Nature of the relationship between individual learning styles of female police officers and their career aspirations and experiences

  • Catherine Elizabeth Parker

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy


This research was undertaken by a serving female police officer, within a British police force. It builds upon the existing literature concerning the career aspirations and experiences of female police officers on the one hand, and learning styles theory on the other. It uses the Honey and Mumford (1992) Learning Styles Questionnaire (LSQ) widely used within police training.

It examines whether any relationship can be demonstrated between learning styles theory (and in particular the LSQ) and female police officer career aspirations. The methodology is qualitative, starting with creating an introductory baseline drawn from 286 qualitative questionnaires completed by new recruits during their training, (74 female). These clarified issues about learning styles with both sexes, against which the female perspective could be better understood. The main research was based on semi-structured interviews which were conducted with female officers with a range of policing experience and service, from constable to chief constable rank.

Officers were found to uniformly have a moderate preference for the Activist, Reflector and Theorist learning styles, with a low preference for Pragmatist. New recruits average on Reflector style was found to be higher than other groups which could reflect some bias in the selection process. Learning styles were found to be not static but malleable, and not a central factor in career aspiration and decisions. During the interviews, the most popular career aspirations for women were community/family support duties, C.I.D. and firearms. There was no evidence found to indicate that females are more undecided in their career aspirations than men. Female officers rated highly the need to undertake challenging work, including the opportunity to specialize, calling into question the decrease of the availability of such roles for police officers. The findings reveal a gap in the way in which the police gather deployment data, and interviewees claimed that officers of ACPO rank were reported as interfering with the career choices of subordinates. No strong relationship was found between learning styles and career aspirations, albeit some weak relationships were found between learning style preferences and career experiences.

This study is a contribution to knowledge through its emphasis on the experiences of individual officers and their preferred learning styles. Findings contribute to existing knowledge by developing a conceptual framework identifying the combination of attributes exhibited by successful officers.
Date of Award2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
  • University of Worcester
SupervisorStephen Bigger (Supervisor)


  • Female police officers
  • Career aspirations
  • Learning styles

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