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Subject:

Re: learning styles and academic success

From:

"Mayfield, Linda" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 14 Apr 2009 11:36:04 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (256 lines)

Kathryn,
Hooray for alleviating guilt!  I love your descriptor:  "one more tool for students to use for their self-awareness as a learner."  And I can give you a rationale to support your caveat not to pigeonhole.  I have my students take several learning style assessments--one or two from textbooks, two or more online, and one on paper that I developed, then they enter all their scores on a form and analyze them.  We talk about the ways the conclusions are alike and different, and the students think about and talk about which ones they consider more accurate descriptors of themselves, and why--it is sometimes a lively discussion. Many have never even thought about it before, and suddenly things make sense to them.

That is a great segue into a discussion about reliability and validity of assessment tools and judging the scholarly merits of web sites.  If all the instruments they used show that the student is a dominantly visual learner, that is a non-scientific indicator, but nevertheless an indicator, that there is probably some reliability to the instruments; but we cannot know if they are valid in the first place, if the constructs are faulty. I think it is a great metacognitive and critical thinking activity. Then I teach them adaptations to accommodate their own indicated preferences, particularly when faced with instructors who teach in ways that would best fit their lowest score.  In all my years of doing this, I have NEVER had a student get a 0 on any learning style preference scale--no matter how high they might be on one or two modalities, they also learn in the third, and I emphasize that.  We all learn in all the ways--we just tend to have ways we prefer to learn, and there are ways to maximize those.  Over the years I have had several very dominantly kinesthetic nursing students who were beating up on themselves for not being able to sit still and effectively study in long blocks of time.  Just giving them "permission" based on their scores, to practice intentionality in keeping moving while reading and studying, and break the sessions into smaller units, made significant differences in both their demonstrated learning and their stress levels, as well as alleviating guilt! :-)  As I type this, I'm seeing their faces and recalling their names:  I really need to formally document this stuff!  :-)
Linda

Linda Riggs Mayfield, MA
Associate Faculty
________________________________________
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Kathryn Van Wagoner [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 10:53 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: learning styles and academic success

I am really appreciating this discussion.  I have never quite caught on to the enthusiasm surrounding learning styles. For starters, there are too many variations on the theories, styles vs modalities, etc.  I found it very confusing and just a lot of theory -- nothing seemed concrete.

Since learning styles is a topic in my tutor training program, I introduce the concept as one more tool for students to use for their self-awareness as a learner.  But I caution tutors and students from pigeon-holing anyone into a particular style. I don't doubt that there is some merit to the idea of learning styles.

I was feeling like I held a deep dark secret -- a learning professional who doesn't particularly buy into learning styles (with the same enthusiasm as most).  Thanks for helping me alleviate the guilt.



Kathryn Van Wagoner
Utah Valley University
Math Lab Manager
801-863-8411
[log in to unmask]


>>> "Sara Weertz" <[log in to unmask]> 4/14/2009 9:36 AM >>>
Bravo to my good friend, ME McWilliams, for having the courage to highlight the problems that arise with misapplication of learning styles theory. An understanding of learning styles is good to know-it's good practice, for example, to compensate for differences by transforming lecture notes (verbal) to graphic organizers (visual). Students, however, must take charge of their own learning with practical use of a variety of study methods (which can only be done through trial and error) in order to learn and transfer new material. Too often we as learning specialists introduce the concept of learning styles as a panacea for all our students' learning woes: You're a tactile learner. No wonder you can't sit through an hour lecture. What we need to reinforce is the use of specific study skills for specific courses. The study skills a student uses for college algebra are going to be different from the study skills he/she uses for history. All too often faculty and staff just assume!
  students know how to study.

Learning deficiencies, I feel, are not simply the result of a visual learner taking instruction from a verbal instructor, but from lack of training and instruction on proper study skills, in particular, reading. Rather than attempt to peg themselves in one learning styles category or another, students would do well to learn and consistently utilize the SQR4 Reading Method-with everything they read. I believe this is ME's implication when she  says students need "to get to the work of studying...."

Sara



-----Original Message-----
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of M.E. McWilliams
Sent: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 9:01 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: learning styles and academic success

I dared to address the misuse of learning styles in the field of learning
assistance at CRLA a few years ago.  I doubted that CRLA would even accept
my proposal but to their credit, they did.  I thought my standing room only
audience might throw bananas at me when I suggested that practitioners
encourage students to get to the work of studying and not spend so much time
trying to encourage students to self select their learning style (usually
from a quickie on-line questionnaire).  Instead of trying to spend hours
determining how to study Huckleberry Finn as a kinesthetic learner, why not
get to the business of immersing one's self in the text?

Learning style theory does offer the student some productive means of
studying material in a variety of ways, but too often students get the idea
that if they are able to accurately label themselves as a certain kind of
learner, then they have found the magic wand to all their studying troubles.
Learning style theorists may never have meant for practitioners to imply to
students that there is a quick fix to the rigors of studying, but many
students are receiving that message when we tell tutors to help their
clients determine a certain learning style for themselves and broadly apply
it to all their subjects.

The best prescriptive advice may be to tell the tutor to let the domain
determine the learning style.

It was indeed Daniel Willingham, referenced in Alan's list, who first began
to disqualify for me the current use of learning styles by some
practitioners.  Here is also an interesting article on MI Theory by James
Collins:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,989359,00.html

Woo HOo!
M.E. McWilliams
AARC Director
Stephen F. Austin State University
http://libweb.sfasu.edu/proser/aarc/index.html

-----Original Message-----
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Mayfield, Linda
Sent: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 1:05 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: learning styles and academic success

Janice,
I am eager to dig into the sites Alan sent you.  I know there are
strongly-held opinions on both sides, and evidence to support both; but I am
definitely on the other side of that fence.  After extensive research about
learning styles over several years, I conducted a formal, IRB-approved,
quantitative study at my college a couple of years ago.  My demographic
would have been much different from the algebra classes at the community
college that Alan cited.  Among our baccalaureate nursing students, I found
strong support for using one's own learning style preferences to inform
academic tasks. I've been working on getting the manuscript reporting the
findings ready to submit to TLAR for more than a year--I really need to get
that done! I don't think it's a cure-all for all the academic woes we see,
but as a tool for students to use for more effective learning, I think it
has merit.

Linda Riggs Mayfield, MA
Associate Faculty
________________________________________
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals
[[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Alan Thomas Craig
[[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 12:38 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: learning styles and academic success

Janice,

Although learning styles theory is enticing, many researchers believe that
the theory does not work, so at least some of these researchers would be
inclined to say that there is low to no correlation.  Here is a sampling:


==========================
An in depth review of 13 learning styles models in which most flunk:
http://www.lsda.org.uk/files/PDF/1540.pdf
==========================
Video of Daniel Willingham of the University of Virginia explains why
learning style theory sounds great but does not work in practice:
 (also available on YouTube but with incorrect map)
 http://people.virginia.edu/%7Edbw8m/videos/Willingham_Learning_Styles.wmv

A more detailed article by Willingham on the same topic.
http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/issues/summer2005/cogsci.h
tm

See also his brief annotated bibliography at
http://www.danielwillingham.com/learningstylescitationspage
==========================
Stahl, S. A. (1999). Different strokes for different folks?: A critique of
learning styles. American Educator
http://www.aft.org/pubs-reports/american_educator/fall99/DiffStrokes.pdf

==========================
Zavarella, C. A. (2009). Computer-based instruction and remedial
mathematics: A study of student retention at a Florida community college.
Dissertation Abstracts International-A, 69(08). (AAT 3326039)

Zavarella (2009) conducted a nonexperimental quantitative study using
logistic regression to determine whether students' learning styles,
placement test scores, or reasons for choosing a particular approach
affected completion and withdrawal rates in basic algebra courses using
face-to-face, distance learning, and hybrid instructional approaches at a
large, urban community college. Withdrawal from distance learning and hybrid
courses was twice that of face-to-face courses. Learning styles and
placement test scores were not significant factors. Students enrolled in a
particular approach for personal reasons (e.g., job constraints prevented
taking on-site courses) had higher completion rates while those enrolled
because they thought that the particular approach or type of instruction
(e.g., face-to-face) was better for them had higher withdrawal rates.


Alan Craig


________________________________________
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals
[[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Janice Lee [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Monday, April 13, 2009 7:19 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: learning styles and academic success

Hello:

Does anyone know of any research, books or articles that discuss the
correlations between learning styles and academic success?

Thank you.

Janice Lee

Director of Student Services

Cox College

1423 N. Jefferson Ave.

Springfield, MO 65804


417-269-3598

[log in to unmask]






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