Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Surprising Student Choices of Traditional vs. Nontraditional Learning Approaches in an Undergraduate Organizational Behavior Course

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Surprising Student Choices of Traditional vs. Nontraditional Learning Approaches in an Undergraduate Organizational Behavior Course

Article excerpt


Students in two sections of an undergraduate organizational behavior course were presented with the opportunity to choose a learning and evaluation method for the course which best suited their individual learning styles. Surprisingly, very few students took advantage of this opportunity. A learning style preferences questionnaire determined that there were differences in the learning styles of male and female students. An exit questionnaire captured student ratings of course effectiveness, satisfaction with the course, and reasons for their choices of learning and evaluation methods. No significant relationships were observed between male and female students on course effectiveness, course satisfaction, or in the reasons for their learning method choices. Student reasons for their choices and discussed and alternative explanations suggested.

Keywords: lecture, nontraditional learning methods, learning style preferences


Business schools are increasingly employing nontraditional learning methods to reach an increasingly diverse student population (French & Grey, 1996). Students differ in their motivation, personality, maturity, employment, time available, family responsibilities, and preferred learning styles. All of these factors may impact the effectiveness of various teaching methodologies (Klenke-Hamel & Sanders, 1997).

Another reason business schools have begun exploring alternative instructional methods is the belief that the lecture is an outmoded method of course delivery (Birk, 1997). In fact, some have called for the abolishment of the traditional lecture on college campuses (Sperber, 2000). There is a widespread belief that students will learn more effectively if they use other methods such as experiential activities, case analyses, and other "hands-on" or "active learning" experiences (DeBerry, 1998). Hoeksema (1995) proposed two types of learning strategies: deep and surface. Deep learning, considered the highest form of learning, is directed at understanding the meaning of a task and to satisfy curiosity. Surface learning involves memorizing facts and disorganized pieces of information. Students engaged in surface learning will memorize information with a focus on getting good grades on exams, but may not fully master the material. In contrast, students engaged in deep learning will put forth greater effort and do extra work and will not only learn the material, but also more fully understand it and be able to apply it. Lectures and exams are linked with surface learning, while active-learning instructional methods with corresponding alternative evaluations methods are linked to deep learning.

Lengnick-Hall and Sanders (1997, p. 1335) have defined quality management education as: "a course or integrated program of study that consistently yields (1) high levels of learning (e.g., increased knowledge, skill, and understanding), (2) high levels of change or intention to change behavior (application of new knowledge and skills), and (3) highly positive reactions (e.g., satisfaction with the course, the method of instruction, and the value of what was learned and intentions to recommend the course to others). They designed management courses to provide students with the opportunity to co-design the course with the instructor and assume more responsibility for their own learning. Students were presented with various methods of learning and evaluation methods as well as with deadlines and performance standards. Measures of student learning styles indicated a wide variety of learning preferences. Results of an analysis of outcome measures indicated that students reported satisfaction with the course, high levels of learning, and an intent to recommend the course to others (Lengnick-Hall & Sanders, 1997).

Research on the relationship between learning styles and instructional methods has been conducted most frequently in samples of K-12 students. …

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