Learning Styles

Over the next 4 weeks I will be talking about a certain topic relating to the psychological principles that can be applied education. The topic that I have chosen to write about is different learning styles and techniques, this week I’ll start off broad and expand on this over the following weeks. I have chosen this topic because after just receiving my results from semester 1 and comparing to my year 2 scores, I found SUCH a variety of results. It got me questioning – how can I be so much more successful in some of the subjects compared to others? I thought perhaps it was due to the style of learning; the way the lectures were taught, the way I revised, the method of assessment etc. So I’m going to explore some of the explanations! Not just in terms of university but throughout schools and colleges too.

Research suggests that the type of activities and the teaching styles used in classrooms are important, and the wrong type of teaching method can really affect the way a student learns (Wentzel, 2002).

One type of learning method that is considered successful is getting the students actively involved in lessons (Jang, 2008). Research to support this idea comes from Boaler (2002), she found that when students engaged in a lesson and shared their ideas with their classmates, they had more of a positive attitude than the students who didn’t get actively involved! Samuelsson (2008) also found similar results – children who were involved in practical class work where they had to engage with others performed better than children who were either just lectured by a teacher or were asked to work directly out of a textbook. Jang (2008) suggests active involvement in the classroom is effective because they are engaging with the subject, therefore the learning is considered to have more of a personal importance and relevance to the student.

Another thing to consider in terms of learning styles is the way the things are taught to the student. Atkins (1998) suggests that teachers can encourage students to be more enthusiastic with their learning by presenting the information with a performance based approach. So, Atkins (1998) thinks that by using a teaching style which includes anecdotes, humour and impromptu class discussions will keep the learner interested as it is entertaining!! Short and Martin (2011) support this as they found that students not only preferred lectures that used this performance based approach, but they also retained and understood more information from those lectures. This method can unfortunately sometimes be inappropriate as it can be time consuming, but aspects of it can still be used – such as the use of images and what not.

If we are talking about keeping students interested then we can’t forget the use of technology as a learning style (I won’t talk about this too much as I have already wrote a whole blog about it – check it out if you haven’t already). But research suggests that technology can have a positive impact on the way students learn due to its entertainment factor (Eckel, Rojas & Ball, 2006). And I agree with this as I do think modules like this one where we use technology a lot really influences the way we work, in fact I think I may expand on this one day and possibly write a whole post about blogging as a learning style.

So to conclude, I think the way we learn is really important as different types of learning styles are more successful than others. So why is this? Well Atkins (1998) suggests different learning styles could be more effective due to how interesting they are. This could be related to the entertainment factor of technology (Eckel, Rojas & Ball, 2006). Also, Jang (2008) suggests that being more actively involved is an important factor for learning styles.


Eckel, C., Rojas, C., & Ball, S. B. (2006). Technology improves learning in large principles of economics classes: Using our WITS. American Economic Review, 96(2), 442-446.

Granström, K. (2006). Group phenomena and classroom management. A Swedish perspective. In C.M.
Evertson & C.S. Weinstein (Eds.), Handbook for Classroom Management: Research, Practice, and
Contemporary Issues (pp. 1141–1160). New York: Erlbaum.

Jang, H. (2008). Supporting students’ motivation, engagement, and learning during an uninteresting activity. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(4), 798.

Samuelsson, J. (2008). The impact of different teaching methods on students’ arithmetic and self‐regulated learning skills. Educational Psychology in Practice: theory, research and practice in educational psychology, 24:3, 237-250

Scott Rigby, C., Deci, E. L., Patrick, B. C., & Ryan, R. M. (1992). Beyond the intrinsic-extrinsic dichotomy: Self-determination in motivation and learning.Motivation and Emotion, 16(3), 165-185.

Wentzel, K.R. (2002). Are effective teachers like good parents? Teaching styles and student adjustment in
early adolescence. Child Developmental, 73, 287–301.


9 thoughts on “Learning Styles

  1. megscurr says:

    I think most of us can agree that we also have varied results across the modules. Or at least some modules required me to use a large amount more effort to yield the same result. On further reading of the area around this blog, I also found that there is substantial research connecting our academic success with the value that we tie to it. We will invest more interest in a module if we give it a higher value or relevance (.Wigfield & Eccles, 2000). This explains why, when we have chosen our modules our self in third year, we are more likely to work hard. We feel they are more relevant, and they are worth more, they have a higher value. So teachers promoting a less interesting lesson may be able to do so by showing its value to the children.

    I agree, different styles are more effective in different situation. Value is another factor that helps to account for this, and could offer some ways to improve motivation.

    Wigfield, A., & Eccles, J. S. (2000). Expectancy-value theory of achievement motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25, 68 – 81.

    • intelligencepluscharacter says:

      I think this is a very interesting idea. In third year we were able to choose things we were interested in, and so we are more likely to work harder in them. I still think though, that there is one very important factor; Teaching style. No matter how interested you are in a topic, if you don’t get on with the teaching style, then you aren’t going to be motivated to work as hard. This idea is supported by Goudas et al (1995), who found that teaching style can be very important in a number of areas; when students were given more choice and control over what they learnt and how they learned it, they showed more intrinsic motivation and engagement. This shows that how you learn is very important to how you feel about a topic and your performance. That’s why I like this module. We are given lots of free reign on how we learn. This means you can shape your learning experience to how you like it, which is going to increase your motivation. This is especially important when you consider results from Shih et al (2001), who found that motivation was very significant in predicting achievement. They also noted that students preferred being able to learn at their own pace, and valued convenience. This module again ticks lots of boxes; we are able to learn at our own pace, and I am currently doing it in my nice warm room (convenient).

      Goudas et al (1995) http://www.spectrumofteachingstyles.org/pdfs/literature/Goudas%20(2).pdf
      Shih et al (2001) http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=

  2. rebeccaholder28 says:

    I too have done my blog topic on learning styles; however we have looked at it from totally different perspectives. As with all psychological research there are those in support and those against such a notion as that of learning styles. One method of establishing learning styles is that of VARK (Fleming, 1992) this concludes that we have 4 styles of learning VISUAL, AUDITORY, READING-WRITING and KINISTHETIC. Fleming found that 41% of the population has a single learning style preference and further research has also concluded that (Murphy et al, 2004; Drago and Wagner, 2004).

    However, there is also a mass of research that construes applying learning styles to teaching as it actually plays no benefit to the students learning. This is due to the fact that there is no valid and reliable evidence available (Dembo and Howard, 2007), research has found that there is no justification for incorporating learning styles into teaching (Pashler et al, 2009) and that the use of learning styles to teach effectively should be approached with skepticism (Snider, 2002).

    To be fair, we all have preferences for learning but that doesn’t necessarily mean we only learn through one channel which is what VARK suggests and there is A LOT of research that disproves relying on learning styles to aid teaching and assist students.


    Fleming, N.D. and Mills, C. (1992), Not Another Inventory, Rather a Catalyst for Reflection, To Improve the Academy, Vol. 11, 1992., page 137.

    Murphy et al (2004) http://www.jdentaled.org/content/68/8/859.short

    Drago and Wagner (2004) http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=866932

    Pashler et al (2009) http://bjorklab.psych.ucla.edu/pubs/ Pashler_McDaniel_Rohrer_ Bjork_ 2009_PSPI.pdf

    Snider (2002) http://rse.sagepub.com/content/13/1/6.short

    Dembo and Howard (2007) http://www.freepatentsonline.com/article/Journal-College-Reading-Learning/165429605.html

    • Ben says:

      In continuation to your comments about VARK, it must be noted that there is no evidence to suggest that learning styles exist in the style set out by Fleming (1995).

      Pashler, McDaniel, Roher and Bjork (2008) found differently . They argued that, although there is a large volume of research supporting VARK, that there was hardly any evidence to suggest that learning styles like this exist. They reported that, of all the studies they looked at, only two showed any any evidence that VARK learning styles worked. Adjusting teaching to fit with VARK learning styles would not be beneficial to students.

      Learning preferences do exist, however, as everyone seems to have a style they prefer to learn by. As noted recently by Hsieh, Mache and Knudson (2012), despite preferred learning styles amongst students, there was no significant difference in test scores regardless of students preferred learning style in relation to their method of learning. It really does seem there is no difference in performance regardless of how you learn, so things like the VARK concept really don’t hold much credibility when it comes to learning.

      Fleming, N. D. (1995, July). I’m different; not dumb. Modes of presentation (VARK) in the tertiary classroom. In Research and Development in Higher Education, Proceedings of the 1995 Annual Conference of the Higher Education and Research Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA), HERDSA (Vol. 18, pp. 308-313).

      Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning styles concepts and evidence. Psychological science in the public interest, 9(3), 105-119.

      Hsieh, C., Mache, M., & Knudson, D. (2012). Does student learning style affect performance on different formats of biomechanics examinations?. Sports Biomechanics, 11(1), 108-119.

  3. Steph says:

    I like you and probably many other students have a variety of results and some the explanations you mentioned such as the way we are assessed or how the lectures are taught could definitely be the reason behind our results. Another factor could be the length of the classes/ lectures. With many lectures at Bangor University being 2 hours long and often back to back with another module I often find myself falling asleep or I glance round the room and see the majority of the class switch off after the half of a lecture. One article by Kahn (2012) explained through the use of various research papers that students attention span lasts around the 15 minute mark and after that students start to zone out, they are unable to retain all the information that is being given in an hour long lecture. Instead, it was suggest that lecturers break up the lecturer’s using interaction, breaks and different learning style to keep students engaged and refreshed. I personally would prefer different method of teaching compared to the traditional 2 hour lecturer where you sit there until the 2 hours is up whilst the lecturer talks and talks!


  4. Coreen says:

    I like this topic, despite a lot of people talking about it in blogs and comments it brings different perspectives which is great.

    However, I think that it isn’t just if learning styles are interesting which decides how effective they are, O’Neill and McMahon (2005) Found that implementation of student-centred learning difficult, so it could be that teachers/lecturers are not implementing the learning techniques they are trying to adopt accurately.

    We could have a fantastic learning approach that suits everyone, but without effective implementation it isn’t effective. This could also explain the mixed results you have too, because ineffective learning technique implementation.


    O’Neill, G. and McMahon, T. (2005). Student-Centres learning: What does it mean for students and lecturers? Retrieved from- http://www.aishe.org/readings/2005-1/oneill-mcmahon-Tues_19th_Oct_SCL.pdf)

  5. Catherine says:

    Wentzel (2002) stated that “the wrong type of teaching method can really affect the way a student learns”. What is considered as the wrong teaching method? For some students, one method could be wrong while others may think it’s a useful method. Throughout education, it’s clear that teachers and lecturers cannot please all students. There’s plenty of evidence out there to illustrate that students learn more when they are actively involved, but what happens if they don’t feel comfortable around a large number of people? Skala, Slater and Adams (2000) reported that students find it more helpful and learn more if they are put into groups of 3 to 4 people to interact. You also mention the fact that teachers/ lectures need to be enthusiastic about what they are delivering to students. I believe this is essential to motivate students to learn. This then supports Samuelsson’s (2008) findings.

    You also mention that technology as an effective learning style. I completely agree; it’s so important to educate young students with the new technology that’s now available. After all, this is what they’ll be using in education and learning in the near future!

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