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Assignment on Learning Styles

We as human beings are very complex organisms. Unlike other living things who has innate instincts which they don’t need to explore, we are required to explore and identify our preferences and capabilities. The sooner we know our capabilities the better we can perform in life.

The documented history of discussion about learning style can be traced back to 334 B.C. where Aristotle said that, “Each child possesses specific talent and skill”. The interest in learning style regained pace during the 19th century where many psychologists and educators worked on how to improve student’s understanding.

Learning Styles can be defined as,” Various approaches of taking in, organizing and processing stimuli or information”.[1]

The Dunn Learning style model

During the 1960’s and 1970 Rita Dunn and Kenneth Dunn developed a learning style theory known as “The Dunn Learning style model”. They defined learning style as, “An individual’s unique approach to learning based on strength and preferences”.[2]

This model doesn’t describe a specific style for the learner, but instead details the set of elements that can influence a learner.
There are five elements to the Dunn and Dunn Learning Styles model:

1. Environmental, 2. Emotional, 3. Sociological, 4. Physiological 5. Psychological

Myers-Briggs Type indicator

Amongst the cognitive learning style Models is the “Myers-Briggs Type indicator”, developed by Kathrine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers.[3] The MBTI is largely based on “Conceptual Theory” proposed by Carl Jung.[4]
According to MBTI learners may fall into either of the following categories.
  1. Extraverts (E) or  Introverts(I)
  2. Sensors (S)  or  Intuitors(N)
  3. Thinkers(T)  or  Feelers(F)
  4. Judgers (J)  or  Perceivers(P)
A total of 16 different learning style types are formed by combining MBTI preferences of learners. Therefore, a learner may be for example, either INFJ or ESTJ or any of the other 14 remaining style types. Taking the “Myers-Briggs Type indicator Test”, I found myself to be INTP. Thus, according to Myers-Briggs, a person with my style i.e. Introvert, Intuitor, Thinker and Judger would:
Require lectures and individual assignments.
Being concept oriented such person would things to be orderly and have meaning.
Such person would be drawn towards logic and rules
Being perceiver, such person would this style would be creative problem solver and explorer.
Characteristics of the 16 different learning style types are mentioned in table.1, below.

Table.1: 16 different MBTI learning style

Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory

During the 1970 David A. Kolb and Ron Fry proposed,” Experiential Learning Theory”.[5] This theory is based upon four elements working in a cycle as given below.
  1. Concrete experience
  2. Observation and Reflection upon that experience
  3. Abstract Concept formation as a result of Reflection
  4. Testing and Experimenting those Concepts

Table: 2. Kolb’s Learning Cycle

The cycle then starts again as experimenting new concepts leads to gaining new concrete experience and so on as shown in Table. 2 above.

This also led to the development of “Kolb’s Learning Cycle Inventory” LSI. Which identify four types of learners.
  1. Type I: Concrete Reflective
  2. Type II: Abstract Reflective
  3. Type III: Abstract Active
  4. Type IV: Concrete Active
Learners with Type- I learning style are more interested in “Why”, as to why they should learn what is offered. Motivation plays an important role in their learning process.

Learners with Type- II learning style are more interested in the “What”. They tend to get to the depth of everything. In order to be able to effectively learn they need to learn from someone with profound knowledge of the subject matter.

Learners with Type- III learning style are more interested in “How”. They require to practice whatever they need to learn and active working environment helps them learn better.

Learners with Type- IV learning style are more interested in “What if”. They are explorer and experimenting type and requires space to do something new with what they are learning.

Recently David. A Kolb has improved the four learning style types by further refining them into a 9-Style typology enabling it to define unique patterns in learning styles more precisely.[6] These are Initiating, Experiencing, Imagining, Reflecting, Analyzing, Thinking, Deciding, Acting and Balancing.

Richard Felder and Linda Silverman in January 1988 presented another learning model according to which learning styles are a balance between two extremes, "learners might be, Active or Reflective, Verbal or visual and Sequential or Global".[7]

Around the same period Neil D. Fleming in 1987 launched his “VARK Model”.[8] Fleming improved upon the previously in practice “VAK” model and introduced the Read and Write Style into it.

According to Fleming on basis of learning style, learners can be divided into four Styles:
  1. Visual Learners
  2. Auditory Learners
  3. Reading and Writing preference learners
  4. Kinesthetic Learners
Visual Learners benefits from using charts, Maps, Notes, and Flash Cards. They Prefer to see information in form of Images and Diagrams etc. The memorize information by visualizing it and making concept maps.

Auditory Learners prefers hearing lectures rather than reading text. They can better absorb what is said, with little effort. They often avoid eye contact in order to concentrate and at times read out loud to themselves. They may also like to listen to music during study.

Read and write learners are more into written explanation and reading books. They also prefer writing notes during lectures and reading it later on.

Kinesthetic learners learn by doing things practically. They face difficulty in learning when no experimenting or group activity is going on. Lectures become boring for them if they sit passively during it. They also tend to move around during revising things.
On the basis these four characteristics Fleming designed The VARK Questionnaire to identify learning styles

Conclusion: In my opinion, how we learn something is not totally dependent on our learning style as other factors like habit, attitude, preferences and experiences also influence learning. However, learning style does play an equally important part during the learning process. Safe to say that the material presented in appropriate way keeping in view learning style of the receiver may significantly decrease the time taken to learn.
From learner point of view after studying most of the learning styles and theories, I believe that the most appropriate learning style greatly depends upon the subject or topic being learned. Let’s say if someone is identified as an Auditory learner, it would be impossible for him or her to just listen blindly to the lecture on histology or anatomy and learn all about the topic without visual aids.

Same goes for visual learners as they would not be able to learn topics from Genetics by just watching visual and no audio aid.

Therefore, in my opinion the ease of learning greatly depends upon presenting different parts of a topic with appropriate aids. In any given lecture a specific part might require one modality while at the same time another part may be better explained by another modality.

  1. Saran, R., et al., Assessment of learning preferences among dental students using Visual, Aural, Read-Write, Kinesthetic questionnaire: An institutional experience. 2015. 2(1): p. 10.
  2. Dunn, R.J.E.L., Rita Dunn answers questions on learning styles. 1990. 48(2): p. 15-19.
  3. McCaulley, M.H.J.M., E.i. Counseling, and Development, The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: A measure for individuals and groups. 1990. 22(4): p. 181-195.
  4. Jung, C.G.J.P.U.P., Psychological types, volume 6 of The collected works of CG Jung. 1971. 18: p. 169-170.
  5. Kolb, D. and R. Fry, Toward an applied theory of experiential learning. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management. 1974, Working Paper.
  6. Kolb, A. and D.J.A.E.L. Kolb, Alice Kolb and David Kolb. 2018. 40(2): p. 22.
  7. Felder, R.M. and L.K.J.E.e. Silverman, Learning and teaching styles in engineering education. 1988. 78(7): p. 674-681.
  8. Fleming, N.J.R.J., VARK inventory. 1987. 20: p. 2003.