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#MedEdPearl March 2020: Learning style preferences across a spectrum of learners

Have you ever encountered a cohort of learners who are all exactly the same? Likely not.Diversity in learning style preferences is increasing! A learning style preference is a desired or default set of cognitive, psychological, and social characteristics that learners exhibit in educational environments. In education, it is sometimes important to introduce desirable difficulty so learners are challenged to make concepts stick.

However, preceptors must be mindful of the myriad interactions with learners and modify their teaching styles accordingly to the learning style preference encountered (2). To illustrate, try this simple activity: Using a pencil, print your first and last name. Now repeat this same task but switch hands. What did you experience? While using your non-dominant hand, you probably experienced increased anxiety and decreased confidence and automaticity, and the task required increased time, concentration, effort, and attention while the quality of your handwriting decreased. By not attending to learning style preferences, it is akin to forcing learners to write with their non-dominant, non-preferred hand (3).

This pearl is a first of three devoted to the application of learning styles research in medical education.

How do you recognize learning style preference in your learners? Share your thoughts on Twitter at #MedEdPearls!

  1. Grasha A. 1994. A Matter of Style: The Teacher as Expert, Formal Authority, Personal Model, Facilitator, and Delegator. College Teaching, 42(4), 142-149.
  1. Vaughn L., Baker R. 2001. Teaching in the medical setting: balancing teaching styles, learning styles and teaching methods. Medical Teacher, 23(6), 610-612.
  1. Grasha I. 2010. The dynamics of one-on-one teaching. College Teaching, 50(4) 139-146.

 

#MedEdPearls are developed monthly by the Central Group on Educational Affairs. Previously, #MedEdPearls explored topics including psychological safety, a transformational book for educators, and writing multiple choice questions 

Author BIO

Mark Terrell, Ed.D. is the Assistant Dean for Medical Education, Institutional Director of Faculty Development, and Director for the Master of Science in Medical Education and PhD in Anatomy Education Programs at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, Pennsylvania. Mark’s areas of professional interest include the scholarship of teaching and learning, educational research, anatomy education, and curriculum development. Mark can be reached via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Comments 1

 
Alice Fornari on Tuesday, 24 March 2020 07:19
In support of learnign preferences and styles as a tool for the medical educator

thank you for the BLOG post
i am a firm believer in learning styles as a framework to better understand who your learners are in your classroom and to use this knowledge to support diverse teaching methods to assure all are engaged and benefiting from the content -the criticism that learnign style differences is not a truth ie not evidence based does nto sit with me as an educator across the continuum of medical education. With all my masters students as well as medical students who take the medical student as teacher elective in their MS4 year i offer them to take the VARK (learning preference) and realize the diversity among their peers-this creates a strong discussion and raises awareness of difference that should be acknowledged by the teacher and peers-i have never had resistance to this concept and actually all my students enjoy learnign about this -i contrast this with Dan Pratt teaching Perspective Inventory as well. A great combo in an early session introducing medical education. I would use Kolb learning Style inventory but the fee prevents this for me. I am glad VARK is so accessible.

thank you for the BLOG post i am a firm believer in learning styles as a framework to better understand who your learners are in your classroom and to use this knowledge to support diverse teaching methods to assure all are engaged and benefiting from the content -the criticism that learnign style differences is not a truth ie not evidence based does nto sit with me as an educator across the continuum of medical education. With all my masters students as well as medical students who take the medical student as teacher elective in their MS4 year i offer them to take the VARK (learning preference) and realize the diversity among their peers-this creates a strong discussion and raises awareness of difference that should be acknowledged by the teacher and peers-i have never had resistance to this concept and actually all my students enjoy learnign about this -i contrast this with Dan Pratt teaching Perspective Inventory as well. A great combo in an early session introducing medical education. I would use Kolb learning Style inventory but the fee prevents this for me. I am glad VARK is so accessible.
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