Understanding Non-Sequential Learners

Written by ALMS

November 23, 2019

Understanding Non-Sequential Learners

Understanding Non-Sequential Learners is critical to building Learning platforms to support them.

Sequential (one step at a time) or non-sequential (checklist).  Those are two fundamental types of learning styles.

I am non-sequential.  My wife is sequential.  This creates conflict when we try to learn something together.

The great thing is that neither one is better or worse.  Just as Right handiness is to left handiness.   It is just the way our brains work.  One should not try to change their learning style.

Rather, we should try to figure out what our style is and embrace that style.


Speed is the advantage of Sequential Learning.  No need to go off on tangents, just simply follow a specific set of steps and you will achieve your outcome.  

The advantage of Non-Sequential Learning is Learners can handle change better because they have seen more options.




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.

Non-sequential 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. Non-sequential learners 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 learner may understand and be able to complete the individual steps but may not fully understand the big picture.

In contrast, a non-sequential learner will understand the big picture, but may not be able to explain how to get from start to finish.


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