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Types of Learners

Global vs. Analytic Learners

What’s a Learning Style? Can a learning style affect your study habits? You may want to look into these questions if you’ve ever read a paragraph or two and realized that the information didn’t sink in at all–even when you try a second time.

Have you found yourself asking for the teacher’s directions to be repeated? Sometimes things just don’t stick. What’s going on? Is something wrong?

There’s good news and bad news. The good news is, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you! The truth is, everybody’s brain is different, and each brain prefers to take in information in a particular way. Your brain is special. If you get to know your brain’s “preferences,” you can improve your ability to understand and remember things.

The bad news? You’ll have to do a little homework to figure out the best way to go about doing your homework! It will take a little time to figure out your best learning style and find out how your brain likes to receive information. But once you figure this out, your study time will be much more pleasant and rewarding.

Big Picture or Little Parts?

Some psychologists say that people view problems or new information in two ways: they either see a big picture or they see a group of little parts.

For instance, some history students will think of the Civil War as one large event with a series of battles and a specific outcome. They seem to view things as “big picture” events.

Other students will view the Civil War as a series of specific events that favored one side at times, and the other side at other times. The parts of the whole stand out most to these students: the battle places, individual victories, or maybe the soldiers themselves.

Neither way is better. However, by understanding your cognitive style, you may understand why you find yourself reading and not understanding.

For instance, if you are a holistic or “big picture” learner, you are more concerned about understanding the entire chapter than one paragraph. If you read over a complicated or boring paragraph, you are more likely to skim over information in an effort to get to the big message. If you come across a paragraph you don’t understand, you are likely to shrug, go on reading, then (hopefully) re-visit certain paragraphs once you get a big picture in your head.

On the other hand, an analytic or “little parts” person may be more likely to get hung up on a tough concept or paragraph. It is essential for this kind of learner to understand each part, in order to understand the whole.

Holistic/Global Learners:

Do you relate to the nutty professor?

You might if you are a holistic learner–sometimes called a global learner. You’re smart, but you may sometimes come across as flighty or scattered in your thinking.

Holistic learners like to take their time learning—making mental comparisons when they read new things. They like to compare new concepts to concepts they already know, using mental pictures, similes or analogies.

Once you decide you are a holistic learner, you can use your strengths to improve your study skills. By zeroing in on your strengths, you can get more out of study time.

Are You a Holistic or Global Learner?

A holistic (big picture) person likes to start with a big idea or concept, then go on to study and understand the parts.

  • As a global learner, you may be more likely to respond to a problem with emotion first, instead of logic.
  • You can accept an algebra equation without understanding how it works.
  • You may be late for school a lot.
  • You tend to remember faces, but forget names. You may act on impulse. You might play music while you study.
  • You might not raise your hand much to answer questions, because it takes you awhile to sort out your answer.
  • You are likely to read and read and become frustrated, and then suddenly “get it.”


Some holistic learners tend to glaze over material to pursue the big idea. That can be costly. Often, those small details show up on tests!

Holistic or global learners can spend so much time thinking they react too late.

Holistic Style Study Tips: A holistic learner may benefit from the following:

  • Pay attention to outlines. If your teacher offers an outline at the beginning of a new term, always copy it down.
  • Make your own outline. This is a good way to remember important details you’d otherwise miss.
  • Don’t skip introduction or summary. You will benefit from reading these before you read the actual book.
  • Look for boundaries. Holistic learners may have trouble discerning where one concept or event ends and another begins. It might be helpful for you to establish concrete beginning and ending points.
  • Ask for examples. Your brain likes to make comparisons, so the more examples, the better.
  • Use images. Use pictures and charts if they are offered. When reading a long passage or explanation, make your own charts and pictures.
  • Draw timelines. This is another way of creating boundaries. Your brain likes them.
  • Look at sample assignments. Your brain likes to use examples as a frame of reference. Without them, it’s sometimes hard for you to know where to start.
  • Make drawings of concepts. The more you can sketch out and characterize concepts, the better. Using political parties as an example, you could draw circles and label them. Then, fill in sub-circles of beliefs and established ideologies. The “Democratic Party” circle could contain traits like “supports social programs” and “civil rights.”
  • Make summaries as you progress.
  • Use a time-keeper tool. Holistic learners can get carried away thinking of possibilities and lose track of time.
  • Avoid thinking of all the possibilities. Holistic learners like to make comparisons and find relationships. Don’t get distracted from the task at hand.

Analytic/Sequential Learners:

An analytic person likes to learn things step-by-step, or sequentially.

Sound familiar? If so, look over these characteristics to find out if these traits hit home, as well. Then you may want to capitalize on the study recommendations and improve your study skills.

Are You a Sequential Learner?

  • A analytic or sequential learner may be more likely to respond to a problem with logic first, instead of emotion.
  • If you’re a sequential learner, you may feel the need to understand each part of an algebra equation.
  • You may be good with time management, and you probably get to school on time.
  • You tend to remember names.
  • Your notes may be divided and labeled. You categorize things a lot.