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Student learning may be classified according to the sensory modalities by which one prefers to take in information. One such classification scheme uses the VARK instrument, which categorizes learning preferences as visual (V), auditory (A), reading-writing (R), or kinesthetic (K). Many students have a single, strong preferences ("unimodal"), whereas others have multiple ("multimodal") learning preferences. Although limited in scope and reliability, knowledge of student learning preferences is important for reasons of pedagogy. Teaching and student learning styles may also affect student academic success in science coursework and fulfillment of student career goals. In our study, we determined the learning preferences of upper-division students in a human physiology course during a 2-yr period at a public undergraduate institution in California. We also sought to determine the association between individual learning styles and stated career intentions. We found that the majority of students interested in the health professions have multimodal learning preferences. Furthermore, a greater percentage of premedical students had multimodal preferences compared with predental and prescientist students. When data were compared by gender, we found that more female than male students had multimodal learning preferences. We also observed some gender differences when separating student groups by career choice. For example, more premedical men had multimodal preferences compared with nonpremedical men. In contrast to men, women showed little differences in their learning style profiles whether premedical or not and also self-predicted their learning preferences more accurately. Thus, career choice may be an important consideration in determining whether or not there are gender differences among students.
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