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Students learn in diverse ways, each of them has their own different styles or preferences in the way they recognize and process information. Taking into considerations these preferences is of prevailing significant in the teaching - learning progression. The manner by which each student learns will create a landscape by which the students will either maintain or restrain their intentional cognition. Therefore, the educators' knowledge about the students learning style is beyond doubt. Alfonseca et. al. (2006) stress that to be conscious of the students' learning styles will facilitate the adaption of suitable techniques and methods to match with the students' inclination.
The ways by which an individual learner ordinarily obtains, sustains and recovers information are defined as the person's learning styles; it indicates a general preference for learning (Knowles et.al. 2005). these learning styles recognize that students learn in different ways. By emphasizing learning style, attention will be on the learners and by so doing they will get to be familiar with the manner they learn which Hall and Mosley (2005) assert will produce constructive consequence on their motivation to learn.
Recognizing the students' learning style may well aid educators become more sensitive to the differences students bring in the classroom; thus can serve as guide in designing learning experiences that go with the students learning styles. Cuthbert (2005) stated that awareness of the learning styles is vital for to allowing adjustment in the educators' pedagogic approaches. Gadth-Johnson and Price (2000) pointed out that there is a powerful relationship between a learner's unique learning style and their academic achievement.
Significance of the Study
It is the responsibility of everyone who takes part in the educational system to create and develop valuable and competent learning environment whereby enhanced learning is afforded to all most specially to the learners. The results of the study will aid in designing more effective and interactive classroom experiences to uplift the value of learning. The teachers may know of which learning style students perform well and could work out for different approaches to ensure excellent academic performance of students. Taking into account the effect which may be brought about by the awareness of the students learning style to the academic achievement of the students, it may also impose an effect on the student attrition which is one of the university's foremost concern. When students learn fast, they perform better, gain more confidence and become more motivated to continue their education. The study will find its next step for future researchers to explore the relationships of the learning styles with the other dimensions of the educational process in wider perspective.
The study is limited to the first year students of AMA International University -Bahrain. It is basically to study the mean differences of the learning styles in conjunction with the demographics of the students which include: age, gender, and BS program enrolled. This is not purely survey research. The Index of Learning Style developed by Felder and Solomon is used to identify and examine the variances between learning styles and academic achievements of the students. The academic achievement of the respondents will be determined by the grade point average (GPA) of the students during the first trimester.
Statement of the Problem
Learning style has its insightful impact on the particular dimensions of teaching and learning processes. Students have their own preferred way to recognize, retain and retrieve information. The study will explore on the indices of variances between student's learning styles and their academic achievements. Utilizing awareness of learning style within the educational background promotes more effective learning. In addition, hoisting the consciousness of educators regarding the diverse learning approaches will facilitate them to be resourceful and adoptable in their teaching schemes.
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Learning is generally identified with a change in behavior. Most of us understand it as a product of a process by which behavior transforms as a result of a learning experience. According to Rogers A. (2003) there are two contrasting approaches to support learning as a course of action or a process which brought about transformation or change; the Task- conscious or Acquisition learning and the Learning- conscious or Formalized learning. Acquisition learning refers to the unconscious learning or simply called contained learning. The learner may not be conscious of it but is usually aware that a definite task is at hand and after performing the task, change takes place. Formalized learning on the other hand takes place from the course of facilitating learning. It is educative rather than accumulation of experiences. In this approach, the learner is aware that what he is doing involves learning. Formalized learning is making leaner conscious of the learning and thus enhancing it further. On this note, enhancing learning would mean involving the learners in the process; it necessitates recognition of how they learn in order for learning to be successful; thus a study of students learning styles is beyond doubt a requisite to appreciate the process called learning.
The study of learning styles has been recognized in the recent years as significantly imperative in helping students learn successfully. Today more than ever, the educational world is starting up the importance of recognizing and discerning the various ways students learn and identifying the vital roles it takes part in attaining pervasive academic success (Collinson, 2000). This also leads to several studies indicating the benefit that teachers gain from developing an understanding of how students learn as well as its effect on their teaching.
Learning Style Models
The expression "learning style" has many elements and can be characterized as the learners' reliable way of acting in response to and the use of stimuli in the context of learning. It has been explored from psychological, social and educational viewpoints. To help researchers in their investigation of the learning style preference of students, development theories in learning styles have been expanded which according to Hall and Mosley (2005) have produced in no fewer than 71 different models which usually share the same characteristics yet each has unique perspectives. Some of these models are briefly discussed and then a further attempt to talk about the Felder and Silverman's model in order provides appreciation of its use that pertains specifically to this study.
Kolb's learning style model finds its foundation in Jung's theory. It classifies learners into four types based on their preferences on how to take and incorporate information namely; accommodator, diverger, assimilator, and converger. While each person has his own inclination, Loo (2004) asserted that efficiency is based upon the competence to act in response to various learning situations by successfully making use of each style as contrasting to simply employing the preferred style regardless of the conditions. Kolb's experiential leaning model attempts to incorporate each way of learning into four-stage series or cycle that systematically directs learners from concrete experiences to the progression of concepts that will serve as springboard for fresh experiences (Loo, 2004). A ring separated in quadrants depicts each stage, which are all deemed important for experiential learning; nevertheless proponents of this theory have the same opinion that individuals have a preferred stage in which learning is found to be most comfortable. (Goby & Lewis, 2000). As a consequence (Young, 2002) noted that any stage preferred by an individual can serve as starting point for learning.
Dunn and Dunn learning styles model is another way of presenting and assessing intelligence. The approach is founded on the concept that intelligence is not definitively linked to talent or inborn capabilities (Denig, 2004; Dunn et.al 2001; Lovelace, 2005.) as a replacement for perception, comprehension, the achievement of knowledge through experiences and analytical problem-solving and decision- making skills are acceptable and valid demonstration of intelligence (Denig, 2004). This learning Style model regards 20 elements that shape student learning which include setting, emotionality, sociological fondness, physiological distinctiveness and psychosomatic processing inclinations. The Dunn and Dunn learning style model puts forward the thought that learners should be trained to utilize their main or principal learning style to study and learn new resources (Denig 2004).
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the MBTI categorizes students as sociable or loner, responsive or imaginative, intellectuals or feeler and judgers or perceivers. Despite the fact that MBTI is a behavior assessment, the information that is assembled has often been related to how people think, learn and make judgment. In actuality, all people exhibit characteristics of each of the four categories, but individuals play their uniqueness in the extent to which they employ these characteristics and the individual's effectiveness in doing so. McPherson (1999) maintained the weight of this connection by his claim that the teacher's knowledge of students' personality type can reinforce the development of significant class activities.
Summing up the models presented, two points were given emphasis; different individuals process information across many content areas, cognitive and affective processes are acknowledged to significantly expand our insights into the issues that relate to motivation which is an essential component of learning. (Vawda A. 2005)
Felder and Silverman's Model for Learning Styles
The researcher in the current study adopted Felder and Silverman's (1988) model to identify the participants' learning style for the reason that this model intended for a comprehensive system of learning styles which help educators be more aware of the needs of the students and adjust their instruction accordingly. (Jarvis, 2005). In addition, each of the dimensions in this model is parallel with the other learning styles model although the combination is unique (Felder and Spurlin, 2005). Furthermore it was noted that one of the advantages of these model over the others is the richer and more flexible sliding scales support classifying the students styles (Alfonseca, 2006)
Felder and Silverman's (1988) model is used to classify learning styles in terms of four dimension; perceiving information (Sensing/ Intuitive) inputting information (Visual/Verbal) processing information (Active/Reflective) and understanding (Sequential/ Global). Sensing learners like to learn details and concrete materials. They like to solve problem with typical approaches. . They are levelheaded and reasonable and tend to be more practical. In contrast, Intuitive learners have a preference to learn abstract learning materials such as theory and underlying meanings. Active learners learn best by performing actively with available learning materials or trying things out by themselves. On the other hand reflective learners prefer to think about and reflect on the materials. Visual learners are more able to remember best what they have seen while verbal learners get textual representations regardless of the fact whatever they are written or spoken. Sequential learners are those who learn in small incremental steps and have linear learning progress. They follow coherent stepwise paths in finding solutions. Global learners conversely use a holistic judgment process and learn in great bounds. They tend to absorb learning resources indiscriminately without seeing connections but after they learned enough materials they unexpectedly get the whole picture. Table illustrates the four dimensions.
Academic Achievement founded on Learning Style
Learning styles can facilitate a more easy and successful leaning of the students (Prabhakar and Swapna, 2009). Awareness of their learning style is identical to understanding their dominance and weaknesses; this in turn provides them better motivation. The level of learning achieved by a student is one of the success indicators of a learning environment. Several studies have shown that academic performance of students is related to their learning styles (Rasimah et.al, 2008). Without taking into account the instrument used, many studies have revealed that the learning styles has an important role in the academic performance of the students. The acknowledgment of the learning styles in the learning landscape have uncovered a means to an improved test scores while a disagreement in learning uniqueness and learning environment resulted in reduced accomplishment . (Andrews, 1990).
` The expression learning style has been attributed in a wide range of studies which have been founded to be definitely related with specific aspects of learning and measured learning outcomes in terms of academic achievement. Learning styles likewise takes part in the classroom performance. Conclusions from the various researchers showed that scores in learning styles become from independent variable and is a measure of the academic success of the learners. (Rayneri and Gerber, 2004)
Studies on Learning Style and Academic Achievement
There are a number of studies that explored the relationship between learning style and academic performance in varied disciplines. Some of these studies indicated connection between performance achievement and the converging learning style (Mainemelis et. al., 2002;Rutz 2003) while others studies expounded on the differences in the learning styles preference and the academic performance.
Dyrsdale, Ross and Schulz (2001)made a study on the overall academic accomplishment (GPA) of 4546 students enrolled at the metropolitan Canadian university in 19 introductory university courses based on their leading learning styles and came up with a conclusion that 9 of the 19 courses concerned in the study, the dominant style was concrete sequential and that these students have a propensity to higher grades. Concrete random learners' performances varied and abstract random learners appeared to struggle academically as a group.
Cartmell, Majors, Ashlock and Sitton (2007) compared the learning style and GPA's and demographics (Gender, classification (Senior, Juniors, Sophomore, Freshman and permanent residency) of 135 students enrolled in agricultural communication at Oklahoma State University. Most of the students were found to be concrete sequential learners and these students had overall GPA's higher than the other students that are classified according to the other learning styles.
Lehman (2011) conducted a study on the relationship of learning styles, course marks and instructional favorites as well as gender differences related to learning styles in an introductory biology course at Longwood University. She found out that of the 173 students, 39% had concrete sequential learning styles and 12% of them were abstract random learners while 21% were concrete random learners. She made a conclusion that there was no major disparity in between gender, marks, or instructional preferences based on learning styles.
Myers and Dyer (2006) have discovered out that there were no significant differences in the learning styles of males and females enrolled in agricultural leadership development course at the University of Florida yet, they have found out that for learners with profoundly rooted abstract sequential learning style, their critical thinking ability ratings were significantly higher than the other deep rooted learning styles.
Thomas et.al. , (2002) made a study on the learning styles of students enrolled in an introductory programming course. The majority of the students in the study were assessed as sensing, visual, reflective and sequential. Results showed that in the exam portion of the course, significant differences were perceived in the students' performance; between reflective and active learners, reflective learners got higher scores while between verbal and visual learners, verbal learners perform better.