Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Learning Modalities of Agriculture Students at a Two-Year Agricultural College

Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Learning Modalities of Agriculture Students at a Two-Year Agricultural College

Article excerpt

Abstract

Learning styles and preferences have been of interest to educators for decades. The more we know about the learning styles of those we teach, the better able we are to design curriculum and deliver instruction. Educators should recognize that students differ in learning styles, and we should use that information to better facilitate learning. This study sought to understand the preferred modes of learning of a group of students attending Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) for the purpose of improving teaching and learning at that institution. Learning style preferences of two-year agricultural students at ABAC are described in this study. The Lewin-Kolb Learning Style Inventory (LSI) was used to assess students' preferred learning style. Using demographic data, students were divided into groups based on college major, gender, age, and class standing. Comparisons of LSI scores among these groups were made and found. Differences between these groups and implications for teaching in agriculture are discussed.

Introduction

Understanding how a student learns and helping students understand how to learn is a major requisite for any successful educational program (Gardner, 1993). This understanding can be especially important for Colleges of Agriculture since agriculture students may have different learning preferences than students in less scientifically-oriented learning situations (Dyer and Osborne, 1996).

Bawden (1986) suggested that as a result of our genetic make-up, our past experiences (especially our educational experiences), and the relative development of different parts of our brain, each of us develops a particular style of learning. Just as instructors have a particular style of learning, so do students. Instructors tend to develop courses using learning experiences that are perceived as valid and valuable for facilitating learning. Instructors and students also value particular educational experiences based on preferred ways of learning.

Understanding how students learn is of utmost importance (Gardner, 1993). Research has demonstrated that learning style preferences and the consideration educators give to learning styles are closely related to learner achievement, dropout rates, and student satisfaction with instruction (Price, 1983; Cox et al., 1988; Rollins, 1990; Rollins and Scanlon, 1991; Cano and Garton, 1994). Diagnosing learning styles may help educators understand student assumptions about teaching and learning and their behavior in instructional situations.

Theoretical Framework

The theoretical framework for this study is positioned around David Kolb's (1984) Experiential Learning theory. This theory deals with questions of learning and individual development as well as learning style. KoIb believes that learning is contextual, meaning that a person's reality is constantly being defined by a person's experience. This reality is only stable when there is no change between a person and his or her environment.

Kolb believes that learning is a four-stage-process, but this series of four stages spirals upward, with multiple series of the four-stage-process being repeated-a helix of learning. In simple terms, the four-stage process includes learners having experiences, reflecting on them, deducing generalizations about the experience, and then using them as a guide to further action. Once this process has been completed, the cycle begins again. Kolb called these stages concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation (See Figure 1).

Kolb defines these stages as follows:

1. Concrete Experience (CE) is an experience-based approach to learning. People with concrete experience preferences focus on being directly involved in experiences, dealing with human situations personally, are good at relating to others, and are good intuitive decision makers. They emphasize feeling as opposed to thinking, have an intuitive artistic approach as opposed to a systematic, scientific approach to problems, and have an open-minded approach to life. …

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