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1. LEARNING STYLES – A REVIEW Collfield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E. & Ecclestone, E. (2004). Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning. A systematic and critical review. Learning and Skills Research Centre, London. http://ferl.becta.org.uk/display.cfm?resID=7619

2. 2 Contents Introduction Models & instruments of learning styles 1. Genetic & other constitutionally based factors 2. The cognitive structure family 3. Stable personality type 4. Flexibly stable learning preferences 5. Learning approaches & strategies Advice & Implications for pedagogy

3. 3 Introduction Research field is divided into 3 areas: Theoretical: - since ~1900: theoretical & empirical research in UK, US & Western Europe - 71 models of LS, 13 major models - very few robust studies for reliable & valid evidence Pedagogical: - vast body of research about teaching & learning from different fields: psychology, sociology, business, management, education - result: fragmentation, little cumulative knowledge and cooperative research

4. 4 Introduction Commercial: - large industry promoting inventories and instruments for LS - commercial gains hardly permit critical view of the theoretical & empirical bases Mainstream use is often separated from the research field Models & instruments for different purposes: theory vs. use in practice Complex & controversial research field AIMS of the REVIEW: - review of research on post-16 learning styles - evaluate main models - discuss implications of LS for teaching and learning

5. 5 Models & Instruments of LS How can different models be organized? Curry’s ‘onion’ model of LS:

6. 6 Continuum of LS: Idea behind is to what extent LS are constitutionally based and fixed, or more flexible and open to change 5 families of LS Constitutionally-based LS & preferences (incl. VAKT) Cognitive structure Stable personality type “flexibly stable” learning preferences Learning approaches and strategies Models & Instruments of LS

7. 7 1. Genetic & other constitutionally based factors Main assumption: LS are fixed, or at least very difficult to change e.g., Rita Dunn argues that ‘learning style is a biologically and developmentally imposed set of characteristics that make the same teaching method wonderful for some and terrible for others’ (Dunn and Griggs 1998, 3)

8. 8 Argumentative basis: Genetically influenced personality traits Dominance of particular sensory or perceptual channels (modality-specific processing) Dominance of functions linked with cerebral hemispheres Genetics - arguments based on analogy; no twin studies, no DNA-studies - strong environmental influences on pers. traits & cogn. abilities - no cognitive characteristics or personal qualities which are so strongly determined by the genes that they could explain the “fixed nature” of cognitive styles

9. 9 Modality-specific processing - existence of modality-specific strengths & weaknesses (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic) in people with learning difficulties - matching instructional to individual sensory/perception styles is not necessarily more effective - use of content-appropriate multi-sensory forms of presentation Cerebral hemispheres - left hem.: specialised for speech & language, analytic - right hem.: visuospatial, holistic, emotive - LS-research: no appropriate studies supporting this argument

10. 10 1. Genetic & other constitutionally based factors – The Dunn & Dunn model and instruments of LS Main idea: identify and then ‘match‘ individual learning style preferences with appropriate instructions, resources & homework ? transform education (e.g. US: learning styles school districts) LS is divided into 5 major strands, called stimuli: 1. Environmental 2. Emotional 3. Sociological 4. Psychological 5. Physiological elements influence how individuals learn

11. 11 From these strands, 4 variables – each including different factors – affect students‘ preferences:

12. 12 Assessment identifies: - strong preferences -opposite preferences - preferences - strong opposite pref. ? unique combination of preferences comprises the individual learning style Implications from assessment: - work with preferences - avoid very low preferences Discussion: - measures preferences, not strengths - anyone can improve achievement by matching Measures: - Dunn & Dunn Learning Styles Questionnaire (LSQ, 1979) - Dunn, Dunn & Price Learning Styles Inventory (LSI, 1992, 1996) - Building Excellence Survey (BES, 2002) - Our Wonderful Learning Styles (OWLS, 2002)

13. 13 Main principle of the Dunn & Dunn model: students‘ potential and achievement are heavily influenced by relatively fixed traits and characteristics Changes in LS over time:

14. 14 Implications for pedagogy Most people have LS preferences Individuals‘ LS preferences differ significantly from each other Individual instruction preferences exist and can be measured The stronger the preference, the more important it is to provide compatible instructional strategies “Matching” results in increased academic achievement and attitude towards learning Teachers can learn to use a diagnosis of LS preferences as the cornerstone of instruction There are characteristic patterns of preference in special groups, particularly the “gifted” and “low achievers”

15. 15 2. The cognitive structure family Main assumption: LS are structural properties of the cognitive system itself Theorists concentrate on the interactions of cognitive controls and cognitive processes “styles are more like generalised habits of thought, not simply the tendency towards specific acts… but rather the enduring structural basis for such behaviour.” (Messick, 1984) Styles are linked to particular personality features, deeply embedded in personality structure

16. 16 Theoretical background LS in this family tend to be expressed as bipolar constructs Strong intellectual influence from psychotherapy (e.g. cognitive control of drives; defence mechanisms,…) Most important member: Witkin & bipolar dimensions of field dependency/ field independency (FDI) – influences motor skill performance & musical discrimination (Tests: Rod and Frame Test; Body Adjustment Test; Group Embedded Figures Test) Claims: FI better than FD in tasks requiring the breaking of an organised stimulus context into indiv. elements and/or rearranging of the indiv. elements to form a different organisation

17. 17 Measurement of the instruments Two key issues: Style ? Ability - are the empirical consistencies attributed to cognitive styles instead a function of intellectual abilities? - cognitive styles are assessed with a ability-like measures (esp. FD/FI) - e.g.: students with learning disabilities - more FD Validity of the bipolar structure - importance of bipolarity for differentiating style and ability: abilities = unipolar traits; styles = bipolar

18. 18 Implications for pedagogy Assumption that cognitive styles are not particularly amenable to change – relatively fixed traits Diagnosis, “matching”, compensation of disadvantages (typically field dependence) Danger: students could be denied the opportunity to learn the broad range of intellectual skills they need to function in society FI as a predictor of performance FD might be advantageous for second-language-acquisition FD students need support in tasks requiring imaginative flexibility

19. 19 2. The cognitive structure family – Riding’s model of cognitive style & the Cognitive Style Analysis (CSA) Cognitive style…“the way the individual person thinks“…“an individual‘s preferred and habitual approach to organising and representing information“ ? learning strategy (vary, may be learned and developed) Emphasis on how cognitive skills develop Model: 2 independent dimensions: Cognitive organisation (holist – analytic) Mental representation (verbal – imagery)

20. 20 The 2 dimensions of the CSA

21. 21 Cognitive Styles Analysis (CSA) Computerised assessment; no self-report measure, but cognitive tasks without evidence WHAT is being measured Holistic-Analytic dim.: visual items; speed of response on a matching task (holist preference) and embedded figures task (analytic preference) Verbaliser-Imager dim.: verbal items; speed of response to categorising items as being similar by virtue of their conceptual similarity (verbal preference) or colour (visual preference) Critics: reliability, validity; exclusively verbal/non-verbal form of presentation for each dimension

22. 22 Empirical evidence – implications for pedagogy Evidence of links between cognitive styles and instructional preferences: ‘holists’ prefer collaborative learning and use of non-print materials (overheads, slides, videos) In computerised instruction ‘holist’ learners do better with ‘breadth first’ and ‘analytic’ learners with ‘depth first’ Language students: ‘holists’ tend to make greater use of analogy when unable to find the correct word; ‘analysts’ use analytic strategies (naming parts, functions of the object,…) Teachers should take account of individual differences in working memory as well as style

23. 23 3. Stable personality type Main assumption: LS as one part of the observable expression of a relatively stable personality type Instruments which embed learning styles within an understanding of the personality traits that shape all aspects of a individual’s interaction with the world Instruments: - Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) - Motivational Style Profile (MSP) - Jackson’s Learning Styles Profiler (LSP)

24. 24 3. Stable Personality Type – Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)® Developed in early 1940s, aim: making Jung‘s theory of human personality understandable in everyday life Focuses on the description of normally observed types, rather than idealised theoretical types Strongly linked to the ‘big five’ personality factors (extraversion, openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism) 4 bipolar, discontinuous scales:


26. 26 Description: - 4 bipolar, discontinuous scales - 16 personality types are distinctive in terms of cognitive, behavioural, affective and perceptual style Considerable academic impact: - 2000 articles between 1985 and 1995 - most popularly used measure in consultancy & training - widely used in medicine, business, management, religious communities - used both as a career development & managerial tool Criticism concerning the relevance for LS! - MBTI includes learning; - intention: tool to aid learners

27. 27 Implications for pedagogy Correlations: high academic achievement – intuitive-judging (NJ) lower performance – sensing types (S) No sign. relationship between MBTI type and method of information processing No evidence for any impact on student satisfaction and achievement when matching instructor and learner style Often used for ‘best fit’ career advice Role in locating and understanding interpersonal and community dynamics Few studies show correlations between MBTI types and improved attainment

28. 28 Conclusions MBTI Enormous commercial success Designed for better understanding for individuals – used to assess suitability, strengths, weaknesses No clear evidence of how stable personality types are over an individual’s lifetime Not clear which elements of the 16 personality types are most relevant for education Practical application of MBTI types in pedagogy – Not clear if ‘matching’ or ‘repertoire enhancement’

29. 29 4. Flexibly stable learning preferences Pioneer: David Kolb, 1970s Starting point: dissatisfaction with traditional methods of teaching ? experimenting with new teaching methods Aim: identifying preferences for certain activities Kolb’s model (‘cycle of learning’) influenced many theorists LS…not a fixed trait, but a ‘differential preference for learning, which changes slightly from situation to situation. At the same time, there is some long-term stability in LS’ (Kolb, 2000)

30. 30 4. Flexibly stable learning preferences – Kolb’s Theory & Learning Style Inventory (LSI) Definitions: Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping experience and transforming it. Experiential learning – 6 characteristic features Learning is best conceived as a process, not in terms of outcomes L. is a continuous process grounded in experience

31. 31 L. requires the resolution of conflicts between dialectically opposed modes of adaptation to the world – 4 kinds of ability needed for learning: - concrete experience (CE) - reflective observation (RO) - abstract conceptualisations (AC) - active experimentations (AE) L. is a holistic process of adaptation to the world L. involves transactions between the person and the environment L. is the process of creating knowledge, which is the result of the transaction between social knowledge and personal knowledge

32. 32 Cycle of learning – 4 basic LS

33. 33 4 styles – main characteristics Converging Style (abstract, active) - good at: problem solving, decision making, practical application of ideas, conventional intelligence tests; - controlled expression of emotions; - prefers technical to interpersonal issues Diverging Style (concrete, reflective) - imaginative, aware of meanings and values; - views situations from many perspectives; - adapts by observation rather than by action; - interested in people; feeling-oriented

34. 34 4 styles – main characteristics Assimilating Style (abstract, reflective) - prefers abstract conceptualisation and reflective observation; - likes to reason inductively and create theoretical models; - more concerned with ideas & abstract concepts than people; Accommodating Style (concrete, active) - likes doing things, carrying out plans and getting involved in new experiences; - good at adapting & changing circumstances; - solves probl. in an intuitive, trial-and-error manner; - at ease with people but sometimes seen as impatient and ‘pushy’

35. 35 These LS play a significant role in 5 main fields: Behaviour/pesonality Educational specialisation (most important) Professional career Current job Adaptive competencies Educat. experiences shape our LS Relations between specialisation & LS: - students of business, management, educational administration ? accommodative LS - engineering & economics ? converging LS - History, English, psychology ? diverging LS - Mathematicians, sociologists, theologians, chemists ? assimilating LS

36. 36 Learning Style Inventory (LSI) …complete 12 sentences that describe learning 4 possible endings Example: ‘I learn best from … ‘ 1. … rational theories (AC) 2. … personal relationships (CE) 3. … a chance to try out and practice (AE) 4. … observation (RO) ? preference for the 4 modes ? relative preference for one pole or the other of the 2 dialectics conceptualising/experiencing (AC-CE) and acting/reflecting (AE-RO)

37. 37 People choose fields that are consistent with their LS and are further shaped to fit the learning norms of their field once they are in it Table: lists characteristics of learning environments that help or hinder learners with 4 different LS (e.g.: high active experimentation: small group-discussions, projects, peer feedback, homework – not lectures) Teachers & learners should explicitly share their respective theories of learning ? benefits Need to individualise instruction! (information technology could provide breakthrough) Integrative development, competence in all 4 learning modes (no ‘matching’) Implications for pedagogy

38. 38 Empirical findings Study by Similarly, Buch & Bartley, 2002 Kolb‘s LSI, Preferred Delivery Mode Self-Assessment N=165 employees had to choose between 5 different teaching methods: computer, TV, print, audio, classroom Hypotheses: accommodators & convergers prefer computer, divergers prefer classrooms, assimilators prefer print Findings: all learners –regardless of style- preferred classroom delivery! Known from childhood? Social reasons? No challence of new methods?

39. 39 5. Learning approaches and strategies 1970s: research explored a holistic, active view of approaches and strategies, opposed to styles take into account the effects of previous experiences and contextual influences ? multifaceted view of teaching pedagogy: subject discipline, institutional culture, student’s previous experiences, way the curriculum is organised and assessed no specific interventions like ‘matching’ or encouraging a repertoire of styles

40. 40 Entwistle: Strategy...the way in which students choose to deal with a specific learning task; ...less fixed than a style Pask: differences between student’s strategies: - holist strategy (build up a broad view of the task; more complex hypotheses) - serialist strategy (build understanding from details; step-by-step) Marton & Säljö: two different levels of processing: 1. Surface-level-processing: attention towards learning the test itself 2. Deep-level-processing: attention towards the intentional content of the learning material

41. 41 5. Learning approaches and strategies – Vermunt’s framework for classifying LS and his Inventory of LS (ILS) Definition: LS ... ‘a coherent whole of learning activities that students usually employ, their learning orientation and their mental model of learning’ LS is ‘not conceived of as an unchangeable personality attribute, but as the result of the temporal interplay between personal and contextual influences’ (Vermunt, 1996)

42. 42 Framework: Four learning styles: 1. Meaning-directed 2. Application-directed 3. Reproduction-directed 4. Undirected Each has distinguishing features in 5 areas: 1. What students do (cognitive processing of l. content) 2. Why they do it (learning orientations) 3. How they feel about it (affective processes during study) 4. How they see learning (mental learning models) 5. How they plan and monitor learning (regulation of l.)

43. 43

44. 44 Inventory of Learning Styles (ILS) 120-item self-rating instrument Cognitive processing - deep, stepwise, concrete processing Learning orientation - personally interested, certificate-oriented, self-test-oriented, vocation-oriented, ambivalent Mental model of learning - construction, intake, use of knowledge; stimulating education, cooperative learning Regulation of learning - self-regulation, external reg., lack of regulation

45. 45 Implications for pedagogy Move away from traditional teaching programmes towards process-oriented study programmes - a transfer of control over learning processes from instruction to learners ILS used to reveal ‘dissonant’ approaches to learning; e.g.: students combining external regulation with deep processing or self-regulation with stepwise processing provides a common language for teachers & learners to discuss and promote changes in learning & teaching impact in northern Europe, encouraging learners to undertake demanding activities (...)

46. 46 ADVICE for PRACTIONERS No consensus about recommendations for practice Understanding of LS as institutional necessity? Big commercial industry - claims & conclusions often go beyond knowledge Advice often too vague & unspecific

47. 47 Strategies for pedagogy Increase self-awareness and metacognition knowing about one’s strengths & weaknesses as learners enables individuals to see & question long-held habitual behaviours gives individuals more control of their motivation and of their learning no need to attribute learning difficulties to own inadequacies chose strategy which is most appropriate for task

48. 48 Strategies for pedagogy A lexicon of learning for dialogue language to discuss own preferences, how people learn & fail to learn, why, how they see learning, how they plan & monitor it, how teachers hinder these processes use topic of LS as a motivational ‘ice-breaker’, ‘warming up’ the class,... Problem: not ONE language, variety of competing vocabularies ? which theory?

49. 49 Strategies for pedagogy Career counselling theorists are divided over this issue: Kolb +; Honey & Mumford: -; Kolb: certain LS characterize certain occupations & groups (people choose right careers & are further shaped); ? mismatch: individual will either change or leave the field

50. 50 Strategies for pedagogy Matching ‘matching hypothesis’: match LS of students with teaching style and style of the tutor Same number of studies in favour & against effects of matching may entail complex interactions with factors like gender & different forms of learning even if it is improving performance - will do nothing to help prepare the learner for subsequent learning tasks

51. 51 Strategies for pedagogy Matching unrealistic in practice - demands for flexibility Variety of methods (e.g.: repetition of the learning cycle) can also be tiresome ‘matching hypothesis’ has not been clearly supported!

52. 52 Strategies for pedagogy Deliberate mismatching Grasha: ‘How long can people tolerate environments that match their preferred learning style before they become bored?’ Gregorc (1984): even those individuals with strong preferences for particular LS preferred a variety of teaching approaches to avoid boredom Can mismatched LS ‘harm’ the student? Felder (1993): unfamiliar language; lower grades; less interest in course

53. 53 Why are LS so appealing? Promises professionals a solution for improving attainment, motivation,... LS literature provides a plausible explanation for failure Correction of how particular subjects are most appropriately taught Re-categorisation of students with learning difficulties: Teaching style inappropriate! Policy: shifts responsibility of enhancing learning quality from management to the individual LS of teachers & learners

54. Thanks for your attention!

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