Learning Styles

Over the past several decades, a number of researchers have theorized that students vary significantly in how they process new and difficult information, and that each has a distinct, definable learning style. While much of that research focused on children, several models are viewed as applicable to the learning styles of college students. Controversial to some academicians, learning styles research seems to hold genuine potential for empowering students to manage their own learning, and increase the quality of their mental engagement with difficult material. It would following therefore that implementation of learning styles awareness within the critical mass of an institution's faculty and students might well contribute to improved long-term mastery of material, improved retention of students in programs, and enhanced graduation rates.

One of three models addressed here is that of David A. Kolb. It identifies four learning dimensions - concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation - this model yields four types of learning behavior. Type I learners are "hands-on," rely on intuition rather than logic, and enjoy applying learning to real life situations. Type II learners prefer to look at issues from many points of view, create categories for information, and use imagination and personal sensitivity when learning. Type III learners enjoy solving problems, technical tasks, and finding practical solutions, but shy away from interpersonal issues. Type IV learners are concise and logical, and thrive on abstract ideas and logic. (http://www.algonquinc.on.ca/edtech/gened/styles.html)

Richard Felder's model focuses on five factors: how students prefer to perceive information, i.e. by sensory or intuitive means; through which channel is information most effectively perceived, i.e. visual or auditory; how students organize information most comfortably, i.e. inductively or deductively; how students prefer to process information, i.e. actively or reflectively; and how students progress toward understanding, i.e. sequentially or holistically. (http://www2.ncsu.edu/effective_teaching/)

Arguably the most comprehensive model of learning styles is that of Rita and Kenneth Dunn. It postulates that a student's ability to learn and retain difficult information is a function of twenty factors, which are grouped into five categories. Physiological factors include light, background sound, temperature and the degree of formality in the design of the learning environment. Emotional factors include motivation to learn, persistence, responsibility, and structure. Sociological factors include learning by one's self, in a pair, with peers, as a member of a team, under the direction of an authority figure, or through varied methods. Physiological factors include perceptual modality (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or tactile), intake of food and drink during learning, time of day, and mobility while learning. Psychological factors are global versus analytic processors, and impulsive/reflective. (http://www.learningstyles.net)

For more information, link to the URL following the explanation of the model.

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