Sequential and Global Learners

A person who is a sequential learner approaches learning and problem solving in a “systematic” manner.  Systematic means that their approach is to use a series of logical steps. It is analogous to writing a program for a computer—first, do this then do this, etc.  Sequential learners can help themselves learn by asking the instructor to fill in any missing steps and to reorganize their class notes into a logical order.  Another way they can help themselves is to try to relate the subject material to a topic they already know.

Global learners will absorb information at random and then suddenly understand. They do not necessarily need all the individual steps laid out and they may have trouble explaining their process from start to finish. This type of learner needs the big picture explained in order to understand. Global learns can help themselves learn by always asking the instructor to provide an outline of the big picture and trying to relate the subject to something they already understand.  Another method is to skim the chapter ahead of time to get an idea about the big picture.

A key difference between the two styles is that the sequential learn will understand and be able to complete the individual steps but may not fully understand the big picture. In contrast, a global learner will understand the big picture, but may not be able to explain how to get from start to finish.

Designing a class around Sequential and Global Learners

The class topic is producer surplus.  I would begin the class with a discussion covering what how the topic fits into the field of economics. The discussion will begin with a broad generalization and end with how the topic fits into our story (i.e. how it links to future and previous classes).  For example, I’d start with a statement like “Economics is about how society deals with the allocation of scarce resources” and end with discussing how producer surplus along with consumer surplus can be used to calculate society’s total welfare.

After the broad discussion, I’d provide an outline to the class.  The general outline I’d follow would be (1) overview of topic, (2) producer surplus definition, (3) graphical representation, (4) graphing lines/finding area, (5) finding producer surplus, (6) examples, (7) finding changes in consumer surplus, (8) examples, and (9) conclusion.

For parts (4), (5) and (7) step-by-step directions will be given to assist sequential learns. The examples will follow these steps. The conclusion provides the opportunity to recap what we have done in the class and provide another big picture explanation which will help students learn.


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