Leerstijlen nader geanalyseerd
Dissertatie, Universiteit van Amsterdam
Leerstijlen nader geanalyseerd
Vittorio Busato (1998) Leerstijlen nader geanalyseerd Academisch Proefschrift, Universiteit van Amsterdam
Samenvatting: Leerstijlen nader geanalyseerd
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In 1992 the Dutch psychologist Jan Vermunt published a dissertation study about the ways university students learn. He considers the way a student learns as a learning style. Vermunt postulated four different learning styles: an undirected, a reproduction directed, an application directed and a meaning directed learning style. To measure these styles, Vermunt developed the Inventory of Learning Styles (ILS), a diagnostic instrument intended to measure aspects of study method, study motives and mental models about studying in higher education. With this questionnaire, it is possible to express each of the four styles in a summated score. Students, therefore, show characteristics of each style but, as Vermunt assumes, one style dominates. The ILS is being applied on a large scale in higher education in Holland , while not very much is known yet about the validity of this instrument. Nor much is known about the influence of learning styles on, for example, academic success, or about the relation of these styles with variables as intelligence, achievement motivation and personality. Aim of the present dissertation, therefore, was to investigate the value of the ILS as a (diagnostical) measurement instrument. Consequently, the relevance of the learning style theory of Vermunt, based on the empirical investigations, is critically discussed. In chapter one, the learning style theory of Vermunt is embedded within the literature. Learning styles are often considered as a kind of general strategies, for example characterised as surface-level or deep-level processing (Marton & Säljö, 1976), a holistic versus a serialistic style (Pask, 1976), deep processing, elaborative processing, fact retention and methodical study (Schmeck, 1983). But learning styles are also described as types of learning like, for example, concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation, resulting in four learning styles: divergers, accommodators, convergers and assimilators (Kolb, 1984), as orientations like achieving, meaning, reproducing and non-academic (Entwistle, 1988), or as approaches to learning like surface, deep and achieving (Biggs, 1993). Elaborating on these theories, Vermunt (1992) describes the concept of a learning style as consisting of four aspects: processing strategies, regulation strategies, mental models of learning and learning orientations. Processing strategies are thinking activities students use to process information in order to obtain certain learning results like, for example, knowing the most important points in the study material. (Metacognitive) regulation strategies are activities students use to monitor, to plan and to control the processing strategies and their own learning processes. Mental models of learning can be considered as (mis)conceptions students have about learning processes. Learning orientations are personal aims, intentions, expectations, doubts, etcetera, students may experience during their educational career.
As noted, Vermunt (1992) distinguishes four different learning styles: an undirected, a reproduction directed, an application directed and a meaning directed learning style. Students characterized by an undirected learning style are having, for example, problems to process the material for study, experiencing difficulties with the amount of study material and with discriminating what is important and what is not. Students with a reproduction directed learning style are characterized by study behaviour directed mainly on reproducing what is learnt at examinations, in order to pass these successfully. Students with an application directed learning style try to employ what they learn to actual, real-world settings. Finally, students with a meaning directed learning style wish to find out what is meant exactly in their study material, interrelate what they have learned and try in a critical sense to develop their own vision. According to Boekaerts et al. (1997), Vermunt is the first theorist who operationalises a learning style as a combination of cognitive strategies, metacognitive mental models of learning and motivational characteristics. In chapter two, a replication study is described. Principal component analyses yielded considerable empirical evidence for the learning styles, proposed by Vermunt. In a sample of 300 students from the University of Amsterdam , faculty of Psychology, the meaning directed, the reproduction directed, the application directed and the undirected style were found. Somewhat lower, but still comparable stability coefficients as Vermunt reported were also found. Besides, the relation between learning style and intelligence was investigated. On the meaning directed learning style a significant, positive influence and for the undirected learning style a significant, negative influence was found. The undirected learning style appeared to be a negative predictor for academic succes.
In chapter three, an application study is decribed, in which the ILS was used as a diagnostic instrument, in order to investigate whether learning style scores of first year-psychology students changed after following a course in study skills, Begeleid Studeren '93 (Busato & Prins, 1993). Alltogether, 48 students wanted to participate in this course; 22 of these students filled in the ILS before, just after and about three months after the course. Their results were compared with their fellow students, who did not participate in this course. Students who followed Begeleid Studeren '93 showed a significant decrease in their undirected learning style scores, just after the course. After three months, this effect was disappeared. No increase, however, in the meaning directed scores could be detected. The fellow students, at the other hand, showed a significant increase in their undirected learning style scores. However, due the non-experimental design of the investigation, this short-term change in the undirected learning style scores cannot be subscribed solely to the effects of Begeleid Studeren '93.
In chapter four two studies are described on the validation of a part of the ILS. One could doubt if students study according to what they report by means of the ILS. In the first study, 27 first year psychology students, 5 with a reproduction directed learning style, 8 with a meaning directed learning style and 14 with an undirected learning style, were asked to think aloud while studying a text of ten pages about social psychology. The verbal data were divided into meaningful units and classified into (sub)categories. In agreement with the theory of Vermunt the reproduction directed students memorised more than the meaning directed and undirected students. For some subcategories the students with a meaning directed learning style tended to show more behaviour characteristic for their learning style. For other (sub)categories no differences were found between the learning styles, probably due to the small sample size and the relative small text the students had to learn.
In the second study, 95 first year psychology students were asked to think aloud while studying two texts about developmental psychology. The verbal data were again classified into categories concerning study behaviour. Differences in study behaviour were considered seperately for low and high meaning directed, low and high reproduction directed and low and high undirected students. Only for the meaning directed learning style dimension differences were found for three out of six variables for which predictions were made. It was concluded the ILS may not be an appropriate instrument to measure study behaviour. Furthermore, it is suggested to interpret the undirected learning style dimension as 'uncertainty about one's own study process'.
Purpose of chapter five was to investigate in a cross-sectional and longitudinal design the development of the meaning directed, reproduction directed, application directed and undirected learning styles during students' stay at the university, as well as the relation of these styles with academic success. A systematic relation between year of study and learning style was expected, namely that the application and meaning directed learning style scores would be higher in the later years and the undirected and reproduction learning style scores would be the highest in the early years. In the cross-sectional study it was not found that the application and meaning directed learning style scores were higher in the later years, nor that the undirected and reproduction learning style scores were the highest in the early years. In the longitudinal study the means of the meaning directed and application directed learning style scores indeed increased over the years, while the means of the reproduction and undirected learning style scores decreased. For the score on the meaning directed learning style, this change was significant, though a marginal effect size was found. It might not be concluded there is a systematic relation between year of study and learning style. No evidence is found for the implicit hierarchy that the meaning directed and application directed learning are better than the reproduction learning style. No positive influence of any learning style on academic success could be detected. The undirected learning style, however, correlated negatively with academic success.
Aim of chapter six was to investigate the relation between learning styles, the Big Five personality traits (Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Openness to Experience) and achievement motivation. Subjects were 409 first-year psychology students. Extraversion appeared to correlate positively with the application directed, reproduction directed and undirected learning style. Conscientiousness was associated positively with the reproduction and application directed learning style, and negatively with the undirected learning style. Openness to Experience correlated positively with the meaning and application directed learning style, and negatively with the undirected learning style. Besides, it was found that Neuroticism correlated positively with the undirected learning style. Agreeableness was associated positively with the reproduction and application directed learning style. Positive correlations were found for achievement motivation with the meaning, reproduction and the application directed learning style, and a negative one with the undirected learning style. Fear of failure positive correlated negatively with the undirected learning style, while fear of failure negative was associated positively with this style. Although there was some systematic overlap for the four learning styles with personality variables and achievement motivation, the conclusion is that, other than in some English research was suggested (Furnham, 1992; Jackson & Lawty-Jones, 1996), it certainly makes sense to measure these three groups of variables separately in educational settings.
A second purpose of this chapter was to integrate intellectual ability, learning style, personality and achievement motivation as predictors of academic success in higher education. Correlational and regression analyses partly confirmed, partly disconfirmed the expectations. Consistent with the literature, intellectual ability and achievement motivation were associated positively with academic success. For the meaning directed, reproduction directed and application directed learning style, no positive association with academic succes could be detected. The undirected learning style, however, appeared to be a consistent negative predictor. For Conscientiousness a consistent, positive association with academic success was found. The very first examination at the university came out as the most important predictor for academic succes, even after two and three years of study. It is suggested that the policy of the Dutch Ministry of Education is not in favor of studying in a meaning directed way, and that the data in chapter five and six reflect this policy.
Aim of chapter seven was to offer a third party review of the internal validity of the ILS. The four-factor-structure, as described by Vermunt (1992), has been replicated by other Dutch investigators (Busato et al., 1995; Schouwenburg, 1996a) with different samples of university students, using the same factor-analytical techniques. However, statistical analyses with EQS (Bentler, 1989) and scale-content-analyses reveal that a solution with seven or eight factors better describes the underlying structure of the ILS, within a sample that consisted of 963 first year psychology students of the University of Amsterdam . It is suggested that, also for practical implications, it is better to make a division within the reproduction and application directed learning styles. Furthermore, some practical suggestions for adjustments to the ILS are given.
In the final chapter 8, the implications of the present investigations for the diagnostic value of the Inventory of Learning Styles as well as for the relevance of the learning style theory of Vermunt (1992) are critically discussed. It is concluded that the ILS is a reasonably well-applicable measurement-instrument. What it measures, is measured internally consistent. Besides, there is no striking overlap with instruments measuring aspects of achievement-motivation or personality. However, some serious doubts are raised on the validity of the ILS. It also seems more appropriate to interpret the undirected learning style in terms of uncertainty about one's own study process or behaviour. No evidence is found for the implicit hierarchy that the meaning directed and application directed learning style are qualitatively, in terms of experiencing more academic success, than the reproduction directed style. Only the undirected learning style, operationalised as in figure 1 in chapter 1, came out as a consistent, negative predictor for academic success. So, part of the Dutch educational community may be tempted too early by the face-validity (Schouwenburg, 1996a) of the learning style theory of Vermunt (1992). Chapter 8 concludes with suggestions for future resarch.