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Examining Match between Pre-service Teachers Learning Styles and Instructors’ Teaching Styles 



Examining Match between Pre-service Teachers

Learning Styles and Instructors’ Teaching Styles 

(Thesis Abstract)

 

By 
Nour Ali Hamade
 

 

1.    Introduction


Teachers in various learning environments, are often asked to address students’ individual differences, needs and preferences, which puts more pressure on teachers and raises the expectations to individualize their instruction. Accordingly, the growing interest in targeting and determining the individual differences of students led to the term learning styles into the education field (Yeşilyurt, 2014). This concept was developed from the research done on thinking styles and how they influence learning styles and teaching styles (Honigsfeld & Schiering, 2004; Sternberg & Grigorenko, 1997). Going through the literature, I found several definitions for learning styles depending on the model used. Gregorc (1984) defines learning styles as the suitable manner to gain knowledge and information that gives hints about one’s personal abilities. Naserieh and Anani Sarab (2013, p.122) define learning styles as a “consistent manner” of processing information. In other words, learning styles are the way an individual repetitively processes and understands information during the learning process. Another definition presented by Kolb (1984) explains that learning occurs through experience and is a process composed of four steps. The steps of the learning experience involve gaining concrete experience, observing experience from different perspectives, reflecting on what is learned and finally applying it. Grasha (1996), on the other hand, suggests that learning styles are original and personal to every learner and that these differences influence how people learn, interact and engage in the whole learning process. 


Throughout the literature, learning style models have been addressed through various areas, two of which are physiological and cognitive (Günes, Bati & Katranci, 2017). One physiological model, the VARK model, was presented by Fleming (2001) who classifies students’ learning styles into four sensory types. Such physiological models rely on biological features in order for the individual to learn, such as sight and hearing. Fleming measured three physiological modalities that are the visual, auditory and kinesthetic skills of learners. Another model, like Gregorc’s Style Delineator (1984) was developed to address “observable behaviors: abstract, concrete, random, and sequential tendencies, which lead to four learning styles; concrete sequential, which is orderly learning; concrete random, which is trial and error learning; abstract sequential, which is preference for logical and verbal instructions; and abstract random, which is preference for visual and holistic learning” (Cassidy, 2004, p.429). 


In education, learning styles influence both teachers and students. Students’ awareness of their own learning styles has been highlighted in several studies. Sadler-Smith (2001) and Petress (2004) linked students’ awareness of their learning styles to being more prepared to work in different situations they may face in the work place and in different occupational environments. In other studies, students’ awareness of their own learning styles influences their academic success and satisfaction (Yeşilyurt, 2014; Layman, Cornwell & Williams, 2006; Brown, Cristea, Stewart & Brailsford, 2005; Voges, 2005). Gencel (2015) stressed the importance of exploring one’s own learning style and its effect on problem-solving skills. In his study he discovered that students can utilize different thinking strategies in order to solve a certain problem, where learners that possess a “converging” learning style are more positive in their problem soling skills, whereas students with “diverging” learning style possess low problem solving skills abilities. Moreover, Instructors’ awareness of their students’ learning styles is essential in the learning and teaching process too. Sabeh, Bahous, Bacha and Nabhani (2011) linked academic failure and demotivation to the difference between the instructors’ teaching styles and their students’ learning styles. 


It is more effective when teachers are knowledgeable about the learning styles of their students and build their educational methods based on that matter (Vašašová, 2007). Additionally, research addressed whether the match between learning styles and teaching styles is beneficial. Dunn (2000) indicates the importance of the link between the instruction by the teachers and the learning styles of the students in order to enhance their cognition. While Reid (1995) noted that when teachers try to match their teaching styles with their students’ learning styles, this leads to better learning by the students and they are more aware of their own learning style. On a different note, Denig (2004) suggested that teachers could try to detect their students learning styles and address them based on their first and second most preferred learning styles in order to maximize the learning experience. Therefore, it is stressed upon in several studies that teachers should be aware of their students’ various needs in order to plan lessons accordingly and to be able to target a wider array of learners and different groups (Zhou, 2011). Additionally, university instructors are not only required to master the content they teach, but should also be able to engage students using the suitable instruction (Onyia & Offorma, 2011). 


Research has been conducted to investigate the learning styles of undergraduate students in diverse majors, some of them target students majoring in Education. A study by Gencel (2015) that aimed to explore the relationship between the learning styles and problem solving skills of pre-service teachers found that many pre-service teachers have various learning styles, but mostly “active and cooperative” learning styles. Similarly, a study done by Metallidou and Platsidou (2008) that aimed to investigate the learning styles of pre-service teachers and the relationship between learning styles and their problem solving strategies conveyed that pre-service teachers tend to possess an “active-experimenting” learning style. Other studies targeted the match and mismatch between teaching and learning styles of university students. One study done by Tuan (2011) targeted the match between learning styles of 168 students and the teaching styles of twelve instructors at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City. Results showed that half of the instructors didn’t match their teaching styles with the learning styles of the students, for they only used traditional lecturing, while only a couple of teachers used visual and interactive methods in their classes which matched the learning styles of most of the students. These results indicated that students prefer more interactive and communicative teaching styles and instructors were advised to use more communicative and active teaching methods in their instruction in order to target a bigger sample of the students (Tuan, 2011). 

 


1.1 Statement of the problem


One of the main objectives in American style education is to address diverse learning styles and instruct accordingly through the use of suitable and diverse strategies and methods. 
Having been taught by various professors that rely on several techniques of instruction, I realized that certain instructors have managed to engage and involve me as a learner much better than other instructors were able to do. Inversely, some of my classmates would argue about how they cannot understand the teaching style of the same professor I found easily and interestingly engaging. This led me to speculate about how each one of us has preferences to a certain teaching style and how this reflects on the learning process. Hence, this intrigued me to research more about learning styles of students, specifically students majoring in Education at a private Lebanese university and the teaching styles of some instructors in order to explore if there is a match between their teaching and the prevailing learning styles of their students. Also, due to the increased interest in the issue of detecting students’ learning styles, many educators recommend conducting more research concerning this topic (Apter, 2001; Coffield, Moseley, Hall, & Ecclestone, 2004). 

 

1.2 Rationale of the study


    Detecting and addressing students’ learning styles may contribute to, facilitate and enhance instruction of teachers and this ultimately may enhance undergraduate students’ academic achievement in Education. When teachers take into consideration that they have various learning styles in their classrooms and adjust instruction accordingly, this leads to more effective instruction and on the long run this may enhance students’ academic achievement (Sloan, Daane & Giesen, 2004). Other studies have also stressed on the importance of having a match between instructors’ teaching styles and students’ learning styles and linked it to academic achievement and motivation (Miller, 2001; Stitt-Gohdes, 2003). My study, even though the results may not be statistically significant, may add to the knowledge of how detecting students’ learning styles and instructors’ teachings styles may impact the instruction of the professors at a Lebanese university that provides American style education. Hence, this will contribute to raising more awareness about the importance of identifying and acknowledging the diverse learning styles of students majoring in Education. 

 


1.3 Purpose and significance of the study  


This exploratory mixed-methods study aims to investigate the most prevailing learning styles among undergraduate Education students enrolled in a private Lebanese university. Additionally, it aims to examine whether there is a match between the instructors’ teaching styles and students’ learning styles.   
The study addresses the following research questions:


1.    What are the most common learning styles identified among the students majoring in Education?
2.    How do students’ learning styles differ according to age, university grade level, and emphasis? 
3.    How do instructors identify and address their students’ learning styles? What do instructors do when there’s a mismatch? 


     International and regional literature on the topic of learning styles in general is rich (Kolb, 1985; Reid, 1995; Sloan, Daane & Giesen, 2004; Can, 2011; Gencel, 2015), but only few studies were done on learning styles of students majoring in Education. Some studies on learning styles addressed how team work influences learning styles (Kyprianidou, Demetriadis, Tsiatsos & Pombortsis, 2012), how learning styles and motivation are related and affect students’ performance (Ghaedi, & Jam, 2014), how culture influences learning styles (Lemke-Westcott & Johnson, 2013; De Vita, 2001; Lopez, 2002; Alumran, 2008) and many more subjects. In Lebanon one study was conducted by Sabeh et al. (2011), but it targeted learning styles of Intensive English students. Knowing students’ learning styles may contribute to, facilitate and enhance instruction of teachers and this ultimately may enhance undergraduate students’ academic achievement in Education. My study will hopefully add to the knowledge of how detecting students’ learning styles may impact the instruction of the professors at the university level. Hence, this will contribute to raising more awareness about the importance of assessing and acknowledging the diverse learning styles of students majoring in Education. 

 


1.4 Summary 


In this chapter, definitions and several models of learning styles were presented as well as the study’s purpose and rationale. 
1.5 Project division
This project is divided into six chapters. Chapter one is the introduction, chapter two is the literature review, chapter three describes the methodology, chapter four presents the results, chapter five includes the discussion of findings and chapter six presents the conclusion, limitations and suggestions for further research.

 

2.    Conclusion, Limitations and Recommendations 


2.1 Conclusion


    Throughout the literature, awareness of the various learning styles in the classrooms has been highlighted as essential for both students and teachers. Knowing students’ learning styles may contribute to, facilitate and enhance instruction of teachers, and this ultimately may enhance undergraduate students’ academic achievement in Education. Therefore, the purpose of this exploratory mixed-methods study was to investigate the most prevailing learning styles among undergraduate Education students enrolled in a private Lebanese university, and examine whether there is a match between the instructors’ teaching styles and students’ learning styles. The Learning Style Questionnaire by Honey and Mumford (1992) was administered to the students majoring in Education in order to explore their learning styles, and interviews were conducted with the instructors of the School of Arts and Science in order to investigate their teaching styles.   

 
The major findings of this study were divided into learning styles of Lebanese pre-service teachers, the variables that might affect their learning styles, how instructors may identify and address their students’ learning styles and what they can do when there’s a mismatch. Results showed that pre-service teachers have a primary preference for Theorist learning style, followed by Activist, Pragmatist and Reflector as least dominant. This means that students primarily prefer learning through structured and systematic learning, by being involved in the learning process, through application and projects, and through reflective observations as least preferred learning style. Also combination learning styles were prevalent among pre-service teachers. The highest predominant combination is Activist and Pragmatist, which is learning by being involved in the learning experience as well as learning through application and projects, as well as Theorist and Pragmatist, which is learning through structured and systematic procedures and through application and projects. Following is Reflector and Theorist, which is learning through lecturing and reflective observations as well as learning by structured and systematic procedures, then Theorist and Activist, which is learning by structured and systematic procedures as well as being involved in the learning experience. The final combination is Reflector and Pragmatist, which is learning through lecturing and reflective observations as well as learning through application and projects. A trend was observed, contrary to most of the literature I read, which is the prevalence of Activist learning style among my sample of students. 


Even though the results are statistically not significant, my study shows that Lebanese pre-service teachers have a preference for multiple learning styles but mainly prefer Activist, Theorist and Pragmatic learning styles. In other words, they learn best when they are being involved in the learning experience, through structured and systematic procedures as well as through application and projects. Another trend in the findings was observed, which is students of the younger age group (18-22) possessed a combination of Activist and Theorist as well as Activist and Pragmatist learning styles, while as they get older (23 an above) they tend to possess a combination of Theorist and Reflector learning style. As for grade level only freshman students had a Theorist and Reflector predominant learning style while sophomores, juniors and seniors had a Theorist and Pragmatist predominant learning style, which means there wasn’t a significant change in learning styles among grade levels.


Another major finding is that learning styles do differ according to emphasis, where Elementary students had a predominant preference for Activist and Reflector learning style, while Early childhood education students had a predominant preference for Theorists and Pragmatists learning style. The last and main finding is that there is match between teaching styles of instructors at the school of Arts and Sciences instructors and the learning styles of pre-service teachers and the instructors are aware of the various learning styles in their classrooms and try to cater for them by utilizing active learning strategies, engaging the students in the learning experience, involving them in group discussions, group work, and online discussion boards, providing clear guidelines, instructions and rubrics, and using case studies, group work on projects, application of knowledge on Blackboard and presentations.

 


2.2 Implications for practice


This study has yielded that there is a match between teaching styles and learning styles of instructors, however there’s still a debate in research whether there should be a match between teaching styles and learning styles. Many studies have advocated for the match between instruction and students’ learning styles and linked it to academic achievement and motivation (Miller, 2001; Stitt-Gohdes, 2003). However, several other studies have stressed on the importance of having instructors adopt a multi-approach instruction in their classrooms by pushing the students out of their comfort zones and aiding them in accommodating to different learning styles (Entwistle & Peterson, 2004). When instructors use different instructional methods they aid their students in transferring from one learning style to another easily and help them in the learning process (Hadfield, 2006). 
Even though instructors in this study are trying to target Activists, Theorists, Reflectors and Pragmatists, the literature provides some suggestions on instructional methods to target the various learning styles. For example, instructors can involve their students actively during the learning experience in order to increase their acquisition of knowledge. According to Jepsen, Varhegyi and Teo (2015) in the classroom setting Activist learners learn best when they are involved in the learning experience and when they brainstorm problems and tasks, and they learn least when the instruction is purely lecture style. As for Pragmatists, Jepsen et al. (2015) add that Pragmatic learners are practical people who learn best when they apply what they learned directly and can learn through lecture style presentations as well. They add that Theorist learners can turn their observations or lectures they listen to into logical models and structured systems to understand further, which means that they prefer structured models, guidelines and organized instructions. While for the least predominant type of learners, Reflectors, Jepsen et al. (2015) suggest that instructors can give them more attention in order to work on enhancing this crucial type of learning for pre-service teachers. Instructors can integrate more reflections in their instructional methods and most importantly teach students how to do the reflections. An important insight was revealed by one instructor which is that based on her observations and experience, students tend to dislike reflections because they are either afraid to do them and they don’t know how to write them or are not being taught or guided properly in doing that. Therefore, guiding students into proper writing of reflections can aid students into having Reflector learning style skills.


2.3 Limitations and Suggestions for Further Research


    The first limitation is the small sample number of students (58 out of 130) and instructors (only 2) due to the end of semester and final exams period, which made access to both students and instructors more difficult. This means the results cannot be generalized due to the small sample and restricted population of students of one university. The second limitation is the interpretation of the qualitative data of the interviews, which may be subject to the researcher’s knowledge in the topic and biases. The third limitation is the use of one instrument with limited (four types only) types of learning styles, where an additional instrument could have added richer quantitative data to the study. Qualitative data could have been more detailed and extensive, and more questions could have been added to get richer and more specific information about instructional methods. Data collection should have been done on more than one university that have undergraduate pre-service teachers in order to get a larger sample and more reliable results. Another main limitation was the low availability of international literature addressing learning styles of pre-service teachers.  

أضيف بتاريخ :2021/05/05 - آخر تحديث : 2021/05/05 - عدد قراءات المقال : 323