LEARNING AND TEACHING STYLES IN ENGINEERING EDUCATION [Engr. Education, 78(7), 674–681 (1988)] Author’s Preface — June 2002 by Richard M. FelderWhen Linda Silverman and I wrote this paper in 1987, our goal was to offer some insights aboutteaching and learning based on Dr. Silverman’s expertise in educational psychology and myexperience in engineering education that would be helpful to some of my fellow engineeringprofessors. When the paper was published early in 1988, the response was astonishing. Almostimmediately, reprint requests flooded in from all over the world. The paper started to be cited inthe engineering education literature, then in the general science education literature; it was thefirst article cited in the premier issue of ERIC’s National Teaching and Learning Forum; and itwas the most frequently cited paper in articles published in the Journal of Engineering Educationover a 10-year period. A self-scoring web-based instrument called the Index of Learning Stylesthat assesses preferences on four scales of the learning style model developed in the papercurrently gets about 100,000 hits a year and has been translated into half a dozen languages that Iknow about and probably more that I don’t, even though it has not yet been validated. The 1988paper is still cited more than any other paper I have written, including more recent papers onlearning styles. A problem is that in recent years I have found reasons to make two significant changes inthe model: dropping the inductive/deductive dimension, and changing the visual/auditorycategory to visual/verbal. (I will shortly explain both modifications.) When I set up my website, I deliberately left the 1988 paper out of it, preferring that readers consult more recentarticles on the subject that better reflected my current thinking. Since the paper seems to haveacquired a life of its own, however, I decided to add it to the web site with this preface includedto explain the changes. The paper is reproduced following the preface, unmodified from theoriginal version except for changes in layout I made for reasons that would be known to anyonewho has ever tried to scan a 3-column article with inserts and convert it into a Microsoft Worddocument.Deletion of the inductive/deductive dimension I have come to believe that while induction and deduction are indeed different learningpreferences and different teaching approaches, the “best” method of teaching—at least belowthe graduate school level—is induction, whether it be called problem-based learning, discoverylearning, inquiry learning, or some variation on those themes. On the other hand, the traditionalcollege teaching method is deduction, starting with "fundamentals" and proceeding toapplications. The problem with inductive presentation is that it isnt concise and prescriptive—youhave to take a thorny problem or a collection of observations or data and try to make sense of it.Many or most students would say that they prefer deductive presentation—“Just tell me exactlywhat I need to know for the test, not one word more or less.” (My speculation in the paper thatmore students would prefer induction was refuted by additional sampling.) I dont want
2instructors to be able to determine somehow that their students prefer deductive presentation anduse that result to justify continuing to use the traditional but less effective lecture paradigm intheir courses and curricula. I have therefore omitted this dimension from the model.Change of the visual/auditory dimension to the visual/verbal dimension “Visual” information clearly includes pictures, diagrams, charts, plots, animations, etc.,and “auditory” information clearly includes spoken words and other sounds. The one medium ofinformation transmission that is not clear is written prose. It is perceived visually and soobviously cannot be categorized as auditory, but it is also a mistake to lump it into the visualcategory as though it were equivalent to a picture in transmitting information. Cognitivescientists have established that our brains generally convert written words into their spokenequivalents and process them in the same way that they process spoken words. Written wordsare therefore not equivalent to real visual information: to a visual learner, a picture is truly wortha thousand words, whether they are spoken or written. Making the learning style pair visual andverbal solves this problem by permitting spoken and written words to be included in the samecategory (verbal). For more details about the cognition studies that led to this conclusion, seeR.M. Felder and E.R. Henriques, “Learning and Teaching Styles in Foreign and SecondLanguage Education,” Foreign Language Annals, 28 (1), 21–31 (1995).<http://www.ncsu.edu/felder-public/Papers/FLAnnals.pdf>.The Index of Learning StylesThe Index of Learning Styles (ILS) is a self-scoring web-based instrument that assessespreferences on the Sensing/Intuiting, Visual/Verbal, Active/Reflective, and Sequential/Globaldimensions. It is available free to individuals and instructors who wish to use it for teaching andresearch on their own classes, and it is licensed to companies and individuals who plan to use itfor broader research studies or services to customers or clients. To access the ILS andinformation about it, go to <http://www.ncsu.edu/felder-public/ILSpage.html>.And now, the paper.
674 “Professors confronted by low test grades, unresponsive or hostile classes, poor attendance and dropouts, know that something is wrong.” The authors explain what has happened and how to make it right. Learning and Teaching Styles In Engineering Education Richard M. Felder, North Carolina State University Linda K. Silverman, Institute for the Study of Advanced Development [Engr. Education, 78(7), 674–681 (1988)]Students learn in many ways— by students (making things even worse) interaction with others. The outcome isseeing and hearing; reflecting and or begin to wonder if they are in the that the material is either “learned” inacting; reasoning logically and right profession. Most seriously, one sense or another or not learned.intuitively; memorizing and society loses potentially excellent A learning-style model classifiesvisualizing and drawing analogies engineers. students according to where they fit on aand building mathematical models; In discussing this situation, we will number of scales pertaining to the wayssteadily and in fits and starts. explore: they receive and process information. ATeaching methods also vary. Some 1) Which aspects of learning style model intended to be particularlyinstructors lecture, others are particularly significant in engi- applicable to engineering education isdemonstrate or discuss; some focus neering education? proposed below. Also proposed is aon principles and others on applica- 2) Which learning styles are pre- parallel teaching-style model, whichtions; some emphasize memory and ferred by most students and which are classifies instructional methodsothers understanding. How much a favored by the teaching styles of most according to how well they address thegiven student learns in a class is professors? proposed learning style components. Thegoverned in part by that student’s 3) What can be done to reach stu- learning and teaching style dimensionsnative ability and prior preparation dents whose learning styles are not that define the models are shown in thebut also by the compatibility of his addressed by standard methods of box.or her learning style and the engineering education? Most of the learning and teachinginstructor’s teaching style. style components parallel one another.* Mismatches exist between com- Dimensions of Learning Style A student who favors intuitive overmon learning styles of engineering sensory perception, for example, wouldstudents and traditional teaching Learning in a structured educa- respond well to an instructor whostyles of engineering professors. In tional setting may be thought of as a emphasizes concepts (abstract content)consequence, students become two-step process involving the recep- rather than facts (concrete content); abored and inattentive in class, do tion and processing of information. In student who favors visual perceptionpoorly on tests, get discouraged the reception step, external in- would be most comfortable with anabout the courses, the curriculum, formation (observable through the instructor who uses charts, pictures, andand themselves, and in some cases senses) and internal information films.change to other curricula or drop (arising introspectively) becomeout of school. Professors, available to students, who select theconfronted by low test grades, material they will process and ignore * The one exception is the active/unresponsive or hostile classes, the rest. The processing step may reflective learning style dimension andpoor attendance and dropouts, know involve simple memorization or in- the active/passive teaching style dimen-something is not working; they may ductive or deductive reasoning, re- sion, which do not exactly correspond.become overly critical of their flection or action, and introspection or The difference will later be explained.
675 The proposed learning style di- Models of Learning &mensions are neither original nor Teaching Stylescomprehensive. For example, the firstdimension—sensing/intuition— is one A student’s learning style may be defined in large part by the answers toof four dimensions of a well-known five questions:model based on Jung’s theory of 1) What type of information does the student preferentially perceive:psychological types,1’2 and the fourth sensory (external)—sights, sounds, physical sensations, or intuitive (in-dimension—active/reflective ternal)—possibilities, insights, hunches?processing—is a component of a 2) Through which sensory channel is external information most effectivelylearning style model developed by perceived: visual—pictures, diagrams, graphs, demonstrations, or auditory—Kolb.3 Other dimensions of these two words, sounds? (Other sensory channels—touch, taste, and smell—aremodels and dimensions of other mod- relatively unimportant in most educational environments and will not beels4’5 also play important roles in considered here.)determining how a student receives 3) With which organization of information is the student most com- fortable: inductive—facts and observations are given, underlying principlesand processes information. The hy- are inferred, or deductive—principles are given, consequences andpothesis, however, is that engineering applications are deduced?instructors who adapt their teaching 4) How does the student prefer to process information: actively— throughstyle to include both poles of each of engagement in physical activity or discussion, or reflectively— throughthe given dimensions should come introspection?close to providing an optimal learning 5) How does the student progress toward understanding: sequentially—inenvironment for most (if not all) continual steps, or globally—in large jumps, holistically?students in a class. There are 32 (25) learning styles in Teaching style may also be defined in terms of the answers to five questions:the proposed conceptual framework, 1) What type of information is emphasized by the instructor: concrete—(one, for example, is the sensory/ factual, or abstract—conceptual, theoretical?auditory/deductive/active/sequential 2) What mode of presentation is stressed: visual—pictures, diagrams,style). Most instructors would be films, demonstrations, or verbal— lectures, readings, discussions?intimidated by the prospect of trying 3) How is the presentation organized: inductively—phenomena leading toto accommodate 32 diverse styles in a principles, or deductively— principles leading to phenomena?given class; fortunately, the task is not 4) What mode of student participation is facilitated by the presentation:as formidable as it might at first active—students talk, move, reflect, or passive—students watch and listen?appear. The usual methods of engi- 5) What type of perspective is provided on the information presented:neering education adequately address sequential—step-by-step progression (the trees), or global—context and relevance (the forest)?five categories (intuitive, auditory,deductive, reflective, and sequential), Dimensions of Learning and Teaching Stylesand effective teaching techniquessubstantially overlap the remaining Preferred Learning Style Corresponding Teaching Stylecategories. The addition of a relatively sensory concretesmall number of teaching techniques perception contentto an instructor’s repertoire should intuitive abstracttherefore suffice to accommodate the visual visuallearning styles of every student in the input presentationclass. Defining these techniques is the auditory verbalprincipal objective of the remainder of inductive inductive organization organizationthis paper. deductive deductive active active student processing participation reflective passive sequential sequential understanding perspective global global
676Sensing and Intuitive Learners for a different reason—their impa- needs of sensors and intuitors are tience with details may induce them to listed in the summary. In his theory of psychological types, start answering questions before theyCarl Jung6 introduced sensing and have read them thoroughly and to Visual and Auditory Learners make careless mistakes.intuition as the two ways in which Most engineering courses other thanpeople tend to perceive the world. laboratories emphasize concepts rather The ways people receive informa-Sensing involves observing, gathering than facts and use primarily lectures tion may be divided into three cate-data through the senses; intuition and readings (words, symbols) to gories, sometimes referred to as mo-involves indirect perception by way of transmit information, and so favor dalities: visual—sights, pictures,the unconscious—speculation, imagin- intuitive learners. Several studies show diagrams, symbols; auditory— sounds,ation, hunches. Everyone uses both that most professors are themselves words; kinesthetic—taste, touch, andfaculties, but most people tend to favor intuitors. On the other hand, the smell. An extensive body of researchone over the other. majority of engineering students are has established that most people learn In the 1940s Isabel Briggs Myers sensors,8-10 suggesting a serious most effectively with one of the threedeveloped the Myers-Briggs Type learning/teaching style mismatch in most engineering courses. The modalities and tend to miss or ignoreIndicator (MBTI), an instrument that information presented in either of themeasures, among other things, the existence of the mismatch is substantiated by Godleski,11,12 who other two.13-17 There are thus visual,degree to which an individual prefers found that in both chemical and auditory, and kinesthetic learners.*sensing or intuition. In the succeedingdecades the MBTI has been given to electrical engineering courses intuitive Visual learners remember best whathundreds of thousands of people and students almost invariably got higher they see: pictures, diagrams, flowthe resulting profiles have been grades than sensing students. The one charts, time lines, films, dem-correlated with career preferences and exception was a senior course in onstrations. If something is simplyaptitudes, management styles, learning chemical process design and cost said to them they will probably forgetstyles, and various behavioral estimation, which the author characterizes as a “solid sensing it. Auditory learners remember muchtendencies. The characteristics of of what they hear and more of whatintuitive and sensing types7 and the course” (i.e. one that involves facts and repetitive calculations by well- they hear and then say. They get a lotdifferent ways in which sensors and defined procedures as opposed to out of discussion, prefer verbalintuitors approach learning1,2 have beenstudied. many new ideas and abstract explanation to visual demonstration, concepts). and learn effectively by explaining Sensors like facts, data, and ex- While sensors may not perform as things to others.perimentation; intuitors prefer prin- well as intuitors in school, both typesciples and theories. Sensors like solv- Most people of college age and are capable of becoming fine engineers older are visual13,18 while most collegeing problems by standard methods and and are essential to engineeringdislike “surprises”; intuitors like practice. Many engineering tasks teaching is verbal—the informationinnovation and dislike repetition. require the awareness of surroundings, presented is predominantly auditorySensors are patient with detail but do attentiveness to details, experimental (lecturing) or a visual representation ofnot like complications; intuitors are thoroughness, and practicality that are auditory information (words andbored by detail and welcome the hallmarks of sensors; many other mathematical symbols written in texts tasks require the creativity, theoretical and handouts, on transparencies, or oncomplications. Sensors are good at ability, and talent at inspired a chalkboard). A second learning/memorizing facts; intuitors are good at guesswork that characterize intuitors.grasping new concepts. Sensors are teaching style mismatch thus exists, To be effective, engineering edu-careful but may be slow; intuitors are cation should reach both types, rather * Visual and auditory learning bothquick but may be careless. These than directing itself primarily to have to do with the component of thecharacteristics are tendencies of the intuitors. The material presented learning process in which informationtwo types, not invariable behavior should be a blend of concrete in- is perceived, while kinesthetic learningpatterns: any individual—even a strong formation (facts, data, observable involves both information perceptionsensor or intuitor—may manifest signs phenomena) and abstract concepts (touching, tasting, smelling) and in-of either type on any given occasion. (principles, theories, mathematical formation processing (moving, An important distinction is that relating, doing something active while models). The two teaching styles thatintuitors are more comfortable with learning). As noted previously, thesymbols than are sensors. Since words correspond to the sensing and intuitive perception-related aspects ofare symbols, translating them into what learning styles are therefore called kinesthetic learning are at bestthey represent comes naturally to concrete and abstract.* marginally relevant to engineeringintuitors and is a struggle for sensors. Specific teaching methods that education; accordingly, only visualSensors’ slowness in translating words effectively address the educational and auditory modalities are addressedputs them at a disadvantage in timed in this section. The processing compo-tests: since they may have to read * Concrete experience and abstract nents of the kinesthetic modality arequestions several times before conceptualization are two poles of a included in the active/reflective learn-beginning to answer them, they learning style dimension in Kolb’s ex- ing style category.frequently run out of time. Intuitors periential learning model7 that aremay also do poorly on timed tests but closely related to sensing and intuition.
677 “Inductive learners need to see phenomena before they can understand underlying theory.”this one between the preferred input whenever possible. applications is an efficient and elegantmodality of most students and the pre- way to organize and present materialferred presentation mode of most Inductive and Deductive that is already understood.professors. Irrespective of the extent Learners Consequently, most engineering cur-of the mismatch, presentations that use ricula are laid out along deductiveboth visual and auditory modalities Induction is a reasoning progression lines, beginning with “fundamentals”reinforce learning for all stu- that proceeds from particulars for sophomores and arriving at designdents.4,14,19,20 The point is made by a (observations, measurements, data) to and operations by the senior year. Astudy carried out by the Socony-Vac- generalities (governing rules, laws, similar progression is normally used touum Oil Company that concludes that theories). Deduction proceeds in the present material within individual opposite direction. In induction onestudents retain 10 percent of what they infers principles; in deduction one courses: principles first, applicationsread, 26 percent of what they hear, 30 deduces consequences. later (if ever).percent of what they see, 50 percent of Induction is the natural human Our informal surveys suggest thatwhat they see and hear, 70 percent of learning style. Babies do not come most engineering students viewwhat they say, and 90 percent of what into life with a set of general princi- themselves as inductive learners. Wethey say as they do something.21 ples but rather observe the world also asked a group of engineering How to teach both visual and au- around them and draw inferences: “If I professors to identify their ownditory learners: Few engineering in- throw my bottle and scream loudly, learning and teaching styles: half ofstructors would have to modify what someone eventually shows up.” Most the 46 professors identified them-they usually do in order to present of what we learn on our own (as selves as inductive and half as de-information auditorily: lectures opposed to in class) originates in a real ductive learners, but all agreed thataccomplish this task. What must situation or problem that needs to be their teaching was almost purely de-generally be added to accommodate all addressed and solved, not in a general ductive. To the extent that these re-students is visual material—pictures, principle; deduction may be part of the sults can be generalized, in the or-diagrams, sketches. Process flow solution process but it is never the ganization of information alongcharts, network diagrams, and logic or entire process. inductive/deductive lines—as in theinformation flow charts should be used On the other hand, deduction is the other dimensions discussed so far—ato illustrate complex processes or natural human teaching style, at least mismatch thus exists between thealgorithms; mathematical functions for technical subjects at the college learning styles of most engineeringshould be illustrated by graphs; and level. Stating the governing prin- students and the teaching style tofilms or live demonstrations of ciples and working down to the which they are almost invariably ex-working processes should be presented posed.
678 One problem with deductive tive learner. There are indications thatpresentation is that it gives a seriously Active learners do not learn engineers are more likely to be activemisleading impression. When students much in situations that require than reflective learners.20see a perfectly ordered and concise them to be passive, and reflective Active learners do not learn muchexposition of a relatively complex learners do not learn much in in situations that require them to bederivation they tend to think that the situations that provide no passive (such as most lectures), andauthor/instructor originally came up opportunity to think about the reflective learners do not learn muchwith the material in the same neat information being presented. in situations that provide no opportu-fashion, which they (the students) nity to think about the informationcould never have done. They may then with a statement of observable being presented (such as most lec-conclude that the course and perhaps phenomena that the theory will tures). Active learners work well inthe curriculum and the profession are explain or of a physical problem the groups; reflective learners work betterbeyond their abilities. They are correct theory will be used to solve; infers the by themselves or with at most onein thinking that they could not have governing rules or principles that ex- other person. Active learners tend tocome up with that result in that plain the observed phenomena; and be experimentalists; reflective learnersmanner; what they do not know is that deduces other implications and con- tend to be theoreticians.neither could the professor nor the sequences of the inferred principles. At first glance there appears to be aauthor the first time around. Un- Perhaps most important, some home- considerable overlap between activefortunately, students never get to see work problems should be assigned that learners and sensors, both of whomthe real process—the false starts and present phenomena and ask for the are involved in the external world ofblind alleys, the extensive trial-and- underlying rules. Such problems play phenomena, and between reflectiveerror efforts that eventually lead to the to the inductive learners strength and learners and intuitors, both of whomelegant presentation in the book or on they also help deductive learners favor the internal world of abstraction.the board. An element of inductive develop facility with their less- The categories are independent,teaching is necessary for the instructor preferred learning mode. Several such however. The sensor preferentiallyto be able to diminish the students’ exercises have been suggested for selects information available in theawe and increase their realistic different branches of engineering.29 external world but may process itperceptions of problem-solving. either actively or reflectively, in the Much research supports the notion Active and Reflective Learners latter case by postulating explanationsthat the inductive teaching approach or interpretations, drawing analogies,promotes effective learning. The The complex mental processes by or formulating models. Similarly, thebenefits claimed for this approach which perceived information is con- intuitor selects information generatedinclude increased academic achieve- verted into knowledge can be conve- internally but may process itment and enhanced abstract reasoning niently grouped into two categories: reflectively or actively, in the latterskills;22 longer retention of in- active experimentation and reflective case by setting up an experiment toformation;23’24 improved ability to observation.3 Active experimentation test out the idea or trying it out on aapply principles;25 confidence in involves doing something in the colleague. external world with the information—problem-solving abilities;26 and in- In the list of teaching-style catego- discussing it or explaining it or testingcreased capability for inventive it in some way—and reflective ries (table 1) the opposite of active isthought.27’28 observation involves examining and passive, not reflective, with both terms Inductive learners need motivation manipulating the information in- referring to the nature of studentfor learning. They do not feel trospectively. * An “active learner” is participation in class. “Active”comfortable with the “Trust me—this someone who feels more comfortable signifies that students do something instuff will be useful to you some day” with, or is better at, active ex- class beyond simply listening and perimentation than reflective ob-approach: like sensors, they need to watching, e.g., discussing, question- servation, and conversely for a reflec-see the phenomena before they can ing, arguing, brainstorming, or re-understand and appreciate the flecting. Active student participationunderlying theory. * The active learner and the reflec- thus encompasses the learning pro- How to teach both deductive and tive learner are closely related to the cesses of active experimentation andinductive learners: An effective way extravert and introvert, respectively, of reflective observation. A class into reach both groups is to follow the the Jung-Myers-Briggs model.1 The which students are always passive is ascientific method in classroom active learner also has much in class in which neither the activepresentations: first induction, then common with the kinesthetic learner experimenter nor the reflective ob-deduction. The instructor precedes of the modality and neurolinguistic server can learn effectively. Unfortu-presentations of theoretical material programming literature.14,15
679nately, most engineering classes fall global learners. Since they do not learninto this category. Global learners should be given in a steady or predictable manner they As is true of all the other learning- tend to feel out-of-step with theirstyle dimensions, both active and re- the freedom to devise their own fellow students and incapable offlective learners are needed as engi- methods of solving problems meeting the expectations of theirneers. The reflective observers are the rather than being forced to teachers. They may feel stupid whentheoreticians, the mathematical they are struggling to master materialmodelers, the ones who can define the adopt the professor’s strategy, with which most of theirproblems and propose possible and they should be exposed contemporaries seem to have littlesolutions. The active experimenters are trouble. Some eventually become periodically to advancedthe ones who evaluate the ideas, design discouraged with education and dropand carry out the experiments, and find concepts before these concepts out. However, global learners are thethe solutions that work—the would normally be introduced. last students who should be lost toorganizers, the decision-makers. How higher education and society. They areto teach both active and reflective the synthesizers, the multidisciplinary learning dictated by the clock andlearners: Primarily, the instructor researchers, the systems thinkers, the the calendar. When a body of materialshould alternate lectures with ones who see the connections no one has been covered the students areoccasional pauses for thought else sees. They can be truly tested on their mastery and then move(reflective) and brief discussion or outstanding engineers—if they survive to the next stage.problem-solving activities (active), and the educational process. Some students are comfortable withshould present material that How to teach global learners: Ev- this system; they learn sequentially,emphasizes both practical problem- erything required to meet the needs of mastering the material more or less assolving (active) and fundamental un- sequential learners is already being it is presented. Others, however,derstanding (reflective). An excep- done from first grade through graduate cannot learn in this manner. Theytionally effective technique for school: curricula are sequential, course learn in fits and starts: they may bereaching active learners is to have syllabi are sequential, textbooks are lost for days or weeks, unable to solvestudents organize themselves at their sequential, and most teachers teach even the simplest problems or showseats in groups of three or four and sequentially. To reach the global the most rudimentary understanding,periodically come up with collective learners in a class, the instructor until suddenly they “get it”—the lightanswers to questions posed by the should provide the big picture or goal bulb flashes, the jigsaw puzzle comesinstructor. The groups may be given of a lesson before presenting the steps, together. They may then understandfrom 30 seconds to five minutes to do doing as much as possible to establish the material well enough to they applyso, after which the answers are shared the context and relevance of the it to problems that leave most of theand discussed for as much or as little subject matter and to relate it to the sequential learners baffled. These aretime as the instructor wishes to spend students’ experience. Applications and the global learners.32on the exercise. Besides forcing “what ifs” should be liberally Sequential learners follow linearthought about the course material, such furnished. The students should be reasoning processes when solvingbrainstorming exercises can indicate given the freedom to devise their own problems; global learners make intu-material that students don’t methods of solving problems rather itive leaps and may be unable to ex-understand; provide a more congenial than being forced to adopt the plain how they came up with solu-classroom environment than can be professor’s strategy, and they should tions. Sequential learners can workachieved with a formal lecture; and be exposed periodically to advanced with material when they understand itinvolve even the most introverted concepts before these concepts would partially or superficially, while globalstudents, who would never participate normally be introduced. learners may have great difficultyin a full class discussion. One such A particularly valuable way for in- doing so. Sequential learners may beexercise lasting no more than five structors to serve the global learners in strong in convergent thinking andminutes in the middle of a lecture their classes, as well as the sequential analysis; global learners may be betterperiod can make the entire period a learners, is to assign creativity at divergent thinking and synthesis.stimulating and rewarding educational exercises—problems that involve Sequential learners learn best whenexperience.31 generating alternative solutions and material is presented in a steady bringing in material from other progression of complexity andSequential and Global Learners courses or disciplines—and to en- difficulty; global learners sometimes courage students who show promise in do better by jumping directly to more Most formal education involves the solving them.31’33 Another way to complex and difficult material. Schoolpresentation of material in a logically support global learners is to explain is often a difficult experience forordered progression, with the pace of
680Teaching Techniques to Address their learning process to them. While they are painfully aware of the draw-All Learning Styles backs of their learning style, it is usually a revelation to them that they Motivate learning. As much as possible, relate the material being also enjoy advantages—that their presented to what has come before and what is still to come in creativity and breadth of vision can be the same course, to material in other courses, and particularly to exceptionally valuable to future the students’ personal experience (inductive/global). employers and to society. If they can Provide a balance of concrete information (facts, data, real or be helped to understand how their hypothetical experiments and their results) (sensing) and abstract learning process works, they may concepts (principles, theories, mathematical models) (intuitive). become more comfortable with it, less critical of themselves for having it, and Balance material that emphasizes practical problem-solving more positive about education in methods (sensing/active) with material that emphasizes general. If they are given the fundamental understanding (intuitive/reflective). opportunity to display their unique Provide explicit illustrations of intuitive patterns (logical abilities and their efforts are inference, pattern recognition, generalization) and sensing encouraged in school, the chances of their developing and applying those patterns (observation of surroundings, empirical experimentation, abilities later in life will be substan- attention to detail), and encourage all students to exercise both tially increased. patterns (sensing/intuitive). Do not expect either group to be able to exercise the other group’s processes immediately. Conclusion Follow the scientific method in presenting theoretical material. Provide concrete examples of the phenomena the theory Learning styles of most engineering describes or predicts (sensing/ inductive); then develop the students and teaching styles of most theory or formulate the mod(intuitive/inductive/ sequential); engineering professors are in- show how the theory or modcan be validated and deduce its consequences (deductive/sequential); and present applications compatible in several dimensions. (sensing/deductive/sequential). Many or most engineering students are visual, sensing, inductive, and active, Use pictures, schematics, graphs, and simple sketches liberally before, during, and after the presentation of verbal material and some of the most creative students (sensing/visual). Show films (sensing/visual.) Provide are global; most engineering education demonstrations (sensing/visual), hands-on, if possible (active). is auditory, abstract (intuitive), Use computer-assisted instruction—sensors respond very well to deductive, passive, and sequential. it34 (sensing/active). These mismatches lead to poor student Do not fill every minute of class time lecturing and writing on the performance, professorial frustration, board. Provide intervals—however brief—for students to think and a loss to society of many about what they have been told (reflective). potentially excellent engineers. Provide opportunities for students to do something active besides Although the diverse styles with transcribing notes. Small-group brainstorming activities that take which students learn are numerous, the no more than five minutes are extremely effective for this inclusion of a relatively small number purpose (active). of techniques in an instructor’s Assign some drill exercises to provide practice in the basic repertoire should be sufficient to meet methods being taught (sensing/active/sequential) but do not the needs of most or all of the students overdo them (intuitive/reflective/ global). Also provide some in any class. The techniques and open-ended problems and exercises that call for analysis and suggestions given on this page should synthesis (intuitive/reflective/global). serve this purpose. Give students the option of cooperating on homework assignments Professors confronted with this list to the greatest possible extent (active). Active learners generally might feel that it is impossible to do all learn best when they interact with others; if they are denied the that in a course and still cover the opportunity to do so they are being deprived of their most syllabus. Their concern is not entirely effective learning tool. unfounded: some of the recommended Applaud creative solutions, even incorrect ones (intuitive/global). approaches—particularly those that Talk to students about learning styles, both in advising and in involve the inductive organization of classes. Students are reassured to find their academic difficulties information and opportunities for may not all be due to personal inadequacies. Explaining to student activity during class—may struggling sensors or active or global learners how they learn indeed add to the time it takes to most efficiently may be an important step in helping them present a given body of material. reshape their learning experiences so that they can be successful (all types). The idea, however, is not to use all
681A class in which students are C.F. Yokomoto, L. Harrisberger, and tary School Children, U.S.O.E. Co- E.D. Sloan, “Applications of Psycho- operative Research Project No. 2404,always passive is a class in which logical Type in Engineering Edu- San Francisco State College, San Fran- cation,” Engineering Education, vol. cisco, Calif., 1966.neither the active experimenter 23. McConnell, T.R., “Discovery 73, no. 5, Feb. 1983, pp. 394-400.nor the reflective observer can 10. Yokomoto, C.E and J.R. Ware, Versus Authoritative Identification in “Improving Problem Solving Perfor- the Learning of Children,” Studies inlearn effectively. Unfortunately, Education, 2(5), 13-60 (1934). mance Using the MBTI,” Proceedings,most engineering classes fall into ASEE Annual Conference, College 24. Swenson, E.J., et al., “Organiza- Station, Tex., 1982, pp. 163-167. tion and Generalization as Factors inthis category. Learning, Transfer, and Retroactive In- 11. 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