The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
Edited by Daniel Schugurensky
This site includes questions and answers on Adult Education that were written by students in the course 'Outline of Adult Education' at OISE/UT. The questions are first raised in class by the students themselves. Then they organize in teams in order to research and answer them. New entries are added regularly. This website is intended to provide information about the field to new students and to those who have a general interest in Adult Education. Anyone is welcome to submit a question and/or answer.
Prepared by Lisa Bellon, OISE/UT & Astra Goodhue, OISE/UT
learning styles is important to both the teacher and student so that they both
receive an optimum experience from the learning process. A teacher can adapt
their methods to best suit the needs of the learner; and the learner can become
more self-aware to best learn under a variety of experiences and circumstances.
In answering our question, we first define what a learning style is, then
discuss the dimensions of categorizing a learning style, and finally highlight
several different learning styles identifiers that are used in mainstream adult
“What is a Learning Style?” In Search of Definitions
to Booth and Brooks (1995) in their Adult Learning Strategies Toolkit, they
define a learning style as:
“…a compilation of patterns of
behaviour that appear consistently in the learning process of an individual from
the initial stimulation to the final recognizable product of learning. Simple
stated, it is how we process out information and work with the outcome.” (p.
and Griggs (2000) offer us another definition:
“Learning style addresses the biological
uniqueness and developmental changes that make one person learn differently from
another. Individuals do change in the way they learn…Similarly, developmental
aspects relate to how we learn but, more predictable, follow a recognizable
pattern.” (p. 136)
concisely, a learning style is a preferred method of obtaining information and
acquiring knowledge from the learner’s environment that best meets the needs
of the learner.
Dimensions of a Learning Style
determining a learning style, it is important to consider both the internal and
external factors impacting the learner. Each learner brings a unique set of
internal elements which contribute to the effectiveness of their learning.
Internal factors that impact the learner include personality types, emotional
and cognitive processes, and previous learning experiences.
addition to these internal factors, external factors also play a key role in the
learning process. These include the physical environment in which the student is
placed and physical elements that he/she is exposed to such as lighting, sound,
comfort of setting, mode of delivery of information and curriculum design.
and external factors fall into three general categories in the learning styles
literature: perceptual modalities, information processing, and personality
include those aspects of learning that are physiological in nature (i.e.
auditory, visual kinesthetic, tactile). Keefe defines these physiological styles
as “biologically-based modes of response that are founded on accustomed
reaction to the physical environment, sex-related differences, and personal
nutrition and health.” (Keefe, 1987, p.13). Understanding our perceptual style
will help us to seek information arranged in the way that we process most
the cognitive component of learning or how one acquires knowledge. This
acquisition of knowledge involves how the learner perceives, organizes, stores
and recalls information. These processes are accomplished in a preferred and
general dimension of learning styles relates to personality
factors. Personality factors involve the affective components of the learner
that includes their motivation, values, emotional preferences and
important for both learners and educators to consider the impact of each of
these dimensions in order to optimize learning. These dimensions also need to be
considered when determining or evaluating learning style measurement tools.
Learning Style Identifiers
many different types of tests and indicators used to identify learning style
preferences for learners. (The examples with an asterisk will be discussed in
more detail below.) A sample of learning style identifiers from James and Blank
(1993) includes the following broken down by their dimensions:
Modal Paired Associates Learning Test – Revised (MMPALT II)
Student Learning Style Scales
Brain Dominance Inventory
Learning Style Inventory*
Inventory of Learning Processes
Group Embedded Figures Test
Learning Styles Inventory
and Mumford’s Learning Styles Questionnaire
and Hanson’s Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum Model for Learning Preference
Inventory; Learning Style Inventory; and Teaching Style Inventory
Thinking Styles Questionnaire
for Innovative Teaching Experiences (CITE) Learning Styles Instrument
Dunn, and Price’s Productivity Environmental Preference Survey (PEPS)*
Cognitive Style Mapping
Association for Secondary School Principals’ Learning Style Profile
Four of the Most Common Identifiers
above list, several Learning Style Identifiers show up more frequently in the
literature regarding learning styles and adult education. We have briefly
outlined four of them below and their key concepts. All have many book and
websites that provide more detail, if you are interested. The four we have
selected are: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI); The Dunn and Dunn
Learning-Style Model and PEPS; Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model; and
Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was developed by Isabel Briggs Myers and
Katherine Cook Briggs (a mother and daughter team) in the early 1940’s. This
personality type indicator is based on the human personality theory of Carl G.
Jung. It is the most widely used instrument for personality type differences
that has large implications for learning styles.
six different kinds of self-report forms used (depending on the purpose) in
administering the MBTI. The most widely used is Form G, which is a 126 item
self-reporting questionnaire, which takes approximately 30-45 minutes to
complete. The questions are dichotomous in nature representing the
respondents’ preferences on the following four dimensions:
Extraversion (E) OR Introversion (I)
Sensing (S) OR Intuition (N)
Thinking (T) OR Feeling (F)
preferences result in sixteen learning styles, or types. A type is a combination
of these four preferences: ISTJ,
ISTP, ISFJ, ISFP, INFJ, INFP, INTJ, INTP, ENTP, ENTJ, ESTP, ESTJ, ESFP, ESFJ,
following brief description of the four major dimensions will help to highlight
the relevance of the MBTI in identifying learning style preferences or patterns.
versus Introversion examines what factors tend to energize or motivate people
(to learn). Extraverts are action oriented and tend to gain their energy from
people and things. Introverts gain their energy from their inner world of ideas
and concepts. They tend to be reflective thinkers before taking action.
versus Intuition examines our preferred ways of perceiving information. People
who prefer Sensing focus more on details and facts and rely on the five senses
of taste, touch, sight, sound and smell. Those who prefer Intuition seek out
patterns and relationships in the facts they have gathered and tend to look at
the “big picture”.
versus Feeling is the dimension that reveals how we prefer to make decisions.
Thinkers tend to base decisions on analysis, logic and principle with an
impersonal approach. Those who prefer feeling tend to focus on personal or
social values and needs.
versus Perceiving looks at our orientations toward the outer world. People who
prefer judging tend to be decisive and like closure on tasks. Those who prefer
Sensing tend to be more spontaneous and like to seek more data before taking
the descriptions above are very brief, it is evident how learning is impacted by
each of these dimensions. Understanding our preferences along these dimensions
will help us to create more effective learning strategies for ourselves by
maximizing our potential in these areas.
The Dunn and Dunn Learning-Style Model and PEPS
This model was first conceived in 1967 by Dr. Rita Dunn and further developed by both her and her husband, Dr. Kenneth Dunn. The Dunns feel that each learner has a unique style of learning with individual strengths and weaknesses.
There are 5 main categories and 21 elements in considering a learning style when using their model. From Dunn and Griggs (2000), these would consist of the following:
1. Environmental (Sound, Light, Temperature, Design)
2. Emotional (Motivation, Persistence, Responsibility, Structure)
3. Sociological (Self, Pair, Peers, Team, Adult, Varied)
4. Physiological (Perceptual, Intake, Time, Mobility)
Psychological (Global/Analytic, Hemisphericity, Impulsive/Reflective)
Due to the
complexity of this learning-style model, each learner should be assessed to
determine the best way to match teaching style to learner preference. This can
be done by using the Productivity Environmental Preference Survey (PEPS) created
by Dunn, Dunn and Price. This is a survey that consists of 100 questions on a
Likert scale (Hein and Budny, 1999).
will receive high, medium or low scales in the 5 key categories of the Dunn and
Dunn Learning-Style Model. These scores are neither good nor bad – they are
unique to each individual. It is up to the learner to have awareness from these
scores to create and modify their learning environment to best meet their needs.
For example, if one scored high on the sound element, studying with soft music
playing in the background would increase their long-term memory retention and
comprehension of the subject matter for the learner. For a learner who scored
low on the sound element, this would have the opposite effect.
and Dunn Learning-Style Model is a comprehensive and extensive model that
incorporates many internal and external factors in the learner’s environment
to create an optimal learning experience.
Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model
Experiential Learning Model was developed by David Kolb (1984) and is based
on the works of John Dewey that learning and development is grounded in
experience. Kolb promotes that knowledge is created through the transformation
outlines a continuous process of learning that requires learners to resolve
conflicts between two modes of adapting to the world: concreteness and
abstraction; and action and reflection. Learning results from a combination of
perceiving information (from abstract to concrete) and through processing
information (transforming experience from action to reflection). Kolb outlines a
four step learning model (outlined below) where learners tend to predominately
prefer one combination of perceiving and processing information. Kolb argues
that all four abilities are required for effective learning to take place.
According to Kolb, the learning cycle involves four processes that must be present for learning to occur. These processes are:
The four learning styles that evolve from these ways of adapting to the world are:
Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences
Gardner developed his Theory of Multiple Intelligences in 1983 while at Harvard
University. Gardner defines intelligence as, “the ability to solve problems or
to create products that are valued within one or more cultural settings”
(Gardner, 1999, p.33).
His theory simply states that the traditional IQ testing is too limiting for the general population and that there are really seven different intelligences to test human learning and potential. The seven that he identified are:
society and our educational system highly value the first two intelligences –
Linguistic and Logical-mathematical – over the other five. This is potentially
damaging to the psyche of those with a natural intelligence in such areas as the
visual arts, music or the body movement of dancers and athletes.
blends these intelligences to have their own unique intelligence. As adult
learners, being aware of your own particular intelligences can be
self-affirming, especially if it is not one of the two dominant intelligences.
intelligences also should be amoral – they are neither good nor bad and should
not be used to categorize or group people in a way that becomes alienating or
In his new
book, “Intelligence Reframed”, Gardner explores the possibility of two new
types of intelligences which are: naturalist intelligence and
spiritualist/existential intelligence. Further research into these new
intelligences is still being investigated.
has been a short summary of what a learning style is and what measurements are
available to discover it. Four predominant learning style identifiers were
reviewed and given a very brief overview. This by no means covers the wealth of
information available to fully describe these resources (please see the resource
list below). The outcomes of learning style identifiers should be considered as
only a piece of information in understanding learning processes. These scales
are a tool to help increase self-awareness and to discover different forms of
learning to optimize one’s learning potential and outcomes. They are not tools
to be used to either pigeonhole people into a group or to categorize people in a
judgmental or diminutive way.
Additional Internet Resources
Learning Styles. Retrieved September 30, 2002 from www.utoledo.edu/colleges/education/par/Adults.html
for Psychological Type. Retrieved November 15, 2002 from www.aptcentral.org/aptmbtiw.htm
and Ken Dunn’s Center for the Study of Learning and
Teaching Styles. Retrieved November 19, 2002 from http://www.learningstyles.net/
Dunn Learning Style Model. Retrieved November 19, 2002 from http://www.geocities.com/~educationplace/Model.html
Learning Style Inventory (LSI3). Retrieved November 17, 2002 from www.hayresourcesdirect.haygroup.com/Products/learning/lsius.htm
Styles. Retrieved November 15, 2002 from www.learnativity.com
Styles. Retrieved November 15, 2002 from www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/history/kolb.html
Intelligences. Retrieved November 18, 2002 from http://www.ldpride.net/learningstyles.MI.htm
Intelligences: Dr. Armstrong’s Perspective. Retrieved November 18, 2002 from http://www.thomasarmstrong.com/multiple_intelligences.htm
Learning Styles: Preferences. Retrieved
November 15, 2002 from www.cyg.net/~jblackmo/diglib/styl-d.html
Learning and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Retrieved November 15, 2002 from www.gsu.edu/~dschjb/wwwmbti.html
Booth, S. and C. Brooks (eds.) (1995). Adult Learning Strategies: An Instructor’s Toolkit by Ontario Adult Educators. The Ontario Ministry of Skills Development.
Dunn, R. and S.A. Griggs (eds.) (2000). Practical Approaches to Using Learning Styles in Higher Education. Bergin & Garvey, Connecticut.
Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century. Basic Books, New York.
Hein, T.L. and D.D. Budny (1999). Teaching to Students’ Learning Styles: Approaches That Work [Electronic version]. 29th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, 12c1-7-13. Retrieved November 15, 2002 from http://fie.engrng.pitt.edu/fie99/papers/1208.pdf .
James, W.B. and W.E. Blank (1993). Review and Critique of Available Learning-Style Instruments for Adults. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. (59), pp.47-57.
Keefe, J. W. (1987). Learning Style Theory and Practice. National Association of Secondary School Principals, Reston, Va.
Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
Smith, R. M. (1982). Learning How to Learn: Applied Theory for Adults. Cambridge, New York.
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