LEARNING STYLE PREFERENCES OF FRESHMEN CONDITIONALLY ADMITTED TO COLLEGE
Over a two-year period the author conducted a study to determine the learning styles of students who were conditionally admitted to college and teach with instructional strategies that related to their preferred styles to warrant greater success in a core curriculum course titled “Discover New York”. The instructional strategies were geared toward the perceptual, emotional, and sociological preferences of the students based on the overall outcome of the Building Excellence (BE) Learning Styles Assessment. The areas of study included history, immigration, and environment of New York City to determine the relative effects of teaching to a student’s preferred style. The participants for this study included 38 traditional college students who were conditionally admitted based on their SAT and GPA scores to a large, private, metropolitan university who were randomly registered in a fall or spring Discover New York class.
Most college professors verbalize that learners are diverse and should be taught and treated as individuals. Nevertheless, they maintain the same course requirements and expectations, and teach with exactly the same instructional strategies and resources for everyone in the same class. Many perceive that they are responding to individual differences when they supplement their lectures, readings, and discussions with demonstration lessons, hands-on projects, multimedia, small-group instruction, and/or on-the-job work experiences (Whitley & Littleton, 2000). Those activities appear to be no more effective than discussions, lectures, or readings when used across-the-board for every young adult in the same course.
For example, statistically higher achievement- and attitude-test scores were documented for entering college freshmen, who in contrast with traditional lectures, experienced learning-style responsive instruction (Clark-Thayer, 1987; Dunn & Stevenson, 1997; Garcia-Otera, 1987; Nelson, et al., 1993). Essentially similar data also resulted for students in allied health (Lefkowitz, 1996; Miller & Dunn, 1997; Morton-Rias, 1999), engineering (Ingham, 2000), law school (Boyle & Dolle, 2002; Boyle, Russo & Lefkowitz, 2003), and nursing (Lenehan, Dunn, Ingham, Murray, & Signer, 1994; O’Hare, 2004).
If the overall goal of colleges and their faculties is to educate students (Goals 2000: Educate America Act, 1996) then why are so many students under-prepared for college as with those students who have been conditionally admitted into a college program due to low SAT scores (below 850 combined on the verbal and mathematics sections) and possessing a high school grade point average in the range of 80 - 83. Therefore, this paper will look at the learning style preferences of incoming freshmen accepted on a conditional basis and outline various ways utilized by the author in a Core Curriculum Discover New York course for successful course completion.