the student, the
lack of a solid and reliable support.
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Active Style (Rebellious Positive Adapted Child


Egogram)

These are proactive and dynamic learners who process the information concretely
and actively. They adhere to actions and ideas in order to succeed. They use to be
competitive (high positive Rebellious Adapted child). They like the study of any
independent category and of all those things that imply a challenge, since they like
risks and experimentation (Free Child). They like to participate in group
discussions, bodies and in all those situations that allow them to stand out. On their
strong part, they have a healthy scepticism and they are well informed (Adult).
Their weakness is that they are antagonic and are opposed systematically to any
authority figure.

From the point of view of the teaching process, they are interested in allowing the
student their own discovery; they have capabilities to share information. They are
capable of supporting solidly and of issuing criticisms sounded on solid grounds
(Critical Parent). They teach their students communication strategies and
techniques encouraging in this way healthy intellectual competitions by means of
discussions and debates since they see the knowledge as a necessity for social
improvement. They are capable of driving the limits into new horizons by
stimulating life. They like the variety of the teaching methods; therefore they
encourage the experimental learning. Their weakness is that they are hostile and
aggressive (Rebellious Adapted Child), they change the game rules at their will
and take the competition to extremes (low Nurturing Parent). They may even, fight
against their colleagues because of theoretical, administrative issues or issues of
any other kind. Based on the above mentioned, the weakness of the model which
supports this style may result prejudicial and be a factor of disorientation and
confusion for students.

Controlled and Logical Style (Critical Parent and Adult


Egogram)

This person can have two or more ego states at the same height (Controlled
Parent and Adult) and in the highest position of his egogram. In this way, this style
arises as combination of the two precedents. This is a practical style which is found
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appropriately in the reality (Adult). Persons with this style typically collect facts
before taking decisions; they also communicate their ideas clearly. They are
capable of listening to (Nurturing Parent) and of maintaining their mind open to
perceive different points of view. They insist on attaining objectives in time and
form (Controlled Parent) and usually they get it. Their greatest weakness deals
with the demonstration of being authoritative, extremely conventional and
imperative since they use to close their minds to new ideas or to the fact that things
are performed in a way different to theirs. They have limited capabilities of working
in groups.

Controlled and Supportive Style (Critical Parent and


Nurturing Parent Egogram)

This style combines the straightness firmness, justice, order and orientation
towards the task (Controlled parent) with the aid of the comprehension, support
and development of people (Nurturing Parent). This is a style that operates under
an unbalanced way between task and people. Human resources departments and
preliminary and elementary schools are a good example of this style. It is highly
protective and provides support. Although structure and productivity is of its
interest, it never gets it at people’s expenses. They are good teachers and have
their students in high esteem. They worry about their well-being, conditions and
rights. They like things to be done on time, and they are exigent (Controlled
Parent) regarding the established goals (Adult) but they also provide the necessary
resources –including their personal support- for things to be done. Regarding the
area of opportunity, this style may fall into the excessively conventional and
routine. It has a trend to oppose to changes and innovations and applies the rules
thoughtlessly. Moreover it uses to provide more than what it is received and few
times he allows himself fun and enjoyment.

Supportive and Logical Style (Nurturing Parent and


Adult Egogram)

This is a style that combines the interest for the other people development
(Nurturing Parent) by using the powerful thinking and updated information (Adult).
This style provides the more effective teaching skills in order to nurture people
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growth and development. Schools and training centres are made for them. They
are the best consultants, instructors, teachers and training directors. They face
problems rationally and with logics, without disregarding the people who will be
affected by such decisions or without disregarding the pertinent people in the
decisions. They do not like subjective judgments, so they wait for before taking a
decision until they are completely sure. They exercise their leadership by means of
humanistic principles and values combined with the updated information, thus
creating confidence because of their skills and good work. In their area or
opportunity they sometimes overwhelm others with so much information and help
offer.

Supportive and Creative Style (Nurturing Parent and


Free Child Egogram)

As in precedent styles, this is a style resulting from the combination of the before
mentioned styles, its main characteristic is a strong interpersonal comprehension.
In the business world it is defined as oriented to service and attention to clients. In
the educative world it is known as student centred. Instructors of this preference
provide support (high Nurturing Parent), they manage excellent information (Adult),
at the same time they are emotive and open mind (high Free Child). They are
excellent to coach and encouraging their learners. They are capable of sharing
their emotions; they use to be empathic and enthusiastic. They can listen to and
work in groups; they develop interactions and cultivate relationships. They have a
great skill to influence other people and attain innovative solutions. As response,
their learners are productive and are motivated. Its weakness they can be
manipulative, impulsive and overwhelming.

Logical and Creative Styles (Adult and Free Child


Egogram)

This style is characterized because it has the logic (high Adult) and creative (high
Free Child) styles as favourite. Both are practically at the same height and are the
tallest of the egogram. Both learning styles represent two different ways of thinking.
Individuals with this style are logic, analytical and rational (Adult), at the same time
they are creative, spontaneous, imaginative and intuitive (Free Child). This style
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mixes scientific and objective thinking with creative and innovative which
corresponds to that encountered in inventors and problem solvers. Frequently they
attain intuitive solutions with logic proofs thereof. They are capable of integrating
ideas and experimentation with the realistic application and implementation of
these. This is the typical style of the Research and Development areas in the
organizations. As facilitators they nurture freedom and self discovery in their
learners. Their weak performance deals with the isolation from the world by
immersing themselves in their work, they also lack a structure to implement or take
their ideas to an end. They also lack of proper skill to treat people therefore they
have difficulties to communicate their bright ideas.

Multipreferencial Style (Flat Top Egogram)

In this kind of egogram, the person has a similar amount of energy in all the ego
states. This means a multipreferencial learning that allow to apply the
characteristics of all the before mentioned styles. The key to be able to use this
style consists of being capable of performing under situational form, as required, by
means of the mobilization all the parts of ego. In other words, to be situational
implies to use the state of ego in a flexible manner as required. For instance, the
director of a school plans his annual educative program under the Logical Style
and uses a Controlled and Supportive Style to implement it in time and form by
involving the appropriate people. By means of his Controlled Style he is charge of
watching the school discipline to be respected, and lives with passion the learning
process by having time to give classes by displaying his best teaching styles
(Supportive and Creative, Logical and Creative).
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Table 1
Learning Styles

Controlled Style Controlled and Logical Style


_________________________________________ ____________________________________________
Traditional educative approach. Higher orientation Practical and realistic style. Collect facts before taking
towards task over interpersonal relationships; decisions. Mind opens to perceive different points of
provides for structure and authority. view and communicate ideas clearly.

Controlled and Supportive Style


____________________________________________
This style combines the straightness firmness, order
and orientation towards the task, with the aid the
comprehension and development of people.

Supportive Style Supportive and Logical Style


_________________________________________ ____________________________________________
Participative style with a strong humanistic This style combines the interest for the other people
orientation. Nurtures the development of others, is development by using the powerful thinking and
able to listen and provides protection. updated information.

Supportive and Creative Style


____________________________________________
Strong interpersonal comprehension. Provide support
along with excellent information, emotive expression
and open minded.

Logical Style Logical and Creative Style


________________________________________ ___________________________________________
Approach strongly to the task. Likes the information This style mixes scientific and objective thinking with
management, objective and analytical, decision creative and innovative approach.
taking and problems solving.

Creative Style Cooperative Style


_________________________________________ ___________________________________________
Style oriented to people. Spontaneous, creative, Style oriented to people, human relations, work in
innovative, artistic, intuitive, dynamic and holistic. cooperation with others, meticulous tasks, and follow
administrative processes and procedures.

Active Style
____________________________________________
Proactive, dynamic and competitive style. Healthy
skepticism, well informed, use of strategies and
techniques for discussions, likes to debate ideas.

Multipreferencial Style
_______________________________________________________________________________________
To apply the characteristics of all the before mentioned styles. Consists of being capable of performing under
situational form, as required, by means of the mobilization all the parts of ego.
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Conclusions

As it may be seen, to have several style is better than only one since the command
of the different learning styles allow to access to more resources for teaching. As
docent or facilitators this implies to be able to impact more learners, this is, the
flexibility of styles allows attaining a more effectiveness to the teaching learning
process.

By increasing the number of styles put in practice, there will be more possibilities to
develop such styles. One of the best strategies to attain this consists of increasing
the less developed ego states, which implies a change in the energy balance of the
ego states.

We all have at least a little of each style. The key is to practice the positive
characteristics or strengths of each of them to increase them. Therefore the
simplest manner to develop the learning styles is to experience them by acting on
based on the strengths of each style.

In general terms, the more flexible we are to perform our styles the better response
will be got from our learners. If we are capable of moving from one style into the
other, we will be able to develop a higher amount of abilities to satisfy the different
learning necessities of the students; this will be reflected as a better harmony or
rapport. This harmony will create a higher credibility and will promote the students
to respond with a greater confidence, motivation and freedom.
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