Appropriate technologies for vocational students


When an instructional designer is designing course content, he/she must choose the delivery method that will yield the desired and most effective outcome.  The design needs to take into account both the personality type of the target audience as well as an idenfified or preferred learning style.  Without an accurate understanding of the audience, instruction will be based on the designer's experiences, rather than appropriate pedagogy, and this will create poor quality courses.


Two masters in the fields of learning and career psychology are Holland and Kolb.  Holland's Theory of Vocational Personalities states that people fall into six vocational personalities and that a person will find greater job satisfaction if they work in harmony with their personality.  Vocations reflect certain traits that attract and satisfy specific personalities.  "The core principle is that most people resemble a combination of six personality types: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional (commonly abbreviated with the acronym RIASEC).” (Nauta, 2010)



Visit for more on RIASEC.  When designing course content and delivery method for vocational students, it is important to consider the type of  career the student is training for and to know the personality types most common in that particular field.

Kolb’s learning style inventory was first created in 1971 and was revised in 1984.  It is used to identify the four different ways that people learn.  The four learning styles identified bu Kolb are Accommodating, Diverging, Converging, and Assimilating.

            Accommodating:  The Accommodating style’s dominant learning abilities
are Concrete Experience (CE) and Active Experimentation (AE).  People with this
learning style have the ability to learn from primarily “hand-on” experience. 
They enjoy carrying out plans and involving themselves in new and challenging
            Diverging:The Diverging style’s dominant learning abilities are Concrete
Experience (CE) and Reflective Observation (RO).  People with this learning
style are best at viewing concrete situations from many different points of view.
            Assimilating:  The Assimilating style’s dominant learning abilities are
Abstract Conceptualization (AC) and Reflective Observation (RO).  People with
this learning style are best at understanding a wide range of information and
putting into concise, logical form.
            Converging:  The Converging style’s dominant learning abilities are
Abstract Conceptualization (AC) and Active Experimentation (AE).   People with
this learning style are best at finding practical uses for ideas and theories.  They
have the ability to solve problems and make decisions based on finding solutions
to questions or problems." (Sternberg, & Zhang, 2001)

In a recent study by Threeton and Walter (2009) they were able to show a correlation between personality types, using Holland’s Self-Directed-Search, and learning styles, based on Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory.  In regards to personality type, they found that automotive students are predominantly Realistic.  Based on Holland’s Theory of Vocational Personalities, people whose personality is considered Realistic would generally rather work with things than people (Holland, 1997).  These findings are significant, as 85% of automotive students may be considered Realists.  In regards to learning styles though, such dramatic conclusions cannot be drawn.



While the Accommodating learning style was the preferred learning style, it only represented 39.8% of the students surveyed.  The remaining three styles, Diverging, Assimilating and Converging, were fairly evenly distributed.  It would not be wise for an Automotive Technology professor to exclude any one learning style when preparing for class (Threeton & Walter, 2009). 


When one looks more carefully at the characteristics of the top two learning styles, we can get a better understanding of the students being reached.  Accommodators are “feeler-doers” (Kirby, 1979 p.77).  They learn by touching and taking things apart.  If given a problem they would ask, “If I do this, what possibilities will it create?” (McCarthy, 1997 p.49).  These people are anxious to tear into a problem.  They call upon past experience and intuition to figure out a problem.  Converges, on the other hand, are “thinker-doers” (Kirby, 1979 p. 75).  They can think about problems or theories and how to apply it in a tangible way.  These people will research a problem before attempting to tackle it.  They learn by studying how something works and the theories behind it.  It is important for them to apply their knowledge in a real and practical way.


In either case, the students are “doers” and, therefore, need action in order to create a positive learning environment.  This means that technology to be successful, the student must be actively involved in their learning and a real application must be offered.  This could include computer simulation of real world problems that would challenge the student’s problem solving skills.  The use of a training simulator that is hands-on but can be configured to simulate a multitude of scenarios would meet both the hands-on and the problem-solving needs of the automotive learner.  Other forms of technology (like Youtube or Flash animations) can be used  as well, however, since they do not meet the primary learning style of the automotive student, they may not prove to be quite as effective.


Consideration should also be made to the Armed Services Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) A complete definition and a short test  is available at  If one is addressing personality, the online test conducted through is a free test that helps determine personality and management style.  Too often, examinations of this type are convoluted in their questioning; such is not the case with the Keirsey test.  




       Holland, J. (1997). Making vocational choices: a theory of vocational personalities and work environments.     Psychological Assessment Resources


     Kirby, P. (1979). Cognitive learning style, and transfer skill acquisition. The National Centre for Research in Vocational Education, The Ohio State University.


     McCarthy, B. (1997). A Tale of four learners: 4mat’s learning styles. Educational Leadership, 54(6), 46-51.


     Nauta, M. (2010). Journal of counseling psychology. The Development, Evolution, and Status of Holland’s Theory of Vocational Personalities: Reflections and Future Directions for Counseling Psychology, 57(1), 11-22.


     Sternberg, R.J., & Zhang, L.F. (2001). Perspectives on thinking, learning, and cognitive styles. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


     The Regents of the University of California. (2008). Holland code image. [Web]. Retrieved from


     Threeton, M, & Walter, R. (2009). The Relationship between personality type and learning style: a study of automotive technology students. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 46(2), 48-74.