Student Learning Style In Nursing Education Its Understanding and Preferences

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Understanding and Preferences About Student Learning Style In Nursing Education

Student Learning Style In Nursing Education Its Understanding and Preferences

How Understand Student Learning Style Preferences, How to Assess Diverse Learning Style Preferences, How to Design Learning Style Frameworks and Models, Kolb's Learning Style In Nursing Education.

How Understand Student Learning Style Preferences

    The definition of learning depends on the theoretical lens used to view the process. Learning in nursing is derived from several theoretical models including cognitive constructivist and experiential. From a cognitive perspective, learning is an active mental process in which the learner constructs meaning based on prior knowledge and his or her view of the world (Kolb, 1984). 

    The focus is on the acquisition of knowledge rather than on the resulting behavior change. In contrast, learning from the experiential framework results from a concrete experience, reflection on the experience, and subsequent construction of meaning from the experience. Finally, the learner actively experiments or applies the meaning that he or she has created (Kolb,1984). 

    Promoting learning through the use of cognitive development, experiential learning, and other teaching strategies is the primary responsibility of nurse educators. The plethora of learning theories that exist give rise to the discussion of a variety of learning strategies a student may enlist to achieve academic success.

    Within the educational program itself, fostering the development of cognitive abilities in students requires faculty to shift the major focus of concern from content to the student. 

    It will be imperative that faculty continually “rethink” their approach to “teaching” and use varied learning methods to meet the needs of all students. The following discussion provides a description of a variety of learning styles, the assessments of those learning styles, and their implications for faculty.

How to Assess Diverse Learning Style Preferences

    Competency 2 of The NLN's Core Competencies for Nurse Educators with Task Statements in the Scope of Practice for Nurse Educators (National League for Nursing, 2012a) states that educators must facilitate current student development and socialization by identifying individual learning style preferences and the unique learning needs of students who are culturally diverse (including international), traditional versus nontraditional, and at risk (eg, those who are educationally disadvantaged, learning or physically challenged, or experiencing social and economic issues; NLN, 2012a). 

    Over the years, learning styles and preferences have been discussed and measured profusely in the literature. Learning style preference is the manner in which a learner perceives, interacts with, and responds most effectively to the learning environment (Kolb & Kolb, 2005).

    Components of learning style are the cognitive, affective, and physiological elements, all of which may be influenced by a person's cultural background.

    The literature supports the existence of learning styles or, more aptly, learner preferences (Kolb & Kolb, 2005). However, because of a lack of evidence connecting outcomes to learning preferences, some researchers assert that there is no strong evidence that a teacher should tailor instruction to a particular learning style (Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer, & Bjork, 2008). 

    Instead, these researchers argue that faculty should put effort into matching instruction to the content they are teaching and the expected learning outcomes. Nurse educators are challenged to identify learning style preferences and develop appropriate learning experiences to match content that will meet the complex needs of the current nursing student (Fountain & Alfred,2009; Pettigrew, Dienger, & O'Brien King, 2011). 

    Learning style preferences and strategies should be identified early in the undergraduate nursing curriculum with the intent to empower individual students to use their knowledge of learning style preferences to achieve positive outcomes (Dapremont, 2014).

    As a group, underrepresented minority students and nontraditional students have diverse learning style and cultural learning preferences (Bednarz et al., 2010). Acknowledgment of diverse students' learning styles enhances the learning environment while supporting academic achievement (Choi, Lee, & Jung, 2008). 

    Advocates of learning style models posit that students learn in different ways; However, there is a lack of evidence to support that students only learn in those preferred ways (Pashler et al., 2008). Therefore, the use of learning style inventories should be tempered and used as one guide to better understand students' learning needs. The following discussion briefly describes several widely used learning style models.

How to Design Learning Style Frameworks and Models

    Several learning style models guide faculty in their understanding of student preferences. The Witkin (Witkin & Goodenough, 1981) and Myers-Briggs (McCauley, 1990) models are described as the innermost personality factors models.

    The Witkin model is a measure of field-dependent/field independent cognitive style that assesses the manner in which students perceive and process information and classifies students along a continuum of field dependence to field independence. The field dependence independence model describes individuals' approach to the perception, acquisition, processing organization, and application of information. 

    These instruments distinguish field-independent from field-dependent cognitive styles. Field-independent people tend to be more autonomous when it comes to the development of unfamiliar technical skills and problem solving, and less autonomous in development of interpersonal skills. Field dependent students prefer a more structured social learning environment and require feedback for success (Witkin & Goodenough, 1981). 

    Noble, Miller, and Heckman (2008) reported nursing students were classified as more field dependent than students in other health-related disciplines. Because of their cognitive processing requirements, field-dependent nursing students may be at risk for academic failure. Therefore, instructional strategies tailored to Students' needs should be incorporated into the nursing curriculum.

    The Myers Briggs Type Indicator defines 16 personality types via the use of four factors. The factors used by this model are extroversion (focus on people) introversion (ideas); sensors (detail oriented) intuitors (imagination oriented); thinkers feelers; and judgers–perceivers (Hirsh, Hirsh, & Hirsh, 2009). It is a helpful tool, as item courage's individuals to recognize their strengths and understand their areas to improve.

    The Kolb Model of Experiential Learning (1978) is an information processing model that classifies students into one of four learning style preferences based on how they perceive information and learn information. 

    Kolb believed that learning required different abilities that include concrete experience (CE), abstract conceptualization (AC), active experimentation (AE) or reflective observation (RO) (Hauer, Straub, & Wolf, 2005). 

    The learning style preferences are diverging (CE/RO), assimilating (AC/RO), converging (AC/AE), and accommodating (CE/AE). This model states that students use any of the four styles some of the time by claiming that the classification is a preferred method, not an exclusive one.

Kolb's Learning Style In Nursing Education

    Inventory (LSI) categorizes students according to this model (Willcoxson & Prosser, 1996). The Kolb LSI-II a Survey is developed from Kolb's (1978) four-stage model of experiential learning. The Kolb LSI ( is one of the most commonly used LSIs in nursing education, as well as in other disciplines.

    Gregorc's (1982) mind style model identifies two dimensions to how the mind processes information: a perceptual quality ranging from concrete to abstract and an ordering quality ranging from sequential to random. The learner is classified according to one of four styles using the Gregorc Style Delineator (GSD). 

    The four learning styles are abstract sequential, concrete sequential, abstract random, and concrete random. The GSD is commercially available ( The instrument asks the respondent to rank 10 sets of four words that correspond to the four poles. Students and faculty can self-administer, self-score, and self interpret the GSD (Hawk & Shah, 2007). 

    Examples of teaching learning strategies corresponding to the Gregorc learning styles The Dunn, Dunn, and Price (1996) Productivity Environmental Preference Survey (PEPS) provides information about patterns through which learning occurs. 

    The theory underpinning development of the PEPS is that students possess biologically based physical and environmental learning preferences that, along with well-established traits like emotional and sociological preferences, combine to form an individual learning style profile.

    An adaptation of the FIFO (Dunn et al., 1996), the Self-Assessment Inventory (SAI) was created by the Assessment Technologies Institute (2000). The SAI assesses students' personal characteristics and attitudes as they relate to the qualities of a successful nursing candidate. 

    The SAI is composed of a number of subscales designing measure the individual in four areas: critical thinking, learning styles, professional characteristics, and work values the learning styles content area has a subscale with factors such as physical (visual, auditory, tactile) and sociological (individual and group) that parallel the FIFO elements.

    Fleming's (2001) model suggests four categories that reflect the experiences of the students. The acronym VARK is used to indicate the following categories: visual (V), auditory (A), read and write (R), and kinesthetic (K). The VARK questions and results focus on the ways in which people like to receive information and the ways in which they like to deliver their communication. 

    The VARK Inventory provides metrics in each of the four perceptual modes, with individuals having preferences for anywhere from one to all four. The free VARK questionnaire offers thirteen statements that describe a situation and ask the respondent to pick one or more of three or four actions that the respondent could take. Each corresponds with a VARK learning style preference.

    Fleming (2001) reported that 41% of the general population has a single style preference, whereas 21% demonstrates a preference for all four styles. Only 27% of the population has a preference for two styles and 9% has a preference for three styles. Recommended teaching strategies that correspond to VARK learning style.

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