Definitions of Learning Styles

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Definitions of Learning Styles

Although learning style may be simply defined as the way people come to understand and remember information, the literature is filled with more complex variations on this theme. James and Gardner (1995), for example, define learning style as the "complex manner in which, and conditions under which, learners most efficiently and most effectively perceive, process, store, and recall what they are attempting to learn" (p. 20). Merriam and Caffarella (1991) present Smiths definition of learning style, which is popular in adult education, as the "individuals characteristic way of processing information, feeling, and behaving in learning situations" (p. 176). Swanson (1995) quotes Reichmann's reference to learning style as "a particular set of behaviors and attitudes related to the learning context" and also presents Keefe's definition of learning style as "the cognitive, affective, and physiological factors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to the learning environment" (p. 2). These definitions have understandable variations as they tend to reflect the perspectives of different learning styles inventories. For example, the Grasha-Reichmann Student Learning Style Scale distinguishes among social interaction preferences, which includes behavior and attitude tendencies (ibid.).

Categories and Characteristics

Learning style patterns are also defined in a number of different ways. James and Gardner (1995) categorize learning styles according to perceptual, cognitive, and affective dimensions. Another useful method is to categorize various learning style models: personality models, information processing models, social interaction models ,...

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..." Connections: National Tech Prep Network. Waco, TX: National Tech Prep Network, Center for Occupational Research and Development, 1998.

Merriam, S. B., and Caffarella, R. S. Learning in Adulthood. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1991.

Mind Tools Ltd. "How Your Learning Style Affects Use of Mnemonics." Yapton, England: Mind Tools, Ltd., 1998. < mnemlsty.html>

Parnell, D. "Cerebral Context." Vocational Education Journal 74, no. 3 (May 1996): 18-21, 30.

Swanson, L. J. "Learning Styles: A Review of the Literature." July 1995. (ED 387 067)

Developed with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under Contract No. RR93002001. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the position or policies of OERI or the Department. Practice Application Briefs may be freely reproduced.
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