Room C – wednesday 09:00-10:00
Verma, P & Russell, C
American University of Ras Al Khaimah
Priti Verma is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the American University of Ras Al Khaimah. She graduated from Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University, India with a degree in Child Development and Family Studies in 2003. Her current research interests include college readiness, learning styles and first year experience of university students.
Cambria Russell is an Assistant Professor of Education at the American University of Ras Al Khaimah. In 2012, she earned a PhD in International and Comparative Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Russell is continuing her research on education in the UAE.
This study investigates the preferred learning styles (via VARK inventory results) of first year students at a small university in the UAE. Findings describe the composition of cohort in terms of their learning preferences. The relationship between learning preference and academic performance is also examined. Finally, implications and recommendations are reviewed.
Introduction and Background
This study investigates the preferred learning styles of first year students at a small university in the UAE. This university has approximately 550 students and has been operating for less than a decade. The students hail from more than thirty countries but are primarily from the Arab world. In an effort to improve instruction for our particular population, this study on learning styles was conducted. The VARK test, developed by Neil Fleming in 1987, was used. We have used Version 7.0 of the VARK questionnaire in this study. The VARK inventory focuses on how learners prefer to use their senses to learn. This study will interest delegates who work with Arab populations and those who wish to improve programming through learning styles inventory use.
A census of first year students (N=98) was given the VARK test as part of the Freshman Transition course. The results were recorded and analyzed. Descriptive statistics were run. A sub set of students (N=75) chose to provide their identifying information on the test. The VARK scores from these students were then compared to their Grade Point Averages (GPA) in the first semester of university. Analysis was conducted to determine if students with particular learning profiles were more likely to perform well in their first semester.
The descriptive statistics tell us about our first year class and their preferred learning styles. Each participant could have one, two, three or four preferences as their VARK result. Seventeen per cent of the students (N=38) expressed a preference for Verbal learning, 34% (N=74) for Aural, 22% (N=48) for Reading, and 27% (N=58) for Kinesthetic.
Students with one dominant learning preference are labelled uni-modal. In our First year class, thirty-five per cent (N=34) expressed a uni-modal learning preference. Seventeen of these uni-modal respondents identified an Aural preference, and nine indicated a Kinesthetic preference. Five prefer Reading, and three favor Visual learning. Thirty three per cent (N=32) of our respondents are bi-modal; eight per cent (n=8) are tri-modal. Twenty four per cent (N=24) are quad-modal.
With the smaller group of students, we looked at GPA for the first semester. First, we determined the average GPA for students with each learning preference. We then compared these averages. We found the average GPA of students who preferred Verbal learning is 2.13. The average for students preferring Aural learning is 2.22. The average for students with a preference for Reading is 2.09, and the average for students preferring Kinesthetic learning is 2.39. While those with a preference for Kinesthetic learning have a higher average GPA, the difference between the four preferences is small.
We also examined GPA by VARK type. Students with a uni-modal preference had an average GPA of 2.41. Bi-modal learners had an average of 2.53. Students indicating a preference for tri-modal and quad-modal learning performed less well with 2.0 and 1.97 GPAs respectively. It appears that students with multi-modal learning styles are performing less well.
Implications and Recommendations
Based on our study and results of other studies like Torres’s (2014) and Wagner et al (2014), we recommend that learning styles should be considered in tertiary education in order to support student learning. The data has been presented to the head of teaching and learning centre and plans are in development to share the data with faculty, provide training for faculty on working with student learning styles and development of workshops for students to help them best utilize their learning strengths.
Fleming, N.D. & Mills, C. (1992). Not Another Inventory, Rather a Catalyst for Reflection. To Improve the Academy, 11, 137-155.
Torres, S.M. (2014). The Relationship Between Latino Students’ Learning Styles and Their Academic Performance. Community College Journal of Research and Practice 38(4).
Wagner, M.G., Hansen, P., Rhee, Y., Brunt, A., Terbizan, D. & Christensen, B. (2014). Learning Style Preferences of Undergraduate Dietetics, Athletic Training, and Exercise Science Students. Journal of Education and Training Studies 2(2), 198-205.