The Relationship between Learning Styles and Problem Solving Skills among College Students

Article excerpt

Abstract

The aim of the study was to assess the relationship between learning styles and problem solving skills of students of Atatürk Faculty of Education. This research was conducted on 330 senior students during the semesters of 2002-2003 academic year. To collect the data, the Learning Style Inventory (LSI; Kolb, 1984) and the Problem Solving Inventory (PSI; Heppner & Peterson, 1978) were used. The findings indicate that learning styles differed with respect to the students' subject matters in high school and the types of university entrance exam scores. Students who graduated from the programs of Science and Turkish-Mathematics were assimilated converging learning style more than students who graduated from social sciences programs. Students who graduated from the programs of social sciences were assimilated accommodating learning styles more than the students of the other programs. Students who entered to universities based on their ability examination, social science, or foreign language scores preferred accommodating style; students who entered to university based on science scores preferred converging learning style. It was found that there was no relationship between students' learning style types and their problem-solving skills. On the other hand, it was found that problem-solving skills had a positive relationship with reflective-observation learning style and a negative relationship with abstract conceptualization learning style.

Key Words

Learning, Learning Styles, Problem-solving Skills, University Students.

One of the important processes that shape our lives is learning. A person's behavior changes by his/her learning style. In this process, individuals adopt themselves to a new environment. Learning can be defined as the permanent changes in the behavior of a person (Morgan, 1995). There are behavioral, cognitive, and information-processing approaches to explain learning.

More recent studies show that every person's learning capacity, speed, and types are different from each other (Özden, 1999). Learning styles are different ways that a person can learn. It's commonly believed that most people favor some particular method of interacting with, taking in, and processing stimulus and information at the time of learning. Psychologists have proposed several complementary taxonomies of learning styles. One of most influential of these taxonomies is based on the Kolb's experiential learning theory (Kolb, 1894).

Kolb's learning theory sets out four distinctive learning styles (or preferences), which are based on a four-stage learning cycle. In this respect, Kolb's model is particularly elegant, since it offers both a way to understand individuals' different learning styles, and also an explanation of a cycle of experiential learning that applies to us all.

Kolb includes this 'cycle of learning' as a central principle in his experiential learning theory, typically expressed as four-stage cycle of learning, in which 'immediate or concrete experiences' provide a basis for 'observations and reflections'. These 'observations and reflections' are assimilated and distilled into 'abstract concepts' producing new implications for action, which can be 'actively tested' in turn creating new experiences. Kolb says that ideally (and by inference not always) this process represents a learning cycle or spiral where the learner 'touches all the bases', such as a cycle of experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting. Immediate or concrete experiences lead to observations and reflections. These reflections are then assimilated (absorbed and translated) into abstract concepts with implications for action, which the person can actively test and experiment with, which in turn enable the creation of new experiences.

Kolb's model therefore works on two levels- a four-stage cycle: Concrete Experience (CE), Reflective Observation (RO) , Abstract Conceptualization (AC), Active Experimentation (AE) and a four-type definition of learning styles, (each representing the combination of two preferred styles, rather like a two-by-two matrix of the four-stage cycle styles), for which Kolb used the terms: Diverging (CE/RO), Assimilating (AC/RO) , Converging (AC/AE), Accommodating (CE/AE)

These four elements are the essence of a spiral of learning that can begin with any one of the four elements, but typically begins with a concrete experience. …