Is There a Disconnect between Teaching Styles and Learning Styles in High School Economics Classes?

Article excerpt


Teachers have preferred teaching styles, and students have preferred learning styles. Ideally but unrealistically, students would be matched with teachers whose teaching styles match their learning styles. Thirty-nine California high school economics teachers and their 1290 students were surveyed on preferred teaching and learning styles. Results indicate that teachers and students exhibit different preferences and that teachers are significantly more enthusiastic about all the methods listed than are students. Although it is recommended that teachers be aware of students' learning styles, it is also important for teachers, in the role of pedagogical experts, to expose students to different methods and materials for learning.

JEL Codes: A10, A21

Keywords: High school economics; Teaching styles; Learning styles

I. Introduction

Different students learn best by different methods. For example, some may be auditory learners and benefit more than others from listening to lectures. Others may learn best by working in cooperative groups. Teachers also have preferences about the methods that they think are most effective. If students learn best by one method and teachers teach best by another method, there are likely to be problems on both sides. Ideally, students would be matched with teachers whose teaching style matches their learning style. Failure to do so may result in less learning, which conflicts with the goal for both the teacher and the student. Therefore, it is interesting that in a recent survey of 39 high school economics teachers and 1290 high school economics students in California, teachers and students revealed different teaching and learning preferences. In addition, students were signi ficantly less enthusiastic about any of the methods listed than were teachers. After a brief review of the h ter ature on matching teachers' teaching styles with students' learning styles, we present teacher and student responses to relevant parts of the survey and discuss the implications.

II. Background Literature

Research on teaching and learning styles exists in both the education literature and the economics and business education literature. An entire issue of Theory into Practice was devoted to articles on this topic in 1984 (Vol. 23, No. 1.) Historically, some advocate that teachers tailor their presentations to students' learning styles (Henson and Borthwick, 1984, p. 6.) Others suggest that aligning teaching and learning styles is not always possible or adequate and that instructors must adapt to other changing factors, such as time and environment (Hyman and Rosoff, 1985, as condensed from 1984.)

An early study of introductory college economics students (Wetzel, Potter and O'Toole, 1 982) classifies instructors and students as dependent, independent, or collaborative teachers and learners. Student learning improved significantly if learners and instructors were both "independent." A follow-up study (Charkins, O'Toole and Wetzel, 1985) expands on the prior study by linking teaching styles and learning styles. This study finds that the greater the divergence between teaching and learning styles, the lower the student's gain in economic knowledge. Two economics studies focus on student personality traits and different teaching methods. A study by Emerson and Taylor (2007) looks at personality types and classroom experiments, and finds that while the experimental approach is beneficial or neutral for most personality types, concrete thinkers may not perform as well in experiments as abstract thinkers. Borg and Shapiro (1996) explore the relationship between personality types and performance in introductory economics. They find that students whose temperament matched that of the instructor performed better than those whose temperaments did not match. A study of MBA students finds evidence that students in different types of MBA programs have different preferences for types of classroom instruction. …