Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

Assessing Learning Style Differences between Honors and Non-Honors Students

Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

Assessing Learning Style Differences between Honors and Non-Honors Students

Article excerpt

What defines an "honors" student and what key differences, if any, exist between honors and non-honors students? One obvious difference exists in measures of academic achievement; college honors students, by virtue of typical admission criteria, have higher GPA's and standardized test scores (Long & Lange, 2002). Consistent with these higher academic credentials, honors students have often been described as more autonomous, more responsible, and more motivated (Grangaard, 2003; Orban & Chalifoux, 2002; Palmer & Wohl, 1972). Additionally, honors students tend to demonstrate to a greater degree many behaviors that positively correlate with academic performance, such as skipping class less often, preparing longer for class, asking more questions per class, spending more time rewriting papers, spending more time meeting with faculty outside class hours, watching less television, drinking less alcohol, and focusing on course grades (Clark, 2000; Harte, 1994; Long & Lange, 2002; Schuman, 1995).

While these comparisons suggest that the high academic credentials of honors students might be partially explained via their study habits, few studies have examined potential cognitive differences between honors and non-honors students. Clark (2000) found that academically talented college students possessed a greater preference for abstract, conceptual, and integrative reflection and tended to score at the intuitive end of the Myers-Briggs personality inventory (indicating more creativity and ability to engage in abstract thought), whereas less talented students tended to be more concrete. Similarly, Shaughnessy and Moore (1994) partially attributed the higher IQ scores of honors students to higher order thinking abilities. This work hints at what honors programs have intuitively asserted for years: honors students think and learn differently, and honors pedagogy should be tailored to meet these students' unique abilities. However, further empirical research is needed to uncover, identify, describe, and define these differences in thinking and learning. The current study will attempt to further elucidate the difference between honors and non-honors students by using the Inventory of Learning Processes (ILP; Schmeck, 1982; Schmeck, Ribich, & Ramanaiah, 1977).

Schmeck et al. (1977) developed the ILP to assess students' learning styles from an information processing perspective. The ILP is a self-report survey that focuses on the behaviors and cognitive processes that a student utilizes to acquire, retain, and recall information, with little emphasis on the modality and environmental conditions in which students prefer to learn (i.e, visual, auditory, etc ...). Learning style is measured along four subscales with the ILP. In addition to assessing a student's study habits (Methodical Study subscale), the ILP measures a student's ability to correctly recall facts and details, independent of deeper understanding or synthesis (Fact Retention subscale). Additionally, the Elaborative Processing subscale assesses how students translate new information into their own terminology, generate concrete examples from their experience, apply new information to their daily life, and use visual imagery to encode ideas. Finally, the Deep Processing subscale measures the extent to which a student critically evaluates, conceptually organizes, and compares and contrasts new and existing information.

The ILP has been used in numerous studies and dissertations (approximately 70 at the latest literature search) to investigate the learning styles of students and constructs related to student learning styles. Across the literature, the Deep Processing, Elaborative Processing, and Fact Retention subscales have been found to correlate significantly and positively with measures of academic achievement, such as GPA, college entrance examination scores, and course grades (Albaili, 1993, 1994; Bartling, 1988; Gadzella, 1995; Gadzella & Baloglu, 2003; Gadzella, Ginther, & Williamson, 1987; Kozminsky & Kaufman, 1992; Miller, Alway, & McKinley, 1987; Miller, Finley, & McKinley, 1990; Schmeck & Grove, 1979; Watkins, Hattie, & Astilla, 1983; Westman, 1993). …

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