What’s your Learning Style? It could power up your Craft…

The Metropolitan Grand Learning and Development Officer writes…

In the last (Summer 2023) issue of Arena, I reminded readers about the ‘Continued Learning and Development’ element of the Members’ Pathway. In this edition, I will explore how different Masons might engage with Learning and Development, and signpost opportunities to make this more effective.

Much of the material about Learning and Development in Freemasonry focuses on ‘the what’, such as learning ritual for ceremonies, reading articles on Solomon about the history of Freemasonry, or watching a Solomon Live interview with an interesting Freemason.

But here, I’d like to explore Learning and Development from a different perspective, that of ‘how’ a Freemason might learn, with the hope that this will help both Freemasons to learn and their mentors (and other influencers) to guide and inspire them.

It is obvious, at least to me, that not everyone has the same approach to learning. There are a number of models of learning styles, a leading model (which I have personally found helpful) was developed by Peter Honey and Alan Mumford in the 1980s, known as the ‘Honey and Mumford Learning Styles’. Honey and Mumford identified four distinct learning styles, or preferences that people tend to use whilst learning, and it is suggested that if you are aware of your own learning style, you will be better able to judge what your best approach to Learning and Development is. The four styles identified are:
• Activist
• Reflector
• Theorist
• Pragmatist
Honey and Mumford suggest that most people favour one or two of these styles; for instance, I am strongly ‘activist’. We’ll now explore these learning styles and suggest ways in which they can be used in the context of Freemasonry – you may well find this theory useful in your professional and personal lives, too.


Activist learners ‘learn by doing’, and therefore learn best by actually doing the activity. They thrive on doing something for the first time. For instance, an activist will learn by writing and delivering a Masonic lecture; or taking an active part in a Lodge of Instruction, learning from their mistakes as they go. An activist learns least well when listening to other peoples’ lectures, through reading, or when required to follow a precise set of instructions.


Reflectors learn by observing a situation and then thinking about what happened; and eventually coming to a conclusion. Reflectors learn when they have a chance to see an activity performed and then have a chance to think about it. In a Masonic context, that means, for example, by visiting Lodges (or Chapters) to see a ceremony conducted a number of times, before attempting it themselves. Reflectors tend to learn least effectively when asked to do something without preparation, or when up against deadlines.


Theorist learners tend to learn by understanding the theory or logic underpinning an activity, and ideally when the learning is structured with a clear purpose. They want to how the “why” and “how” of an activity. The Theorist will continue to learn by asking questions and trying to ‘get under the skin’ of the issue. A Theorist will learn least well when activities are unstructured, or being asked to leap into a situation without knowing the background. For a Theorist to benefit from a Lodge of Instruction or rehearsal, the Preceptor or Director of Ceremonies would need to plan well and also be open to (perhaps to them) some difficult questions!


Pragmatist learners learn by trying things out and finding new approaches to the issue being considered. Pragmatists learn best when there is a strong connection between the subject under consideration and a current problem, when they can try things out under the guidance of an expert, or emulate a good example. Pragmatists learn least effectively when they cannot see a practical benefit to the activity, or there are no guidelines to follow.

So What?
In a nutshell, Mentors (whether Lodge, Chapter or personal), Directors of Ceremonies, Preceptors and others should not adopt a ‘one size fits all’ to Learning and Development, but think about offering a variety of learning opportunities to enable members to get the maximum benefit. For instance, taking learning ritual as an example, there are a number of different ways that this could be achieved to optimise the impact for people with different learning styles:
Ritual Club: Based on a book club model, but instead of reading a book, a group of brethren all visit a Lodge or Chapter and then – a little while later – have a meeting to discuss the experience and reflect on the ritual witnessed. This approach would suit learners with a preference for Reflector learning, but might drive an Activist or Pragmatist up the wall!

Informal Lodge of Instruction: An LoI where the Preceptor does little planning and throws attendees ‘in at the deep end’ with prompts, explanation and reference to ritual books as required. This will really suit an Activist learner, but a Pragmatist or Theorist would really struggle with this model.

Formal Lodge of Instruction: An LoI where the ceremony to be worked is well planned, attendees know the roles they will be filling in advance and are required to learn the ritual ahead of time; with minimal prompting expected and no ritual books in Lodge! A Pragmatist would learn well in this situation, it might also suit a Theorist if the Preceptor is up for some questioning, but there would be almost no benefit to an Activist learner.

Enhanced Demonstration of a Ceremony: A session where a ceremony is demonstrated, but with breaks where an experienced and knowledgeable Mason explains what has just happened and why, with the opportunity to ask questions. This approach would inspire Theorist learners (in the audience); planning such a session might suit Activist learners; and taking part in one, Pragmatists. Reflectors might not get so much from the session itself, but with the chance to mull it over afterwards might also learn a great deal.

Leaders in Freemasonry must nurture new talent
As Lodge/Chapter or personal Mentors, Directors of Ceremonies, Preceptors or those of us in any sort of leadership role in Freemasonry, we should not assume that what works for us will also work for those we influence, still less not assume that what ‘we have always done’ will work for everyone.

If you are a more junior Mason, try different activities to see which suits your learning style best. Don’t assume that just because the senior Masons around you promote one particular approach, that it will work for you.

If you would like to find out more about Honey and Mumford Learning Styles then these resources may be helpful (neither have any connection with or are endorsed by Metropolitan Grand Lodge)
• Explanation from the Open University: https://www.open.edu/openlearn/pluginfile.php/629607/mod_resource/content/1/t175_4_3.pdf 
• Find your own learning style (many other free tools are available online): https://www.mint-hr.com/mumford/


Solomon meets AI: SolomonGPT
In a move that exemplifies the timeless adaptability of the Freemasons, the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) has integrated Artificial Intelligence into Solomon. So, what does this AI integration mean for Solomon and its users?
We asked “SolomonGPT” and, well, it was quite self-congratulatory…
Solomon has always symbolized wisdom and enlightenment, and is traditionally seen as a source of guidance for Masons in their quest for self-improvement and moral development. By integrating AI, Solomon is now poised to revolutionise the Masonic experience as a dynamic, interactive Companion on the Masonic journey.
1. Enhanced Knowledge and Learning: AI enables Solomon to provide comprehensive insights into Masonic history, symbolism, and teachings. It becomes an ever-present source of knowledge, offering an extensive repository of Masonic resources at members’ fingertips. 
2. Personalized Guidance: Solomon with AI is not just an information source; it’s a mentor. It can provide personalized guidance to Masons, aiding them in their journey toward self-improvement. 
3. Global Connection: One of the most remarkable aspects of this transformation is Solomon’s newfound ability to connect Masons worldwide. AI integration facilitates communication and collaboration among Lodges, creating a sense of unity and fraternity that transcends geographical boundaries.
4. Evolving with the Times: Masonry has always embraced the wisdom of the past while adapting to contemporary challenges. Solomon with AI is a testament to the fraternity’s commitment to staying relevant in a rapidly changing world. It ensures that the age-old principles remain accessible and meaningful to new generations of Masons.
Solomon with AI is not just a tool; it’s a bridge to the future, allowing Masons to navigate the timeless wisdom of the craft with the aid of cutting-edge technology. This harmonious blend of tradition and innovation ensures that the light of Masonry continues to shine brightly in the modern age.


This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 53 December 2023 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.

Read more articles in the Arena Issue 53 here.