The term "learning styles" refers to the way people take in and process information. Learning styles Inventories are not personality tests. Their purpose is to show people how they see the world. And we all see the world differently.
According to Anthony Gregorc, creator of the Gregorc Learning Styles Inventory, there are 4 "mind qualities". People fall, on a continuum, between being concrete (using their senses, being hands-on, enjoying the physical world), or being abstract (prefer doing things in their heads). He identifies a second continuum as well. Sequential people like doing activities step-by-step. They believe there's a place for everything, and everything should be in its place. On the other extreme, random people like change. They like to move things around. They have a high tolerance for ambiguity.
In his Inventory, Gregorc combines these two continuums to create 4 possible learning styles:
Each of the 4 types has natural abilities, characteristics that define them as learners, and characteristics that define them as teachers.
Knowing their learning styles can help students better understand each other. If students are not communicating well with each other, it could be that they have very different learning styles.
Once students have identified their learning styles and recognize that people process information differently, they may become more tolerant of these differences. For example, when they're in a group situation and they're struggling with someone who has a different learning style -- especially one that's quite different than theirs -- they're going to need to "bend and stretch" in order for the outcome to be successful. If this "bending and stretching" doesn't occur, they could end up being upset with the interaction.
For some specific suggestions on how to incorporate learning styles into your classes, click on the "Words of Wisdom" link.