A Comparison of Learning and Teaching Styles-Self-Perception of IT Students

By Kovacic, Zlatko J. | Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology, Annual 2004 | Go to article overview

A Comparison of Learning and Teaching Styles-Self-Perception of IT Students


Kovacic, Zlatko J., Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology


Introduction

The accelerated growth of the education sector in the last two decades could be partly contributed to the Internet based communication tools that were widely used to deliver courses and support students. Increasing demand for quality continuous education from society and the economy is putting pressure on academic staff to maintain high level of services despite of increasing number of students. At the same time budgetary restrictions and requests from governments to increase efficiency in the tertiary sector force academics to continually review the quality of the learning material they produce and to accommodate teaching styles and developments in technology to the changing learning styles of students. We believe that a mismatch between the learning styles of students and the teaching styles of tutors might lead to poor educational performance and a low retention of students on courses. So far, qualitative analysis or anecdotal evidence has been used to illustrate this mismatch between learning and teaching styles. Therefore we think there is a need for quantitative experimental research that will address this mismatch between learning and teaching styles.

This paper presents results of an empirical study of the learning styles of a group of Computer Concepts course students enrolled in the second semester of 2003 at The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. The Open Polytechnic is the only specialist provider of open and distance education in New Zealand. Computer Concepts is a compulsory course that is part of the New Zealand Diploma in Business. The course uses electronic discussion forums for communication and peer-to-peer and tutor support. Participation in the discussions is an integral part of the assessment regime.

The main objective of our research is to identify the diversity of learning and teaching styles among Computer Concepts students and their tutors. More specifically the data gathered for this paper was used to address the following four questions:

* do the students' learning styles match the IT tutors' learning styles?

* could the self-perception of students about how close the teaching style matches their learning style be used as an indicator of the proximity between the teaching and learning styles?

* are the results of Euclidean distance between students and the average IT tutor learning style scores consistent with the results based on the self-perception of students?

* do the results of Euclidean distance between teaching and learning styles based on the learning styles instrument correlate with the students' self-perception of proximity?

The learning styles of students and tutors and their differences will be the main focus of this study. Other authors such as for example Ford and Chen (2001) studied the match/mismatch between teaching and learning styles. However, they have used different learning style model and instrument and therefore their results and not directly comparable with the results from this paper.

The first section gives a brief overview of learning styles models, summarising the Kolb and Felder-Silverman learning style models. In the second section the learning styles instrument is described. In the next section data and methodology are discussed. The fourth section presents the learning styles results along with critical comments. Finally we make some suggestions on how to accommodate the different learning styles of students and how to modify teaching styles to effectively use available communication tools.

Learning Styles Models

The most common framework used for description and explanation of learning styles models is Curry's 'Onion' Model (Curry, 1983). This meta model attempts to define and illustrate relationship between learner's personality, cognitive styles, learning styles and learning strategies. There is an alternative generalisation of learning styles models other than the classic Curry's Model developed by Gordon and Bull (2004) and applicable only to 4-cycles types of learning styles models. …

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