Learning Styles: Synthesis of topic

I’m going to tie everything that I have found about learning styles together to show some of the main conclusions that I’ve reached, I’ll be throwing in some additional research to find further explanations too. Sorry it’s so long, there was too much I wanted to say!

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).  It is considered that some students have a particular learning style ‘built into them’ and they are unable to learn in another way (Dunn, 1990). For example, if a child learns well using a visual learning style; they will struggle to learn in any other way. However, Pashler et al. (2008). argue against this, suggesting that all people have the ability to learn in any learning style! But they do agree that people can have learning styles that they prefer. I wanted to point this out to explain that I don’t think we HAVE to use a particular learning style, I just think some are more effective than others.

The most effective type of learning style that kept popping up whilst I was studying this area was active learning (Jang, 2008; Sivan et al., 2000).  This style of learning is so varied and can appear in many different forms such as; technology, group work, field trips, role playing and games.

There are many reasons to suggest why active learning is an effective learning style. One suggestion is because it’s an engaging learning style; it is considered that the work has more of a personal importance to the student (Jang, 2008). Research has shown that if something is considered important to you, then you are more likely going to be motivated to achieve the goal (Deci et al. 1991). So in terms of education, if students learn in this active engaging way, they consider the task more personally important to them so in theory they will be more motivated to work harder to complete the task.

One popular opinion for why it works so well is because it is an entertaining way of learning so keeps learners interested (Brown & Atkins, 1998; Poudel et al., 2005). The entertainment factor comes across in a number of ways; it can be as simple as having the information delivered in a performance based approach (Brown & Atkins, 1998). It was found that this method actually made students retain and understand the information more than a ‘boring’ approach (Short & Martin, 2011). In addition, Ferdig and Trammel (2004) and Lai (1999) suggest that some learning methods are considered to be a motivating tool because they are deemed interesting due to the novelty of the task; they are a little different to the usual ways we are assessed. For whichever reason it may be, I think it’s important for something to be entertaining because it keeps students enthusiastic about the learning, and a lack of enthusiasm towards something is one of the main influences towards failure (Sasson, 2001).

Another suggestion as to why active learning can be so effective is because active learning activities usually require quite informal learning techniques (Hofstien & Rosenfeld, 1996; Feher, 1990). Although the research I found suggesting this was investigating field trips, I think it can also be related to active learning techniques such as games, as these are also informal. It could also be considered that active learning in terms of games and other informal learning experiences are successful due to their playfulness. Brown (1998) explains how playing can be beneficial for children and also working adults because play lowers stress levels, boosts optimism and motivation, and improves concentration. So by introducing playful informal activities into classrooms this could encourage students to produce better work as they will be more focused on learning.

Critics suggest that active learning isn’t all great though! One of the main concerns is that these novel and active ways of learning can cause anxiety for students (Kagan & Fasan, 1988; Russel, 2008).  Although, this can be resolved if the students are well prepared for the activity (Hofstein & Rosenfeld, 1996) and even by making teachers aware of the impact anxiety was having on the learning is thought to help reduce the anxiety (Russel, 2008). Another negative thing about active methods of learning was that faculties were concerned about these active approaches not covering a sufficient amount of information. But Faust and Paulson (1998) argue that even though students won’t be able to cover AS much information, they will be able to retain more because it’s more entertaining. One final criticism is that students can sometimes see the activity as a fun thing and drift their attention on to the fun rather than the learning (Falk, Martin & Balling, 1978). Baring this in mind, it is probably wise to only use these methods as an additional tool to learning rather than a method of its own.

To conclude, research gathered suggests that different learning styles can affect the way students learn, although it is important to remember that this is just a preference and not an innate learning style. Despite this, one of the most effective learning styles that I came across is active learning, as there are a range of methods that this style uses that other learning styles cannot use. These methods are effective in a number of ways; they get students engaged in the task which leads to a sense of personal value to the activity, they are a bit different to other methods so are considered more fun and interesting and also, the informal-playful learning experience can help with motivation towards learning. Despite there being criticisms on this learning style, research has shown ways to overcome these!! Also, it is important to remember that not all students may prefer this learning style and it can be distracting if used ALL the time, so it should only be used as an addition to learning along with traditional methods (Felder, 1993).




 Brown, S. (1998). Play as an organizing principle: clinical evidence and personal observations. Animal play, 243-259.  http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/09/13/work-hard-play-harder-fun-at-work-boosts-creativity-productivity/

 Deci, E. L., Vallerand, R. J., Pelletier, L. G., & Ryan, R. M. (1991). Motivation and education: The self-determination perspective. Educational psychologist,26(3-4), 325-346

 Dunn R (1990b).Rita Dunn answers questions on learning styles. Educational Leadership, 48(2), 15–19.

 Falk, J. H., Martin, W. W., & Balling, J. D. (2006). The novel field‐trip phenomenon: Adjustment to novel settings interferes with task learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 15(2), 127-134.

 Ferdig, R. E., & Trammell, K. D. (2004). Content delivery in the’Blogosphere’.The Journal, 31(7), 12-20.

Hofstein, A., & Rosenfeld, S. (1996). Bridging the gap between formal and informal science learning.

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

 Lai, K. C. (1999). Freedom to learn: a study of the experiences of secondary school teachers and students in a geography field trip. International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, 8(3), 239-255.

Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning styles concepts and evidence. Psychological science in the public interest9(3), 105-119.

Poudel, D. D., Vincent, L. M., Anzalone, C., Huner, J., Wollard, D., Clement, T., … & Blakewood, G. (2005). Hands-on activities and challenge tests in agricultural and environmental education. The Journal of Environmental Education, 36(4), 10-22.

Russell, G. (2008).  Social Anxiety: The elephant in your classroom? Education and Health, 26(3), 50-53.  Retrieved from:http://sheu.org.uk/sites/sheu.org.uk/files/imagepicker/1/eh263gr.pdf

Sasson, R (2001). “Lack of Motivation and Enthusiasm.” Success Conciousnesss. Successconciousness.com. Web.

Silverman, L. K. (2002). Upside-down brilliance: The visual-spatial learner. DeLeon Pub..

Sivan, A., Leung, R. W., Woon, C. C., & Kember, D. (2000). An implementation of active learning and its effect on the quality of student learning. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 37(4), 381-389.

 Wentzel, K.R. (2002). Are effective teachers like good parents? Teaching styles and student adjustment in

early adolescence. Child Developmental, 73, 287–301.



6 thoughts on “Learning Styles: Synthesis of topic

  1. lilbex23 says:

    Really interesting blog, another type of assessment that takes away the stress and pressure of exams and the need to pass is something called ‘Performance Based Assessment’ it also involves some of the assessment criteria you mentioned, with blogs, talks, essays and projects being the main focus rather than exams. I guess it could be said that this module is a type of performance-based assessment; students are given their own blogs and are allowed (within reason) to access the areas of the module they find the most interesting. They then go away, research into this area and learn a lot about it, however, they also learn about other modules they find less interesting through the use of comments and research needed to go into these comments. It is believed that this method of assessment may be a more valid indicator of students’ knowledge and abilities because they require students to actively demonstrate what they know (Sweet, 1993). To put it simply… traditional testing answers the question ‘do you know it?’ performance assessment answers the question ‘how well can you use what you know?’ Do you think this method of assessment could be used within the education system? Or do you believe that the ease of sitting students down with an exam paper will prevent expansion into new and more flexible ways of learning?

    Sweet, D. (1993). Performance Assessment. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/search/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED353329&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED353329

  2. psuc93 says:

    You mention in your blog the importance of active learning and that critics suggest that by providing students with these methods anxiety can be increased or not all topics necessary will be covered. A way around this is providing students with a choice, which enables students to have control over their own learning (Jones, 2009). Furthermore this enables the student freedom to learn in the way they wish, but it also allows the teacher to maintain control and ensure the necessary areas get covered (Jones, 2009).

    Implementing choice into education has been shown to be effective with topics, strategies and materials (Ryan & La Guardia, 1999). Research has shown that providing students with a choice of who they can partner with increases levels of motivation, in comparison to when instructors chose groups (Ciani, Summers, Easter, & Sheldon, 2008). Another method is also allowing students’ choice over how the content is paced; therefore the student experiences more freedom and flexibility (Roblyer, 1999). Allowing students to decide pace has been shown to increase motivation, whilst allowing instructors to monitor the content covered (Roblyer 1999; Jones, 2009). Furthermore it has been shown that allowing students to have an active role in the development of rules within a classroom, leads to higher motivation to follow these rules and greater overall conformity (Deci & Ryan, 1987).

    Overall it appears that active learning can be highly beneficial to the educational setting and potential issues (like you stated in your blog) can be overcome with different methods. Furthermore I believe the negatives of anxiety can be avoided with choices as they can be increased and decreased depending on the class/individual. Furthermore choice can also be applied to many different areas of education, such as materials, topics and strategies.


    Ciani, K. D., Summers, J. J., Easter, M. A., & Sheldon, K. M. (2008). Collaborative learning and positive experiences: does letting students choose their own groups matter?. Educational Psychology, 28(6), 627-641.

    Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1987). The support of autonomy and the control of behavior. Journal of personality and social psychology, 53(6), 1024-1037.

    Jones, B. D. (2009). Motivating students to engage in learning: The MUSIC Model of Academic Motivation. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 21(2), 272-285.

    Roblyer, M. D. (1999). Is Choice Important in Distance Learning? A Study of Student Motives for Taking Internet-Based Courses at the High School and Community College Levels. Journal of research on computing in education,32(1), 157-171.

    Ryan, R. M., & La Guardia, J. G. (1999). Achievement motivation within a pressured society: Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to learn and the politics of school reform. Advances in motivation and achievement, 11, 45-85.

  3. megscurr says:

    As you found learning styles do not appear to be intrinsic, they are more likely to be preferred styles. Dunn (1984) found, younger students prefer kinaesthetic tasks, and older visual and auditory. Many factors: growing older, our skills, and the task itself change our ‘learning style’.
    I agree we all have the ability to learn in any style. And that we all have preferences, and this is great, but these days life is requiring our children to be good all rounder’s and it is this reason that I think that we should encourage educators to use a variety so that children can build on the styles that they are less effective with. As you said with Deci et al (1991) we learn more if we are motivated, as well as the learning style, this of course relates to the subject or content as well.
    I think your suggestion to not rely on active learning was a wise one, the benefits are obviously undeniable, but as well as active learning being hard to implement with some content and classrooms, only using one would limit some children if this is not one they are strong in yet.
    Staying open minded about learning styles allows children to progress without a label on them saying how they should be learning. It makes the teacher more responsible for choosing the best way to present a lesson, whether that be active or not.
    – Dunn (1984) http://media.cefpi.org/dc2009/LearningStyleStateofScience.pdf
    – Deci, E. L., Vallerand, R. J., Pelletier, L. G., & Ryan, R. M. (1991). Motivation and education: The self-determination perspective. Educational psychologist,26(3-4), 325-346

  4. Tom (PSUC83) says:

    Great synthesis of your topic, I feel that Jang ‘hit the nail on the head’ in terms of personal; relevance. Other psychologists have argued that a students individual interests can have a huge impact on the way they learn. Orlando (2010) has suggested that each student has a topic or interest they enjoy, and he refereed to this as a students personal learning environment. Orlando argues that learning strategies that encourage students to involve their personal interests further enhances the active learning outlined by Jang (2008). Orlando further argues that the students interest can flourish in online learning where students are more motivated to learn in regards to what interests them. Although Orlando suggests that students should be free to develop their own curriculum, personal relevance doesn’t need to be this ‘extreme’, Yager (1989) suggests that for students to apply personal relevance on to their studies they need to be invested in their learning, which can be encouraged through class participation. Although the idea of personal relevance has been effective in education there is much debate as to whether adding this relevance undermines the strict learning regime of education.

  5. Steph says:

    Many people prefer all different learning styles and like you mentioned in your blog there are positives and negatives to each learning style. Sometimes difference learning styles are appropriate for different subjects or different circumstances. It is only in recent years that schools has started mixing methods of learning together rather than sticking with the traditional teaching method. By recognising and using other learning styles children can learn a variety of new techniques to help them learn.


  6. Ben says:

    Sinae! Hello!

    Active learning is great, and the current primary school foundation phase places a large emphasis on it. It seems to really engage and motivate students in a way that other learning styles doesn’t. This is supported in a paper by Armbruster, Patel, Johnson, and Weiss (2009) who found that active learning really did appear to be the way forward, finding that it not only improved engagement and motivation, but actually improves the satisfaction students feel towards the task and improves their performance as well.

    Active learning really does seem to be an excellent method of learning, and its benefits are tere for all to see.

    Armbruster, P., Patel, M., Johnson, E., & Weiss, M. (2009). Active learning and student-centered pedagogy improve student attitudes and performance in introductory biology. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 8(3), 203-213.

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