T. Orten Tugrul

Izmir University of Economics (TURKEY)
The individual differences in cognitive styles and their impacts on learning has long been one of the central focuses in education literature. The match between cognitive and learning styles and instructional strategy is an important issue that needs to be considered in designing the instruction (Liu & Reed, 1994). Previous studies suggest that when instructional methods match students’ cognitive and learning styles, student satisfaction and learning are enhanced (Ford & Chan, 2001; Verduin and Clark, 1991). More recently, Young, Klemz and Murphy (2003) demonstrate that the use of preferred instructional methods, which also varies according to student learning styles, has a significant impact on learning outcomes, performance and pedagogical affect. This paper investigates the effects of designing learning activities to match student learning styles based on Grasha-Riechmann learning model (Grasha, 1996) in the context of student presentations. Specifically, the effects of matching and mismatching on the perceived learning effectiveness and feelings toward the learning activity of students who present as well as their peers who watch the presentations.

At the beginning of the fall semester of 2016, 22 graduate students, who enrolled in the Principles of Marketing course offered at a private university, were asked to rate their learning styles on a 60-item Learning Style scale developed by Grasha and Riechmann (Grasha, 1996). Each item asks participants to respond using a 5-point Likert scale ranging from “1=strongly disagree” to “5=strongly agree”. Based on the scale, six learning styles can be identified; independent (prefers to work and define the task alone), avoidant (withdrawn and uninvolved in learning situations), collaborative (favors mutual help and cooperation), dependent (prefer clear structures and guidelines provided by instructor), competitive (motivated by greater achievement compared to others), and participant (highly involved in all course activities). Then, students’ mean scores for each learning style were computed and the dominant learning style of each student was determined according to the ranges suggested by Grasha (1996). After that, student presentation assignments were structured differently based on each student’s dominant learning style. Half of the assignments were designed to match student dominant learning styles and the other half were created in a way to mismatch. After the presentation, perceived learning effectiveness and feelings toward the learning activity were rated by the presenter and their peers on 5-point semantic scales adapted from Beuk (2015) and Young et al. (2003).

Preliminary results (last two presentations will be made in the following two weeks) indicate student learning in matched experimental condition is significantly more effective than learning in mismatched condition. Findings also how that participants in matched condition consider student presentations more fun than others in mismatched condition. Results also provide support for the matching effect in the context of peer evaluations.