What is Learning Style?
When a child is ill, a competent physician examines more than just the part of the anatomy that hurts—the throat, the eyes, or the chest. Professionalism requires that the child be examined thoroughly to determine what might be contributing to the health problem; thus, doctors get at the cause, not just the symptoms. So it is with learning style. Although some pioneers identified style as only one or two variables on a bipolar continuum (Dunn, DeBello, Brennan, Krimsky, & Murrain, 1983; DeBello, 1990), style is a combination of many biologically and experientially imposed characteristics that contribute to learning, each in its own way and together as a unit.
Thus, learning style is more than merely whether a child remembers new and difficult information most easily by hearing, seeing, reading, writing, illustrating, verbalizing, or actively experiencing; perceptual or modality strength is only one part of learning style. It also is more than whether a person processes information sequentially, analytically, or in a so-called left-brain mode rather than in a holistic, simultaneous, global right-brain fashion; that, too, is only one important component of learning style.
It is more than how someone responds to the environment in which learning must occur or whether information is absorbed concretely or abstractly; those variables contribute to style but, again, are only part of the total construct. We must look not only at the apparent symptoms but also at the whole of each person's inclinations toward learning.
Learning style, then, is the way in which each learner begins to concentrate on, process, and retain new and difficult information. That interaction occurs differently for every individual. To identify a person's learning style pattern, it is necessary to examine each individual's multidimensional characteristics to determine what is most likely to trigger each student's concentration, maintain it, respond to his or her natural processing style, and lead to long-term memory. To reveal that, it is necessary to use a comprehensive model of learning style because individuals are affected by different elements of style and so many of the elements are capable of increasing academic achievement for those to whom they are important within a short period of time—often as little as six weeks. Only three comprehensive models exist, and each has a related instrument designed to reveal individuals' styles based on the elements included in that model (DeBello, 1990). It is impossible to obtain reliable and valid data from an unreliable or invalid assessment tool. The instrument with the highest reliability and validity, the one used in most research on learning styles, is the Dunn, Dunn, and Price Learning Style Inventory (LSl).
Teachers cannot identify correctly all the elements of learning style (Dunn, Dunn, & Price, 1977; Marcus, 1977a; Beaty, 1986). Some aspects of style are not observable, even to the experienced eye. In addition, teachers often misinterpret behaviors and misunderstand symptoms.
© ______ 1994, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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