Learning Styles: Does the Shotgun Approach Work? Dean Farwood, MS, MCT Heald College, Program in Information Technology Keller Graduate School of Management, College of Engineering and Information Sciences
Why I’m Completely Unqualified to Present This Topic • I was a C and D student throughout grammar school • I didn’t go to high school • I dropped out of a music conservatory after two years • I studied chess for a year • I didn’t start teaching until I was in my mid-thirties
Why I’m Perfectly Qualified to Present This Topic • I was a C and D student throughout grammar school • I didn’t go to high school • Since age 14 I’ve only studied subjects in which I’m interested • I have completed graduate training in three fields (physical therapy, systems engineering, education) • I didn’t start teaching until I was in my early-thirties • I teach in both a two-year vocational program and a master’s program for managers
TerminologyLearning Style • The way in which a student, “…concentrates on, processes, internalizes, and remembers new and difficult academic information or skills...” (Shaughnessy).
TerminologyLearning Styles (Grasha) • Competitive • Collaborative • Avoidant • Participant • Dependent • Independent
TerminologyLearning Styles (Dunn) • Environmental • sound, temperature, light, design • Emotional • persistence, motivation, responsibility • Sociological • teams, pairs, solo • Physical • perception, mobility, time, intake (food) • Psychological • analytical/global, reflective/impulsive
TerminologyLearning Styles (Kolb) Learning Style Inventory Learning Modes: • Concrete Experience • Reflective Observation • Abstract Conceptualization • Active Experimentation
Kolb’s Bipolar Scales Putting Them Into Action Terry (2001) - Translating learning style theory into university teaching practices • Assimilators should receive advanced, detailed information on upcoming exams • Divergers should be given frequent writing assignments • Convergers should be tested on practical application of material learned
TerminologyStudent Learning Outcomes Objective measures of student performance such as: • course-specific assessments • measurement of course instructional objective attainment (formative, summative) • final course grades • standardized tests
TerminologyActive vs. Passive Learning • Active • Hands-on • Moving around • Building • Passive • Lecture • Reading • Thinking Can learning be passive? Can teaching be passive?
TerminologyThe Shotgun Method • Varying the delivery of course content to include several instructional modalities under the assumption that different students have different preferred learning styles and, by including varied delivery methods, teachers will have accommodated the preferred learning style of most students
Questions • Are preferred learning style assessment tools reliable, valid and practical to implement? NO
Questions • Is there consensus in the identification of teaching methods which are consistent with particular learning styles? NO
Questions • Does the course content influence the feasibility of accommodating preferred learning styles? YES
Questions • Does student attainment of learning style versatility improve academic outcomes? NO
Questions • Is an individual’s preferred learning style subject to change over time? NO
Questions • Does the shotgun method work? NO
Self-referential Studies Rita Dunn’s recent article: Learning-Style Responsive Approaches for Teaching Typically Performing and At-Risk Adolescents, June, 2009 • 50% Dunn citations • 13% dissertation • +20% using Dunn methods/measurements • 83% self-referential
The Politics of Teaching • Student-centered • Supports retention • Student satisfaction • Success (grade inflation) • Decrease anxiety • Learner-centered • Supports retention • Learning styles
The Exigencies of Learning • Subject-centered • Emphasizes mastery of student learning outcomes • Objective measures of skills through specific rubrics • May require different ways organizing curriculum
THE GAP • Why do administrators and teachers subscribe to an approach that, despite 30 years of research, has little or no scientific basis?
Possible Answers • Administrators and teachers are untrained in critical thinking and critical analysis of research findings.
Teaching to Weaknesses • Learning style accommodation (LS) • Constructivist education (C) • Multiple intelligences (MI) All have been used to justify accommodating students’ behavioral and cognitive weaknesses
Teaching to Weaknesses • LS, C, MI all see lecture as undesirable and all avoid discussion of reading • Is this making necessity a virtue? • How are children prepared for education?
Sesame Street is a Dangerous Neighborhood • Attention span limited • TV and film provide clarity in ethics and motive • TV and file provide non-analytical solutions to problems • News is folksy and superficial • Technological communication discourages reflection and refinement
What is the Teacher’s Role? • Should teachers legitimize the politicians’ justifications for their unwillingness to spend money on education from cradle to employment?
What is the Teacher’s Role? Or…….should teachers train students in • Sustained concentration • Objectivity • Critical perception • Critical analysis • Creativity • Fluency with humanistic perspectives
The Continuum of Normalcy • Do LS, C, and MI celebrate diversity to the point that everything is equally meaningful? • Do LS, C, and MI contribute to a growing cultural wasteland where ordinal scales are banished; everything is equal – and thus, ultimately, nothing is of value?
The Answer It’s the teacher, stupid.
The Answer • Successful outcomes are associated with a deep rather than superficial approach to learning • Superficial approaches are associated with the perceptions that the workload is too high and that assessment is testing reproductive learning
The Answer • Deep approaches to learning are associated with the student perception that teaching is good and goals and standards are clear.
The Answer It’s the teacher, stupid.