Academic journal article Journal of Psychological and Educational Research

The Demarcation of Cognitive and Learning Style: Myth or Reality as an Impediment in Educational Research

Academic journal article Journal of Psychological and Educational Research

The Demarcation of Cognitive and Learning Style: Myth or Reality as an Impediment in Educational Research

Article excerpt

Introduction

The origin of the term 'cognitive style' is endorsed to Allport in 1937 by most of the researchers, although, he did not used term cognitive style in his book at that time, whereas the term learning style, was first used by Riessman in 1964 (cited in Nielsen, 2012). Research on both constructs, is still growing steadily in spite of criticism by some researchers, and experts (Nielsen, 2012). But, before Nielsen (2012), Kozhevnikov (2007) disparaged situation of research on cognitive, and learning style as follows:

At the present time, many cognitive scientists would agree that research on cognitive styles has reached an impasse. In their view, although, individual differences in cognitive functioning do exist, but, their effects are often overwhelmed by other factors, such as general abilities and cognitive constraints that all human minds have in common (p. 464).

Further, Kozhevnikov (2007) elaborated low-level interest of researchers in developing coherent theory, as a cause for the lack of integration, and coordination among different researchers, and a disjointed body of knowledge. This scattered and disintegrated work, by researchers of different disciplines, and regions raised many overlapping concepts and terms. Subsequently, Zhang, Sternberg, and Rayner (2012) considered cognitive, and style research wandered in search of identity. Zhang et al. (2012) used term intellectual style as overarching term for cognitive, and learning styles, to defy the opposition, and admitted that "during its long history, the field of intellectual styles has been struggling to find an identity within the larger context of education, psychology, and business literatures" (p. 2). The most puzzled, overlapped terms of cognitive, and learning style, although have their origin in psychology discipline, but due to their extensive use in education, management, medicine, and multi-disciplinary learning environments, has added adversity to the field in terms of development of unified theoretical foundations, even though cross disciplinary research added huge volumes of information in the field. But, in terms of identity, there are persistent challenges like, a distinctive definition of cognitive and learning style constructs, development of common language, and theoretical foundations embedded in literature of psychology, education and business studies (Zhang et al., 2012). Similarly, Cools (2009a) commented, about the drastic situation as, "researchers tending to study one part of the whole, but none with full understanding" (p. 8) every one of whom gave a very different description of the characteristics of an elephant after touching its different parts.

In sum, there is a need to establish the spheres, and the domain of these two terms: cognitive and learning style, because different researchers has interpreted learning style, and cognitive style as interchangeable terms (Cools & Bellens, 2012). The main reason for confusion, and misunderstanding in learning/cognitive style research is too much research in an application, and practical sense outside psychology (Cassidy, 2004; Smith, 1997). Along a subsequent quantitative, and qualitative increase of field research, style research became distant from basic psychological theories and concepts. Thus, resulting in many styles as much as researchers, and startlingly most of these styles were unsupported by sound psychological, theoretical frameworks. The motive of style research in different fields, here seemed, just to improve learning in education, medical management, health care, and training industry. Contrary to all above, there were some educational experts in the European Association for Research in Learning and Instruction (EARLI), and the American Educational Research Association (AERA), having doubts, and reservations about inclusion of learning, and cognitive style in routine school learning, and even they do not recognize the due role of individual differences in learning, particularly in relation to style research (Evans, Cools, & Charlesworth, 2010). …

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