perceptive, imaginative, idealistic, sentimental, and flexible), and concrete random (quick, intuitive, curious, realistic, creative, innovative, instinctive, and adventurous). He states that learning styles are not fixed throughout life, but develop as a person learns and grows. In order to develop one’s learning style, a safe learning environment should be provided. A safe place is safe emotionally, physically and intellectually. Individuals, especially teenagers need to challenge authority and test their own ideas. That is possible in a place where they can question and inquire and in such a place true learning exists (Gregorc & Butler, 1984).
Dunn and Dunn (2003) include five stimuli categories -environmental, emotional, sociological, physiological, and psychological- in their model. Environmental elements of learning style such as sound, light, temperature, and design affect the way that a learner takes in new and difficult information. Emotional elements include motivation, persistence, responsibility, and structure. Sociological elements deal with self, pair, peer and team, and adult. Physiological elements are perceptual elements, food and drink intake, time of day, and mobility. Psychological stimulus is related with cognitive processing and includes global-analytic and impulsive reflective elements and hemisphericity.
Kolb (1984) thought of the learning styles as a continuum that one moves through over time, usually people come to prefer, and rely on, one style above the others. There are four basic learning modes -concrete experience (sample word, feeling), reflective observation (watching), abstract conceptualization (thinking), and active experimentation (doing) -that are closely tied to the learning styles: The convergent learning style relies on the dominant learning abilities of abstract conceptualization and active experimentation. The divergent learning style emphasizes concrete experience and reflective observation. In assimilation, the dominant learning abilities are abstract conceptualization and reflective observation.
The accommodative learning style emphasizes concrete experience and active
experimentation (Kolb, 1984).
Felder and Silverman have synthesized findings from many studies to formulate their own learning style model with dimensions that should be particularly relevant to science education. This model of learning styles and a parallel model of teaching styles are being developed with Felder & Soloman (1998). The idea is not to teach each student exclusively according to his or her preferences, but rather to strive for a balance of instructional methods. If the balance is achieved, students will be taught partly in a manner they prefer, which leads to an increased comfort level and willingness to learn, and partly in a less preferred manner (Felder & Soloman, 1998).
According to Felder (1993), a student’s learning style may be defined in part by the answers to four questions:
1. What type of information does the student preferentially perceive: sensory – sights, sounds, physical sensations, or intuitive -memories, ideas, and insights?
2. Through which modality is sensory information most effectively perceived:
visual -pictures, diagrams, graphs, demonstrations, or verbal -sounds, written
and spoken words and formulas?
3. How does the student prefer to process information: actively -through
engagement in physical activity or discussion, or reflectively -through
4. How does the student progress toward understanding: in a logical
progression of small incremental steps, or globally -in large jumps, holistically?
There are many learning style profiles available today. Each of them has their strong points. The reason that they are so different is that they are assessing different things (Jensen, 1996). Learning style researchers tend to investigate only a part of the whole (Curry, 1990).To get a clearer understanding of how human learns, it makes more sense to sub-divide the learning process into four categories (Jensen, 1996):
1. Context: The circumstances of learning provide clues about the learning process.
There are contextual factors that may help for maximum success. While the field dependent learner learns best in natural contexts like field trips, experiments and in situations where the learning would naturally occur, the field-independent learner prefers irrelevant contexts and uses computers, textbooks, and classrooms. Some learners study better in a flexible environment and others study better in a more structured environment. Whereas some learners prefer to study independently, others may prefer to study with peers or groups.
2. Input: All learners have some input to initiate the learning. Human beings have five senses and their learning is shaped by means of these senses. Some of the learners learn externally and others internally. For example, visual external learners prefer visual input, enjoy writing and have problems with verbal instructions. Visual internal learners, on the other hand, prefer visualize the learning before it is presented. Auditory external learners prefer input to be auditory, talk constantly, either to self or others, like discussions unlike the auditory internal learners who prefer to talk to themselves before learn about something and hold nearly endless conversation. Kinesthetic tactile learners prefer physical input and want to learn by doing. In comparison with tactile learners, kinesthetic internal learners prefer to first experience feelings about something before learning it or doing it.
3. Processing: You can process globally or analytically, concrete or abstract, multitask or single-task etc. Contextual global learner is often referred as a “right-brain” learner. This kind of learner learns with pictures, symbols, icons and themes. Moreover, such learners prefer multi-tasking …means they prefer to work on many problems at the same time. Sequential detailed/linear learners, on the other hand, are left-hemisphere dominant. They prefer writing, clear and detailed instructions, structured lessons and they can only focus on a single problem or task. Conceptual (abstract) learners prefer the world of books, words, computers, ideas whereas concrete learners prefer specific and concrete examples.
4. Response Filters: After taking the information and processing it, the learner is likely to do something about it. They are reaching the learning. Externally referenced learners use society’s norms and rules for source of their behavior, but internally referenced ones set their own rules. Matchers approves of something that has been done before, that fits in to an overall plan and that is generally consistent with the rest of the learning. They respond by noting similarities unlike mismatches who respond by noting differences. Such learners want more variety, enjoy experimenting and dislike traditional lesson plans. Some other learners, impulsive experimental ones, respond with immediate action on thoughts and are more likely to be present oriented whereas analytical reflective learners are more likely to be past or future oriented and respond internally.
2.3.3 Background of Research on Learning Styles
Research findings on learning styles also, underscore the importance of recognizing learners’ varying preferences. However, teachers must take a cautious approach. Measurement of style preferences (usually by means of self-check questionnaires) is problematic (Ehrman & Leaver, 2003). The fact that learners’ styles represent preferred approaches rather than immutable stable traits means that learners can adapt to varying contexts and situations. And styles can be a reflection, if not a direct product of one’s cultural background (Oxford & Anderson, 1995; Wintergerst, DeCapua, & Itzen, 2001), which spurs teachers to be sensitive to students’ heritage languages and cultures in the process of engaging in classroom activities. These caveats notwithstanding, research on learning styles prods us as teachers to help students first of all to take charge of their language learning process- to become autonomous learners, and then to become aware of their styles, preferences, strengths, weaknesses, and finally to take appropriate action on their second language learning challenges.
2.3.4 Fundamentals of Learning Styles
Reid (1995) asserts that learning styles have some fundamental characteristics, on which they are based. These are:
• Every person, student and teacher alike, has a learning style and learning strengths and weaknesses;
• Learning styles exist on wide continuums; although they are described as opposites;
• Learning styles are value-neutral; that is, no one style is better than others (although clearly some students with some learning styles function better in a US school system that values some learning styles over others);
• Students must be encouraged to “stretch” their learning styles so that they will be more empowered in a variety of learning situations;
• Often, students’ strategies are linked to their learning styles;
• Teachers should allow their students to become aware of their learning strengths and weaknesses.
2.3.5 Definitions of Learning Styles
The definition of learning styles is a major concern among the scholars in the field. Kirby (as cited in Swanson, 1995) believes that the term learning styles came into use when researchers began looking for ways to combine course presentation and materials to match the needs of each learner. The concept of learning styles refers to the individual differences related to an individual’s preference (Joy & Kolb, 2009) and “preferred or habitual patterns of mental functioning and dealing with new information” (Ehrman & Oxford, 1990). Moreover, learning styles are suggested as “cognitive, affective, and physiological traits that relatively