Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Enhancing Excellence and Equity in Schooling: Modality Theory, an International Perspective

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Enhancing Excellence and Equity in Schooling: Modality Theory, an International Perspective

Article excerpt

This international research examines the learning style preferences of Taiwanese students by gender and age in an attempt to determine which of the five learning style stimuli (environmental, emotional, sociological, physiological and psychological) are more likely to be a factor in student academic success. Utilizing an international perspective, this study explores if gender, age and culture impact on students' learning style. The study contributes to the growing body of research on Modality theory while; the international perspective allows us to explore this concept and collect data cross-culturally.


The hushed assumption that schooling in America was not equal and excellent gained new momentum and voice on April 26,1983 with the publication of a Blue- Ribbon Presidential report, A Nation at Risk. The report presented a dismal picture of schooling in the U.S. and warned of a rising tide of mediocrity that threatened our very existence as a nation (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983). The strongly worded document cited falling standardized test scores and the fact that almost 90 million Americans lacked basic functional literacy, the ability to read, write or do basic math. While many Americans accepted the Commission's findings, little was accomplished in the 20 year period following its publication. Once again in 2003, the Koret Task Force organized by Stanford University's Hoover Institute, reaffirmed the lack of progress in educational reform. The Commission concluded by recommending the overall reconstruction of the schools in order to enhance equity and excellence in American schooling (Koret Task Force, 2003).

In response to the call for change, a number of interesting solutions have surfaced. Some have suggested a reconsideration of the educational delivery systems employed in education. Their approach underscores the importance of focusing on Modality in instruction-the belief that students differ in their ability to learn new material depending on how it is presented and how the presentation style interacts with students' learning styles. Further, they contend that attention to a student's learning preference is the key to improved academic achievement (Gardiner, 1996, Dunn, 1996).

Modality theory suggests that students differ in their auditory, visual, tactual and kinesthetic abilities and actually learn more when their particular learning strengths or preferences are addressed. This perspective suggests that students learn and process information differently and that knowledge of how they process and retain this information is a valuable tool for teachers. Instructors who acknowledge this premise generally support the concept of differentiated instruction and often employ a learning style approach in the classroom.

Learning style refers to the way that students concentrate on, process, and remember new information. One of the more popular models (Dunn and Dunn 1992) divides learning style into five major strands generally referred to as stimuli. These stimuli include preferences for (a) environmental, (b) emotional, (c) sociological, (d) physiological, and (e) psychological, elements that significantly influence how many individuals learn (see Figure 1).

The first of these strands, the environmental, includes an individual's preference for the elements of sound, light, temperature and seating design. The emotional strand focuses on students' levels of motivation, persistence, responsibility and need for structure. The sociological strand addresses students' preferences for learning alone, in pairs, with peers, as part of a team, with either authoritative or collegial instructors, or in varied approaches, as opposed to in patterns. The physiological strand examines perceptual strengths (visual, auditory, tactual, or kinesthetic), time-of-day preferences, and Ae need for intake and mobility while learning. Finally, the psychological strand incorporates the information-processing elements of global versus analytic and impulsive versus reflective behaviors. …

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