"Learning style is the way in which each learner begins to concentrate on, process, absorb, and retain new and difficult information" (Dunn & Dunn as cited in Dunn & Burke, 2008, p. 2). Simply put, learning style is the way a person prefers to learn or learns best.
"There is no currently existing overall, holistic theory of learning styles...which others have labeled cognitive controls, cognitive styles, or personality" (Santo, n.d., http://people.usd.edu/~ssanto/styles.html). Learning theories include those of Canfield, Dunn & Dunn, Felder-Silverman, Grasha-Reichmann, Gregorc, and Kolb. A related theory, Multiple Intelligences (MI), was developed by Howard Gardner to describe eight potentials or abilities that influence learning (Santo, n.d., http://people.usd.edu/~ssanto/multiple.html)
The Dunn & Dunn Learning Styles model has a research base that spans several decades and describes up to 21 elements in five categories based on the age of the student (Dunn & Burke, 2008, p. 3-4):
- Environment (sound, light, temperature, seating design)
- Emotionality (motivation, task persistence, responsibility/conformity, structure)
- Sociological preferences (learning alone, in pairs, in a small group of peers, as part of a team, with an adult, with variety or routines)
- Physiological characteristics (perceptual strengths, time of day, need for intake, mobility while learning)
- Psychological processing inclinations (global/analytic, impulsive/reflective)
According to Dunn & Burke (2008, p. 8-9), learning styles assessment benefits students in the following ways:
- Permits students to identify how they prefer to learn.
- Provides a computerized graphical summary of each student's preferred learning style
- Suggests a basis for redesigning the classroom environment to complement many students' needs for sound, quiet, bright or soft light, temperature, or seating design.
- Sequences the perceptual strengths through which individuals should begin studying; shows how to reinforce new and difficult information for various individuals; shows how each student should do his or her homework.
- Indicates the methods through which students are likely to excel.
- Extrapolates information concerning which students are conforming or non-conforming and how to work with those who are nonconforming.
- Pinpoints the best time during the day for each student to be involved in required difficult subjects and thus permits grouping students for instruction based on peak energy times.
- Itemizes the types of students for whom snacks while learning may accelerate the learning process.
- Suggests for which students analytic or global approaches to learning new and difficult material are likely to be important.
Research shows that "when students are taught according to their identified learning-style preferences, they display statistically increased academic achievement, improved attitudes toward instruction, and better discipline, than when they are taught without attention to their preferred styles" (Research on the Dunn & Dunn model, 2005, cited in Dunn & Burke, 2008, p. 3-4).
The Florida Bureau of Educational Recruitment, Education and Retention mentions learning styles in three places in Professional Educator Accomplished Practices: Competencies for Teachers of the 21st Century, (n.d.):
- Communications: The teacher models good communication skills and creates an atmosphere in the classroom that encourages mutual respect and appreciation of different cultures, linguistic backgrounds, learning styles, and abilities (p.12).
- Diversity: Conducts lessons that honor the various learning styles and cultural and linguistic backgrounds of students (p. 14).
- Human Development and Learning: Makes provisions for students’ learning styles based on needs and developmental levels (p. 16).
Teachers can use information on student learning styles to increase student interest in learning as well as to redesign teaching strategies and the classroom itself (Dunn & Burke, 2008, p. 18-27). Redesigns and strategies may include:
- Rearranging chairs, desks, and other classroom furniture
- Adjusting light, sound, and temperature levels
- Developing rules for learning privileges
- Using task cards and floor games
- Using small group instruction, team learning, and activity packets
Assessments based on the Dunn & Dunn Learning Styles Model
This site contains ordering information for ELSA (ages 7-9), LSCY (ages 10-13), LIVES (ages 14-18) and BE (ages 17 and up) which include immediate activation, centralized administration, technical support, immediate results and several types of report formats.
Index of Learning Styles (ILS)
This site links to an online learning style assessment based on the four dimensions of the Felder-Silverman model: active/reflective, sensing/intuitive, visual/verbal, and sequential/global. Additional links include validation studies, articles, and Dr. Felder’s home page.
The Kaleidoscope Profile
This site contains a number of resources from Performance Learning Systems including an online learning styles assessment, professional development courses, publications, and resources.
What’s Your Learning Style?
This online learning style "quiz" from the George Lucas Foundation has 24 questions, takes about five minutes to complete, and provides a summary report that links to information and "Tips for the Way You Learn." The Web site also contains articles and resources on multiple intelligences.
Institute for Learning Styles Research
This organization is "dedicated to fostering research and development of learning and teaching." The particular area of interest is the matching of learning styles knowledge with teaching strategies and techniques. There is a modest fee for membership. The site also contains abstracts of research related to learning styles.
This site contains information about learning styles and Multiple Intelligences (MI) including self-tests, links to related resources, tips on how to enhance learning for each learning style, and possible career interests for each of the seven MI types.
Learning Styles Community
This site provides access to learning-style news, past, current, and future events, articles, resources, announcements, and more. Enrollment is free and open to the international community. Also contains self-tests at $5.00 per person, a discussion board for members, and online and onsite training.
This page from Dr. Thomas Armstrong contains a description of MI and practical examples of applying MI to instructional methods.
Bureau of Educator Recruitment, Development and Retention, (n.d.) Professional educator accomplished practices: Competencies for teachers of the 21st Century. Tallahassee, FL: Florida Department of Education. Available at http://www.fldoe.org/teaching/professional-dev/the-fl-educator-accomplished-practices.stml
Dunn, R. & Burke, K. (2008). Learning style: The clue to you. (LS and CY: Research and implementation manual). Retrieved from http://www.learningstyles.net/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=31&Itemid=73〈=en
Santo, S. (n.d.). Learning styles and personality. Vermillion, SD: University of South Dakota School of Education.