Learning Styles Inventory
This paper will discuss why learning styles are better interpreted as learning preferences. It will also describe an instructional model related to my personal learning style. In addition, it will discuss how an educator’s personal learning styles and preferences influence the teaching strategies used in the development and implementation of a course, and finally, how personal learning styles influence the development of an educational program.
Discuss how Learning Styles may be better Interpreted as Learning Preferences
Various definitions of learning styles have been advanced. Many of these definitions contain a common theme that is; a personal learning style is an individual’s consistent way of or approach of receiving and responding to stimuli in the learning context. From these conceptualizations of learning styles, it emerges that learning styles concern themselves with how learners prefer to learn rather than what they learn. A host of studies have also established that matching instructional strategies, methods, and contexts to the nature of a subject improves the learning outcomes of all students regardless of their individual learning styles. For instance, a study by Constantinidou and Baker (2002 as cited in Coffield et al., 2004) established that visual presentation of learning contents was advantageous for all students who participated in the study irrespective of whether they had a low or high preference for visual images. In addition, findings from group analysis often suggest that learning styles are not very important. Analysis of individuals, on the other hand, often concludes that learning styles are important determinants of whether a person learns or does not learn. In essence, therefore, since they are concerned with the how of learning and they are individualistic, learning styles are more of learning preferences (Coffield et al., 2004).
Discussion of an Instructional Model
Kolb’s experiential theoretical framework is the model that closely matches my learning style. This is because it offers a framework for selecting and arranging learning activities in a sequential and logical manner which are key attributes of my learning style. In addition, it also emphasizes on learning through reflective observation and abstract conceptualization. These two methods require students to invoke certain abilities and are the two main ways through which I learn best (Armstrong & Parsa-Parsi, 2005).
Kolb’s (1976) theory holds that individuals learn through the transformation of experiences. He conceptualized learning from experience in form of four components. Each of these components requires students to utilize certain abilities. Concrete experience hinges on the willingness of the learner to experience new things. Reflective observation, on the other hand, requires the ability to view experiences from a number of perspectives in order to establish meaning. Abstract conceptualization draws on one’s capability to analyze and integrate new concepts and ideas, and make logical conclusions via reflective consideration of new experiences. Active experimentation requires students to put what they have learnt into practice, solve problems, and make decisions. This ultimately leads to new concrete experiences. Kolb incorporated these abilities into stages of a cyclical process termed the experiential learning cycle. In an ideal learning situation, students start with a concrete experience. They reflect on this experience and view it from different perspectives. They then compare it with existing theories and come up with concepts that integrate their opinions/views into rational theories. After this, they actively test their theories and use them as guides in decision making and problem solving. The successful abstraction of a concrete experience motivates them to undertake new experiences (Armstrong & Parsa-Parsi, 2005).
In this cycle, each of the four components involve a distinctive learning process: experiencing (concrete experience), examining (reflective observation), explaining (abstract conceptualization), and applying (active experimentation). This learning cycle can also be understood in the context of grasping and transforming experiences. Grasping in the cycle is represented by experiencing and explaining, whilst the transforming aspect of the cycle is represented by examining and applying (Armstrong & Parsa-Parsi, 2005).
The strength of Kolb’s model is that it focuses on cognitive aspects of learning and a variety of commonly used instructional strategies and activities support the different phases of the cycle. The focus on cognition matches my learning style. Another key strength of the model is that it accommodates students with different learning styles. The latter strength fits my perceived strengths because I prefer to learn though reflective observation and abstract conceptualization (Yildirim & Ozkahraman, 2012). Additionally, it facilitates learning through exploration. Most importantly though is the fact that it satisfies a number of principles of adult learning like learning through experience, participatory learning, and learning via cycles of action and reflection (Shreeve, 2008).
Based on the results of the multiple Intelligence Survey, I learn best by rationalization and conceptualization of concepts. Logical organization of information also enhances my understanding of new concepts. I am also good at noticing patterns and I have a near average interpersonal orientation. The results of my visual and auditory aspects indicate that I am not so good at learning through listening or visualization. The results of my kinesthetic strength suggest that I have a near average orientation for learning through experimentation.
Influence of Educators Personal Learning Styles on the Teaching and Learning Strategies used in the Development and Implementation of Course
Educators tend to employ instructional strategies they are most comfortable with or those they believe are more effective. Findings from empirical researches that have focused on the cognitive styles of teachers suggest that they select instructional methods consistent with their individual learning styles. Cognitive styles are composite components of personal learning styles. This is because cognitive styles influence a person’s preferences, motivation, and personality. As such, they affect how instructors and educators teach as opposed to how they effectively teach. An individual’s cognitive style motivated teaching adapts a ‘format preference’ with distinctive qualities. The educators’ cognitive styles also influence their instructional behaviors. For instance, whether they are content or inter-person oriented, they like to lecture, or use approaches that foster active student participation. Lastly, cognitive style influence how instructors respond to student answers that is, whether they give students ample time to respond, provide cues, encourage conclusion to correct answers, evaluate student answers, disapprove incorrect ones, or overlook correct ones (Bastable et al., 2011, pp. 466-469).
Influence of Personal Learning Styles and Preferences on the Development of an Educational Program
Curriculum developers appreciate that every individual learns in his/her own unique way. Therefore, when developing educational programs, they in addition to coming up with the content and goals of a curriculum, plan and incorporate instruction activities and strategies that promote the learning of students with different learning styles. Curriculum designers, therefore, have the daunting task of coming up with teaching strategies and methods that enable students to work in their individual learning styles (Armstrong & Parsa-Parsi, 2005).
On the other hand, just as teachers personal learning styles influence their instructional methods, it can be argued that the personal learning styles of curriculum developers affect the way they design educational programs. This theory gains more validity if one considers the facts that personal learning styles reflect the past experiences of an individual such as their educational preparation, environmental expectations, personality traits, and the way they process information.
In summary, personal learning styles are more akin to personal preferences because they reflect how a specific individual likes to learn. Kolb’s experiential instructional model closely matches my learning style especially because it emphasizes on the cognitive domain of learning. The personal learning styles of educators are dictated in part by their cognitive styles which also influence their instructional behaviors and the teaching strategies they adopt. Lastly, curriculum planners and designers take into consideration the fact that learners have different learning styles by incorporating instructional methods and activities that cater for the learning needs of different learners.
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