Frequently Asked Questions about Learning Styles; BREAKTHROUGH EDUCATION

Manila Bulletin, May 21, 2003 | Go to article overview

Frequently Asked Questions about Learning Styles; BREAKTHROUGH EDUCATION


During her two trips to Manila to address the two national education conferences organized by CLTS Phils., Dr. Rita Dunn, developer of the Dunn and Dunn learning styles model, an internationally acclaimed educational philosophy and learning methodology, shared her insights on the idea of learning styles. I find this specially interesting as most schools now are gearing up for the coming new school year and inherent to this is the amount of preparations being undertaken in the area of faculty development.

Question: Why are there so many learning styles models?

Dunn: Different pioneers recognized individual differences based on their particular experiences, named the characteristics they observed, and described them in terms that made sense to them.

Q: In what ways are the models similar to and/or different from each other?

D: Each of the models advocates acknowledging and honoring the diversity among individuals. Most models urge that teachers adapt instruction to the ways in which individuals, rather than groups, learn. Some believe in ?matching? to learning style characteristics all the time; others believe in matching some of the time. Still others believe in changing the child?s characteristics.

Q: How good is the Dunn, Dunn, and Price Learning Style Inventory?

D: It is the most reliable, most valid, and most widely used learning style diagnostic instrument for school-aged children.

It assesses multiple characteristics that have been shown to significantly affect individual students? achievement, has been tested at every grade level (3-14), has been incorporated into research at more than 60 institutions of higher education, is easy to administer and score, and is inexpensive.

Further, students understand it and rarely feel threatened by its questions. In addition, it has had the advantage of being developed, scrutinized, field-tested, redesigned, and consistently improved by university researchers for more than 22 years.

In addition, the research on the LSI has been conducted at more than 60 institutions of higher education in the United States and abroad

Q: Aren?t we labeling children when we say they have one style or another?

D: No more than categorizing them as ?students? or as ?humans.? Everybody has a learning style, and everybody has learning style strengths. Different people just have different strengths.

Q: Why do you call students? preferences their ?strengths??

D: Because many researchers have repeatedly documented that, when students are taught with approaches that match their preferences as identified by the Learning Style Inventory (LSI) they demonstrate higher achievement and attitude test scores than when mismatched.

If learning through your preference consistently produces significantly better test scores and grades, then your preference is your strength.

Q: Why should students learning styles be ?matched?? Shouldn?t they learn to adjust?

D: It is important to note that three fifths of learning style is biologically imposed. Thus, those students with strong preferences for specific learning style conditions/environments/approaches cannot adjust; if they could, they would not be failing.

Q: Wouldn?t it be just as effective to change the curriculum?

D: Students are not failing because of the curriculum. Students can learn almost any subject matter when they are taught with methods and approaches responsive to their learning style strengths; those same students fail when they are taught in an instructional style different from their strengths. …

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