Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Engineering Students Learning Preferences in UNITEN: Comparative Study and Patterns of Learning Styles

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Engineering Students Learning Preferences in UNITEN: Comparative Study and Patterns of Learning Styles

Article excerpt

Introduction

In the era of post-capitalist knowledge society, paradigm shift in engineering education is unavoidable in response to the rapid changes in the global market environment that emphasize on the innovation efforts for competitive advantage. Many practitioners in the engineering industry look seriously into this issue and did propose for new paradigms of engineering education in response to the changes in today's increasingly knowledge driven environment. The details can be found in numerous research papers and reports (Chua, 2014; Froyd et al., 2012; Mistree et al., 2014; National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, 2007; National Science Board, 2007; Prados, 1998; Rajala, 2012; Rosen, 2007; Wince-Smith, 2005). In order to further enhance the quality of teaching and learning in engineering education, the students preference in learning is an important factor that should raise the attention of the education practitioners. This referred to the learning styles of the students. Learning styles are defined as "the characteristic cognitive, affective, and psychological behaviors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how learner perceives, interacts with, and responds to the learning environment"(Keefe, 1991, p. 4). As the engineering instructors, we should be aware that different students are comfortable with different learning styles (Felder & Brent, 2005). The understanding of students preferences may contribute to the adjustment of teaching strategies and the design of learning instructions that will better accommodate for students learning needs (Cavanagh & Coffin, 1994; Chen & Chiou, 2012; Graf, 2007; Graf et al., 2007; Noguera & Wageman, 2011; Pedrosa de Jesus et al., 2004).

Overview of learning styles

The research on learning styles has been active since four decades ago (Cassidy, 2004; Pedrosa de Jesus et al., 2004). There exist various definitions for learning styles. As refer by Campbell et al. (2003), learning styles is defined as a certain specified pattern of behavior according to which the individual approaches learning experience. While Felder and Spurlin (2005) defined learning styles as the different ways students take in and process information. Another popular definition for learning styles refers to individuals' characteristics and preferred ways of gathering, organizing and thinking about information (Fleming, 2005). As noted by Kolb (1983), learning styles are not fixed personality traits but rather one's adaptive orientation to learning. Felder and Spurlin (2005) shared similar view with Kolb by which they stressed that "learning style profiles suggest behavioral tendencies rather than being infallible predictors of behavior" (p. 104). Many of the researchers did agree that individuals may tend to have a preference for one or two learning styles over others and the preferences can be affected by a student's educational experience (Felder & Spurlin, 2005; Honey & Mumford, 1992; Kolb, 1983). Therefore, learning styles are "relatively stable but are not immutable" (Pedrosa de Jesus et al., 2004, p. 533). Throughout the learning process and based on different educational experience, the students may discover better way of learning and develop certain learning preferences. The learning style assessments can benefit both the instructors and students (Felder & Spurlin, 2005; Larkin-Hein & Budny, 2001). Thus, from the instructors' perspective, the identification of the students learning styles may lead to gain better understanding of learners with different learning styles. This may contribute to assist the design of teaching and learning instructions to accommodate the different learning needs of students. While from the students' perspective, better understanding of the learning styles may provide ideas on how the students might further improve on the less preferred styles and overcome the learning difficulties by developing the skills for balance approach in effective learning. …

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