Cognitive Style Differences and Student Coping Behavior

By Samms, Chevanese; Friedel, Curtis Robert | Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, January 2013 | Go to article overview

Cognitive Style Differences and Student Coping Behavior

Samms, Chevanese, Friedel, Curtis Robert, Academy of Educational Leadership Journal


A number have researchers (Geisler, Wiedig-Allison and Weber, 2009; Friedel and Rudd, 2009; Samms and Friedel, (in press); Samuel and Kohun, 2010; Struthers, Perry and Menec, 2000), have attested to direct, indirect and even inverse relationships between cognitive style or coping and other factors. However, research has not documented existing relationships between the cognitive gap and coping behavior. This study, a continuation of a larger project, examined how dissimilarities in cognitive style between a college instructor and his or her undergraduate students may be associated with other variables believed to be salient to the teaching and learning process. The primary aim of this study therefore, was to find out if there were significant correlations between use of coping behavior as measured by the Coping Orientation of Problem Experience (COPE; Carver, Scheier & Weintraub, 1989) and cognitive style gap, measured utilizing Kirton's Adaption-innovation Inventory (KAI; Kirton, 1976), which provided a gap score between students and their instructors at [State University].

The objectives of this study were to:

1. Determine the cognitive style of faculty participants and cognitive style of student participants for the purpose of calculating cognitive-style gap utilizing the KAI.

2. Determine the use of coping strategies of undergraduate students as measured by the COPE

3. Examine the relationships between cognitive-style gap and undergraduate students' use of coping behavior.


The theory underlying this study--Kirton's Adaption-Innovation (AI) Theory--posited that when incongruence existed in cognitive styles between student and instructor, academic stress is generated (Kirton, 2003) and possibly negative emotion (Brown, Westbrook & Chagalla, 2005). This incongruence is a gap between styles of thinking; some more adaptive while others more innovative. A more adaptive person may solve problems by intently defining the problem and seeking solutions that may prove to be reliable and time-tested in improving efficiency with keen regard to the systems associated with the situation (Kirton, 2003). The more innovative person, however, may solve problems with a broad approach to defining the problem and developing many atypical solutions that tend to discard the conventional systems associated with the problem at hand (Kirton, 2003). A large gap of more than twenty points (as measured by the KAI) may lead to hindered communication between the student and the teacher, which has been found to cause stress for the individual trying to act in a cognitive style more congruent with the other person (Kirton, 2003). These preferences of thinking have been found to be innate and stable, as well as distinct from cognitive level, and the problem solving process (Kirton, 2003).

In the classroom, students may exert effort to cope with instructors having dissimilar cognitive styles, which can be stressful for the student. Motivation of the student drives coping behavior, which may be maintained with dependence on the length of time he/she was willing to cope (duration) and the degree of cognitive style dissimilarity to which the individual acts outside of the preferred behavior (intensity). In alignment with Kirton's (2003) theory, coping may be maintained for an amount of duration and intensity--whereas if motivation was lacking, a student may return to his or her preferred behavior. That is, unless coping behavior was implemented to bridge this cognitive-style gap, a student may continually experience academic stress from inhibited communication while interacting with his/her instructor.

Cognitive styles, as discussed, are preferences and often first response approaches to thinking. As such, it is agreeable that individuals could function outside his/her style preference (Kirton, 2003; McKeachie, 1995). Despite individual cognitive styles, students may learn or be taught strategies that would be useful to them in a situation where the teaching methods do not reconcile with their cognitive preference. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Cognitive Style Differences and Student Coping Behavior


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.