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Theoriesand Models of Learning Styles: A Comparison and Evaluation ofApplicability in Education.

Thereis a conviction that the quality of learning as well as teachingshould be improved. “There is nothing so practical as a goodtheory” were words of Kurt Lewin. There are a number oflearning-related concepts, such as perception of academic control andachievement motivation which have been a focus of attention whenattempting to identify factors affecting learning-related performance(Cassidy &amp Eachus, 2000). Simon Casidy (2004) put forward thatthere is a general acceptance that the manner in which individualschoose to or are inclined to approach a learning situation has animpact on performance and achievement of learning outcomes. Thedifferences in the attitudes, feelings and individual viewpoints arealso key considerations in the learning spectrum. John Yerxa oncenoted “simply being aware that there can be different ways toapproach teaching and learning can make a difference“ (Yerxa, 2003).

Manyscholars have provided essential information in explaining andexpounding the theories of learning styles e. g. Jackson’s LearningStyles Profiler (LSP), Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory (LSI), TheHerrmann ‘whole brain’ model and the Herrmann Brain DominanceInstrument (HBDI), Allinsonand Hayes’ Cognitive Style Index (CSI), Gregory’s Mind StylesModel and Style Delineator among others. It should be noted thathowever, there are numerous theories and opinions on learning styles,but few generally agreed facts… a lack of academic clarity and thecompeting commercial interests in the field have led to a confusedand confusing array of concepts, models and tools. Some are moreinfluential than others, but no model of learning styles isuniversally accepted. (Beta, 2005). This document is an insight intoexamining the practicality, usefulness as well as bottlenecks ofusing theories of learning styles to explain the learning sphere inthe pedagogy realm. In particular, our focus will be on two proposedand examined theories of learning styles namely: David Kolb`slearning styles model and experiential learning theory (ELT) andGregory’s Mind Styles Model and Style Delineator.

Kolb’sLearning Styles model and Experiential Learning theory

DavidKolb published his learning styles model in 1984. (Pole Gideon,2005). First Kolb showed that learning styles could be seen on acontinuum running from:

  • Concrete experience that is constituted of being involved in a new experience.

  • Reflective observation that involves watching others or developing observations about own experience.

  • Abstract conceptualization which includes creating theories to explain observations.

  • Active experimentation that involves using theories to solve problems, make decisions.

AlthoughKolb thought of these learning styles as a continuum that one movesthrough over time, usually people come to prefer, and rely on, onestyle above the others.

Gregory’sMind Styles Model and Style Delineator

Gregorcproposed two dimensions namely Perception and ordering. Perception isthe means by which you grasp information while ordering is the waysin which you authoritatively arrange, systematize reference anddispose information. ‘Perception’ may be ‘concrete’ or‘abstract’ and ‘ordering’ may be ‘sequential’ or‘random’.

In1979, Gregorc defined learning style as consisting of ‘distinctivebehaviors which serve as indicators of how a person learns from andadapts to his environment’ (1979, 234). His Mind Style Model is ametaphysical one in which minds interact with their environmentsthrough ‘channels’, the four most important of which aresupposedly measured by the Gregorc Style Delineator.

Gregorc’sfour styles can be summarized as follows:

        • The concrete sequential (CS) learner is ordered, perfection-oriented, practical and thorough.

        • The abstract sequential (AS) learner is logical, analytical, rational and evaluative.

        • The abstract random (AR) learner is sensitive, colorful, emotional and spontaneous.

        • The concrete random learner (CR) is intuitive, independent, impulsive and original.

Everyonecan make use of all four channels, but according to Gregorc (2002)there are inborn (God-given) inclinations towards one or two of them.He also denies that it is possible to change point arrangementsduring one’s life. To try to act against stylistic inclinationsputs one at risk of becoming false or inauthentic. Each orientationtowards the world has potentially positive and negative attributes(Gregorc 1982b). Gregorc (2002) states that his mission is to promptself-knowledge, promote depth-awareness of others, foster harmoniousrelationships, reduce negative harm and encourage rightful actions.

Comparisonof The Two Theories

Thesetheories are different. To start with, Kolb proposes that “learningstyles could be seen on a continuum.” One stage forms the basis forthe other to build on. When the last stage is reached, the processrepeats itself. Well, this might turn out to be inauthentic in somespecific cases. Claire Forrest (2004) puts forward that the idea of anice set of neat learning stages does not equate to most people`sreality. The problem is that a number of processes can occur at onceand stages can be jumped or missed out completely. On the other side,Gregorc doesn’t assume the cycle but rather holds that there areinborn (God-given) inclinations towards one or two of them.

WhileGregorcs mentions the impossibility of one to change fully andpractically to achieve a learning style, Kolb assumes all humanbeings to be similar and utilize the same way of learning.

Evaluationof the theories

Thetheories can be applied indifferent fields of learning. For instance,Hartman (1995) took Kolb`s learning styles and gave examples of howone might reach to teach them:

  • For the concrete experience: offer labs, field work, observations or videos.

  • For the reflective observer: use logs, journals or brainstorming.

  • For the abstract conceptualize: lectures, papers and analogies work well.

  • For the active experimenter: offer simulations, case studies and homework.

Further,considering Gregorc’ model, Gregorc believes that students sufferif there is a lack of alignment between their adaptive abilities(styles) and the demands placed on them by teaching methods andstyles. Teachers who understand their own styles and those of theirlearners can reduce the harm they may otherwise do (Gregorc 2002).Gregorc argues against attempts to force teachers and learners tochange their natural styles, believing that this does more harm thangood and can alienate people or make them ill.

References

Cassidy,S., &amp Eachus, P. (2000). Learning style, academic belief systems,self-report student proficiency and academic achievement in highereducation. EducationalPsychology,20, 307-322.

CasidySimon (2004). Learning Styles: An Overview of Theories, models AndMeasures. EducationPsychology,Vol. 24, No. 4.

Yerxa,J. (2003). Learning styles: Medical education in general practiceAdelaide: University of Adelaide: Retrieved April 2003 fromhttp://www.curriculum.adelaide.edu.au/medical_education/topic.asp?topic=8

Becta,Learning Styles- AnIntroduction to The Research Literature. Version1.1, September 2005. http://www.becta.org.uk

Adetunji,Ponle Gideon (PHD). An Evaluation Of David Kolb`s Theory Of LearningStyles. Ogbomoso, Oyo State.

GregorcAF (1982). Gregorc Style Delineator: Development,Technical And Administration Manual.Columbia, CT: Gregorc Associates Inc.

Forrest,Claire. Train The Trainer Issue: Kolb’sLearning Cycle”.12, 2004.

Coffined,Frank. Moosely, David. Hall, Elaine. Ecclestone, Cathryn. Learningstyles and pedagogy in post-16 learning: Asystematic and critical review.LSRC Reference.