Author Bio ▼

Nichola is passionate about safety, health and wellbeing. Her background is diverse with experience in a variety of organisations such as Battersea Dog’s and Cat’s Home, Christie’s Auction House, Spectrum Housing Group and EMCOR UK as well as military experience as an Army officer which has led to a broad skill set. Nichola has had great success leading these organisations in creating healthier and safer working environments and improving their overall safety culture. Her excitement and drive to support staff to be more effective in the workplace led her to join the Capita H&S Consultancy to enable her to reach out to a larger number of organisations.

At Capita, Nichola’s role is to take her experience and enthusiasm for stress and mental health management in the workplace and create products that can truly help organisations manage their staff in a compassionate way. This then allows the organisation to become more productive, reduce costs such as recruitment and absence management and become an employer of choice.

In addition to leading the Wellness at Work team, Nichola also manages Capita’s health and safety training division, delivering both accredited and bespoke training across a multitude of H&S topics.  Helping some of the country’s leading organisations such as Skanska and Southern Water to ensure their employees are trained to the highest standards. Nichola provides training at all levels from senior leadership and throughout the operational structure.

March 21, 2019

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Safety Learning

Does your learning style matter?

We’ve all heard people say ‘I need to read it learn it’ or ‘I’m more of visual learner’ but what does current research tell us? Nichola Ebbern, Associate Director – Infrastructure, at Capita looks at learning styles and the impact on health & safety training.

Nichola EbbernOn our quest for greater self-knowledge, many of us take tests and quizzes both on work sponsored training and in our own time. The most common assessment of learning types relies on Honey and Mumford’s learn styles questionnaire. This work is based on Kolb’s experiential learning theory which was first published in 1984 and the world has changed considerably since then.

The belief that we all have preferred ways of learning hasn’t though and still holds true 35 years later. This propagated by organisations offering services to help learners identify their preferred style and training facilitators and teachers adapt their approach to instruction appropriately. I undertook a straw poll among colleagues and friends, and they all expressed the view that they would learn more if the information was transmitted in their preferred format. But is this actually true?

Meshing hypothesis

In 2008, Pashler et al, cognitive psychologists, published a paper following their research into this area. They did not dispute the existence of preferences. What they did find was that in reality learning in that style only didn’t help the individual learn more or more quickly. They referred to this as the ‘meshing hypothesis’ where the learning is produced to the learner’s preference so that, in theory, absorption of information is improved. They reviewed much literature associated with learning theories and found that credible evidence in these studies was lacking.

They concluded that there was, at that time, insufficient evidence to support incorporating learn styles assessments of learners into the way education is delivered to achieve better learning outcomes. They raised concerns about the amount of investment in this area by the education system and business. They found the contrast between the popularity of this approach and the lack of credible evidence ‘striking and disturbing’.

Moving forward to 2015, Rogowsky et al wanted to test this meshing theory in a way that could provide the ‘credible evidence’ sited as missing by Pashler et al. They created a test environment to work through their methodology in the form of two research questions.

In conclusion, they acknowledged the attractiveness of the learning styles idea for educators, particularly where people are struggling to learn. They found that teachers are often asked to state on their lesson plans how they will accommodate the different styles which drives the idea further into the system. However they failed to find any statistically significant, empirical evidence to support the meshing theory.

Further research by Hussman and O’Loughlin in 2018 confirmed this result and took it a step further – students on their research programme didn’t self-study in their preferred learning styles and when they did, it didn’t help them to improve their grades.

So, what does this mean?

construction workerAlthough we may believe we have a preferred learning style, there is no significant impact on the end result of our learning if our training sessions or learning is undertaken in that style.

As someone writing and delivering training on a regular basis, what I have learnt from this delve into educational research is that the key to great training that delivers on the learning objectives is the link between the trainer and the delegate.

Health and safety training is too often seen as boring, dry and uninteresting. Delegates arriving with this mindset are unlikely to absorb much information as they have already decided the course is irrelevant. The trainer needs a toolbox of activities, case studies and enthusiasm to break down these barriers and convince the attendees that they know something worth learning.

Incorporating the traditional learning styles into training through a variety of activities leads to varied and interesting training. Linking the training to their work environment is also key – health and safety is not something done in isolation in a classroom, it is a living, breathing way of life to keep safe and healthy at work.

Using what we know about learning styles to share information, test understanding and make connections between new information and existing knowledge in a variety of ways gives delegates the best opportunity to take the classroom learning into their daily behaviours.


Wellbeing at work

Nichola’s other passion within health and safety is wellbeing at work. Hear her views on the benefit of a wellness at work programme, recruitment and retention at Safety & Health Expo 2019.

The session, ‘Wellbeing at work – differences in what ‘snowflakes’ and ‘baby boomers’ expect from their employers, and the benefits of wellbeing for recruitment and retention’, can be found in the Workplace Wellbeing Theatre on 19 June at 12.30.

Registration for the show is now open, click on the link below to secure your free place.

Get Your Free Ticket to Jonny Wilkinson's Talk at Safety & Health Expo 2019

Arguably one of the best-known rugby players in the world, Jonny Wilkinson CBE famously kicked the drop goal that won England the 2003 World Cup with just seconds left in the final. Much of Jonny’s success on the field, however, took its psychological toll. Jonny has dealt with depression, anxiety and panic attacks. In his honest, unguarded speech, entitled ‘Success on the field and mental health: a personal account of understanding what matters’, Jonny will recount how his focus and dedication to the sport he loves meant overlooking important parts of his life.

Hear Jonny Wilkinson at Safety & Health Expo | ExCeL London | Thursday 20 June | 11:30 - 12:30 

Jonny Wilkinson

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Nigel Evelyn-Dupree
Nigel Evelyn-Dupree

E-learning all very well except, 19% + of teenagers, growing to 58% of display screen operators in the workplace experience limited access to text due to debilitating eye-strain, CVS or Screen Fatigue significantly impairing their binocular 3D vision, exacerbated by over-exposure to sub-optimal screen ergonomic increasing the hazards of repetitive stress injuries classified as a Global Pandemic of Asthenopia. So, little wonder that the neurodiverse and visually impaired identify experiential / vocational learning in preference to a solely text based curriculum dependent on being enabled to read fluently whether diagnosed or labeled on one or other spectrum from SEN, LD… Read more »