Learning Styles Nanda Mitra-Itle Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Discussion Points • Think-Pair-Share • Brief learning styles inventory • What’s hot in education • Agree or Disagree • What are learning styles • Learning styles assessments • Levels of research • Valid or not valid • Debate • What should I do now • Questions
Questions • I heard one of my classmates say the other day that they didn't care if there was no empirical evidence for learning styles... they know that they are a visual learner. This made me think about my own "learning style" (if it exists) and the components that go into/are required for me to truly learn something. Anecdotally, it seems that many of us as individuals and not school psychologists, recognize that there are methods of learning that are more effective for us than others. I just wondered if others recognize a preferred method of learning within themselves? (Amy)
What’s my learning style?Think-pair-share • How do you normally study for tests, particularly in subjects that are difficult for you (i.e. physiology, music theory, etc)? • Think back to a class (Elementary, MS HS or undergrad) where you learned a lot. Perhaps even changed your life in some way. How was it conducted? What about that class had such an impact on you?
Act first, think/reflect later Feel deprived when cutoff from interaction with the outside world Usually open to and motivated by outside world of people and things Enjoy wide variety and change in people relationships Think/reflect first, then Act Regularly require an amount of "private time" to recharge batteries Motivated internally, mind is sometimes so active it is "closed" to outside world Prefer one-to-one communication and relationships What’s my learning style?Think-pair-share E I
Mentally live in the Now, attending to present opportunities Using common sense and creating practical solutions is automatic-instinctual Memory recall is rich in detail of facts and past events Best improvise from past experience Like clear and concrete information; dislike guessing when facts are "fuzzy" Mentally live in the Future, attending to future possibilities Using imagination and creating/inventing new possibilities is automatic-instinctual Memory recall emphasizes patterns, contexts, and connections Best improvise from theoretical understanding Comfortable with ambiguous, fuzzy data and with guessing its meaning What’s my learning style?Think-pair-share S N http://www.personalitypathways.com/type_inventory.html
Instinctively search for facts and logic in a decision situation. Naturally notices tasks and work to be accomplished. Easily able to provide an objective and critical analysis. Accept conflict as a natural, normal part of relationships with people Instinctively employ personal feelings and impact on people in decision situations Naturally sensitive to people needs and reactions. Naturally seek consensus and popular opinions. Unsettled by conflict; have almost a toxic reaction to disharmony. What’s my learning style?Think-pair-share T F http://www.personalitypathways.com/type_inventory.html
Plan many of the details in advance before moving into action. Focus on task-related action; complete meaningful segments before moving on. Work best and avoid stress when keep ahead of deadlines. Naturally use targets, dates and standard routines to manage life. Comfortable moving into action without a plan; plan on-the-go. Like to multitask, have variety, mix work and play. Naturally tolerant of time pressure; work best close to the deadlines. Instinctively avoid commitments which interfere with flexibility, freedom and variety What’s my learning style?Think-pair-share P J Write your 4 Letter Personality Code http://www.personalitypathways.com/type_inventory.html
What’s my learning style?Think-pair-share • Do I have patterns to the type of materials I enjoy? • Do I have a preference for a particular study/learning style? Teaching style? • What learning style would I be?
What’s my learning style?Think-pair-share • “Students are not failing because of the curriculum. Students can learn almost any subject matter when they are taught with methods and approaches responsive to their learning styles strengths” (Dun; cited by Ellis, 2001). • “We sometimes pretend something is true not because there’s evidence for it but because we want it to be true” (Sagan; cited by Ellis, 2001). Thoughts?
What’s hot in education now • Differentiation • Learning Focused Schools • Grouping (I.e. ability, cooperative, interest, etc) • IEP/GIEPs • Distance Learning • Specialized curriculum • Research based programs Tier I or II. • Increasing student achievement
What’s hot in education now • What do all these have in common? • Individualization of content to increase student achievement or maximize potential. • Are these the answers to meeting accountability standards for at risk students? (Anderson, 2007)
Learning Styles Agree or Disagree: • Each us receives and processes information differently? • Teachers should make every attempt to know how students learn best? • Intelligence and ability are equal but differentially distributed among individuals? • Typical school assignments tend to discriminate in favor or against certain learners? • Style based instruction increases learning? • Any given style is not superior to another? • Global (field dependent) intuitive learners tend to score lower on tests of analytical abilities (considered basic to ones intelligence as measured by IQ). Are they less intelligent than analytical thinkers? (Ellis, 2001)
Learning Styles Agree or Disagree: • “It (learning style) has failed to distinguish among personality, ability, environment and other variables, leading to confusion over the very meaning of the construct? (Sternberg; cited by Ellis, 2001) • Learning style is preference rather than ability? • “This could lead teachers quickly into a labyrinthine world of diagnosis in the search for style?” • Learning Styles are more elements that affect a person’s ability to learn than ways of learning themselves? • Learning styles is an idea conjured as an excuse for the lack of achievement of students? (Ellis, 2001)
Learning Styles • Premise underlying popularity? • “For all students to receive an equitable education does not mean that they all receive the same education; it means that they all are taught in ways that promote their individual opportunities to learn” (Alder, 2000). • This premise leads to conclusion that teachers must match learning styles, change curriculum to make it fit, adaptive skill levels for student, etc(Alder, 2000). • Each person has a combination of modality strengths formed by the interaction between individual and environmental characteristics. These modalities lead to styles of how we think, learn and communicate (Ellis,2001)
Learning Styles • How defined? • “characteristic cognitive, affective and psychological behaviors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to the learning environment” (Keefe 1979; cited by Johnson & Johnson 2006) • “..combination of various biological and experiential variables that contribute to learning” (Rochford, 2003; cited by Johnson & Johnson 2006)
Learning Styles • How defined cont…: • “cognitive style that a person manifests when confronted with a learning task, and specifically as a predisposition to use a particular learning strategy irrespective of learning task differences (Schmeck, 1983; cited by Frisby, 1993) • “stable attitudes, preferences, or habitual strategies determining a persons typical modes of perceiving, remembering, thinking and problem solving(Messick, 1976; cited by Frisby, 1993)
Learning Styles How defined cont…: • “Learning styles is that consistent pattern of behavior and performance by which an individual approaches educational experiences…composite of characteristics cognitive, affective, and physiological behaviors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how a learner perceives, interacts with and responds to the learning environment. It is formed in the deep structure of neural organization and personality (that) molds and is molded by human development and the cultural experiences of home, school and society.”(National Task Force on Learning Styles and Brain Behavior; as cited by Ellis, 2001)
Learning Styles • Individual’s way of processing information using one of several categories: cognition-centered, personality-centered, activity-centered, and teaching styles. (Sternberg; as cited by Ellis, 2001)
Learning Styles Areas: • Cognition-perceiving, finding out, getting information. • Personality (Conceptualization)-thinking, forming ideas, processing memory. • Activity • Teaching • Affective-feelings emotional responses, values, judgments (Ellis, 2001)
Question • It seems that Sternberg's theory of thinking styles is very closely aligned with Gardener's multiple intelligences theory. If we assessed students using this theory do you think we would find evidence for the treatment x aptitude interaction that we are always looking for? (Joie)
Learning Styles(Learning Styles Resources Cite;http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/jshindl/ls/Gardener.htm) • Measurement Instruments: Myers-Briggs • Uses the 3 Jungian dimensions - Extraversion-Introversion, Sensing-Intuition (preferring the concrete or the abstract), Thinking-Feeling (preferring logic or values), plus one created by Isabel Briggs - Judging-Perceiving (being organized or flexible and easygoing). • Numerous studies have provided evidence of its validity. The Manual for Type sites hundreds of studies that demonstrate its psychometric soundness. However, while it has been revised many times, the very nature of a self report psychological inventory includes limitations with reliability. However, theoretically any test-taker should have an organic type that is stable over a lifetime, and once they discover that type they should be able to reliably interpret the information related to their type. • It is the most widely used inventory in and out of education and has been translated into several languages. More research has been conducted on the MBTI than all of the other inventories combined.
Learning Styles(Learning Styles Resources Cite; http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/jshindl/ls/Gardener.htm) • Measurement Instruments: Howard Gardner • “Identifies seven intelligences: Logical/mathematical, Visual/spatial, Bodily/kinesthetic, Musical, Linguistic, Interpersonal, and Intrapersonal. • There appears to be no apparent evidence of the validityor reliability of this particular instrument and Gardner himself does not claim MI to be a learning styles theory or that there is any reliable means to determining the type of a person. • He just offers the theory that there are more types of intelligence than what has been historically considered.” • The MIDAS appears to be the only instrument endorsed by Gardner. It has a version for teens aged 15-19 and one for adults/college students over 20 years of age.
Learning Styles(Learning Styles Resources Cite; http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/jshindl/ls/Gardener.htm) • Measurement Instruments: Kolb • Identifies 2 dimensions Reflective vs. Experiential and Concrete vs. Abstract. The result is four type combinations: Converging (prefer to learn by solving problems and doing technical tasks, good a finding practical uses for ideas and theories), Accommodating (hands-on, people-oriented, relies on gut feeling more than logical analysis), Diverging (imaginative and sensitive, prefers to learn by observing, brainstorming and gathering information, good at viewing concrete situations from many points of view) and Assimilating (prefers to learn by putting information into concise logical order). • Although the Kolb model has been popular and the subject of many studies, some scholars question the model’s validity, primarily because the scale asks respondents to rank rather than rate items (see, for example, Hayes & Allinson, 1997, and Curry, 1987). The scale is short (12 items) and self-scored.
Learning Styles(Learning Styles Resources Cite; http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/jshindl/ls/Gardener.htm) • Measurement Instruments: Dun and Dun-Perceptual modality preference survey • Characterized by a multitude of learning style dimensions, including Immediate Environment (with subscales for Noise Level, Light, Temperature, Design [formal or informal learning environment], Emotionality, Motivation, Persistence, Responsibility, and Structure [need for external structure]), Sociological Needs (with subscales for Learning Alone/Peer Oriented, Authority Figures Present, and Learn in Several Ways), and Physical Needs (with subscales for Auditory, Visual, Tactile, Kinesthetic, Requires Intake, Evening-Morning/Late Morning/Afternoon, and Needs Mobility). • While the model has some content validity, it is limited in that it does not really deal with psychological dimensions of learning. As a result it lacks an organic basis and therefore stability of “type.” This also creates a limitation in how it can be used to make educational choices or determine student needs or aptitudes. • This model has been used in countless studies, and some feel that it has been well validated (Lewthwaite & Dunham, 1999; Curry, 1987; Dunn & Griggs, 1995), but others strongly criticize the model as unvalidated and lacking an underlying theory (Bonham, 1988; Kavale, Hirschoren, & Forness, 1998; Kaiser, 1998). Another concern is that the instrument has so many scales (21) that it might be difficult for students and faculty to assimilate them all and “see the forest for the trees,” drawing an overall picture of learning style.
Learning Styles (Felder & Spurlin, 2005) • Measurement Instruments: Index of Learning Styles (ILS) • Sensing (concrete thinker, practical, oriented towards facts and procedures) or Intuitive (abstract thinker, innovative, oriented toward theories and underlying meaning) • Visual (diagrams, flow charts, etc) or Verbal (written/spoken explanations) • Active (learn by trying out, enjoy working in groups) or Reflective (learning by thinking things through, working alone or with a single partner). • Sequential (linear thinking process, learn in small incremental steps) or Global (holistic thinking process, learn in large leaps)
Learning Styles(Felder & Spurlin, 2005) • Felder-Silverman model adds several qualifying statements before using their Index of Learning Styles (ILS) assessment instrument: • Learning styles dimensions are continua not categories. • Profiles suggest behavioral tendencies not infallible predictors • Preferences are not reliable indicators of strength/weakness • Affected by student’s educational experiences • Point is not to ID, label and modify. • Some validity and reliability
Learning Styles(Learning Styles Resources Cite; http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/jshindl/ls/Gardener.htm) • Measurement Instruments: Abiator/Modalities: • The Abiator site is one of many that incorporates three learning style dimensions/modalities: Visual, Auditory, and Tactile/Kinesthetic. There isno apparent evidence of reliability or validity. Because these instruments address sensory perceptions, however, it makes intuitive sense and therefore has some face validity.
Learning Styles(Learning Styles Resources Cite; http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/jshindl/ls/Gardener.htm) • Measurement Instruments: Field Dependence/Independence: • Identifies two cognitive styles: field dependent and field independent. This is one of the rare learning styles instruments that has been reasonably well validated; the field dependence/field independence model has successfully predicted academic performance in a number of studies (Hayes & Allinson, 1997; Thompson et al, 1979; Wilson, 1998). (Field independent students are more likely than field dependent students to succeed academically.) • Unlike many of the other inventories and theories, these dimensions are entirely distinct and separate from the Jungian dimensions. So they do not have any relation to introversion-extroversion, concreteness-abstractness, or random-sequential thinking in any way. This makes this theory a useful adjunct to the others. It is also quite predictive of what might be called giftedness. Those who have a field-independent preference due to their narrow focus and ability to screen can process information more efficiently, but may miss the social context that their field-dependent peers more readily perceive. So an over simplification would be that field-dependence leads to popularity and field-independence leads to academic success. • Some scholars feel, however, that the GEFT measures ability rather than learning style, making it an inappropriate choice as a tool to help students understand themselves.
Ellis’s Levels of Research? Level I? • Brain-mind research • Psychological research on individual differences Problems? • Close association of assessment instruments with intelligence measures. • Weak link b/w theoretical work, assessment and practice. • Validity and reliability of assessment measures (Ellis, 2001)
Ellis’s Levels of Research? Level II? • Dun and Dun meta-analysis • Oakland study with temperament based learning style and gifted/nongifted students. • Other studies, etc Problems? • 10 studies eluded to were, with exception of 2 or3, in journals with little reputation for publishing. • 35 unpublished studies were dissertations. • 24 of cited dissertation studies done under Dun et al direction. (Ellis, 2001)
Ellis’s Levels of Research? Level II Problems cont….: • Experimental designs used in classroom based learning styles research weak and have inadequate controls. • Researcher bias • Hawthorn effect from doing something new • Studies conducted by graduate students for dissertations. • Replicatability problems (Ellis, 2001)
Questions • After sitting through today's class and talking specifically about strong and/or possible evidence of effectiveness, I thought it was interesting that Dunn, et al, did a meta- analysis on the learning style model of Dunn and Dunn and used studies that were either published in journals of questionable reputation or just not published at all. And of the 36 studies included in the meta-analysis, 35 unpublished studies were doctoral dissertations and 24 of the cited dissertations were done under the direction of Dunn and her colleagues......WOW! Aren't Dunn and her colleagues worried about their own reputation as legitimate researchers?? Sometimes I wonder what people are thinking (Marybeth)
Ellis’s Levels of Research? Level III? • None Ellis mentions the lack of level III research evaluating learning styles. Is anyone aware of any studies published since? I assume there isn’t much more research to report, as Ellis dropped the topic from the new edition…thoughts? (Sandra)
Questions • There is little empirical support for the existence of learning styles, however, Ellis notes that the work of Sternberg and Grigorenko "seems to offer considerable promise." According to Ellis, Sternberg believes that in order to teach all of our students we need to take their learning styles into account. Doesn't good teaching encompass presenting information in a variety of ways? Isn't the Orton-Gilligham approach based on the idea that information should be presented visually, orally, and tactilely? Seeing, hearing, and feeling the various letters and letter sounds is said to improve learning and memory. (Erin)
Modalities change over time as demonstrated in duplications of classic studies(Burns, Johnson & Gable, 1998). Low and High Low SES achievers differed only on motivation and persistence factors(Caldwell & Ginther, 1996) Dunn & Price study of 1980 gifted students-tactile and kinesthetic(Burns, Johnson & Gable, 1998). Learning styles information valuable in designing instruction (Felder et al, 2005) Valid? Pro Con
A study examining learning style and preference for online learning support found no significant relationship b/w learning style and achievement on in-class examinations (Johnson et al, 2006). Learning style theories have devised more than 70 constructs and ways of identifying and implementing them (Mortimore, 2005). Definition of intelligence is being reexamined. (Ellis, 2001). All students in their study performed better on standardized tests when using their learning styles and continued trend in next 2 to 3 years(Burke & Dunn, 2003). A study found differences in styles between Mexican Americans and European Americans(Alder, 2000) A study found that students who were taught using a Multisensory Instructional Pkg based on their learning styles performed better than a control group (Farkas, 2003). Valid? Pro Con
Many differences attributed to learning/cog styles also attributed to gender diff (Frisby, 1993) Psychometric intelligence better predictor of reading/math ach (Frisby, 1993) Debate over whether self-report methodology valid? (Frisby, 1993) A study examining learning style and preference for online learning support also found active and visual learners appeared disadvantaged under online study gps (Johnson et al, 2006). Active & visual scored lower on in class examinations following on-line study gp (Johnson et al, 2006) Valid? Pro Con
Construct validity and reliability of learning styles instruments questionable (Frisby, 1993) Matching approach may stunt growth (Frisby, 1993) Modality model has not yielded the promised results (Kavale & Forness, 1987) Valid? Pro Con • 99% of Special education teachers thought a child’s modality should be a major consideration and 93% believed their students learned more when modalities matched (Arter & Jenkins, 1977 as cited by Kavale & Forness, 1987)
Learning styles inventories are the first instances of testing where a failure to solve a problem puts one in a different category. Style preference does not necessarily translate into higher achievement Research has shown that field independent or analytic style correlate with measures of spatial and verbal ability. Sternberg-School children who were viewed as stupid often suffer from merely a mismatch b/w their style and teacher. Valid? Pro Con (Ellis, 2001)
Question • Learning styles seem to be very controversial due to the lack of evidence supporting it and the disagreement about the true definitions. Learning styles is definitely a difficult construct to measure again, due to its various definitions, various inventories with low validity, and variability within individuals (one individual can have more than one learning style, primary and secondary), but because something is difficult to measure, does that make it invalid and unworthy of exploring? (Lisa K)
Debate Blah, blah Yap, Yap
Questions • If there is such a thing as learning style, which I believe there is, doesn’t direct instruction disregard many students’ learning styles? (Cherisse) • If learning styles exist, that would be a good point. So then why is direct instruction so effective? (Amy)
Debate topics • Do learning styles exist? • Are differentiation, multi-sensory and learning styles related? • Is there utility to learning styles in the classroom? • Is learning styles worth exploring?