stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with and respond to learning environment” (Keefe, 1979, p. 4) or “the characteristic strengths and preferences in the ways that learners take in and process information” (Felder, 1996). Recently, Oxford (2005) claimed that learning styles and strategies are the main factors helping determine how language learners learn a second or foreign language.
Furthermore, Reid (1995) believed that, learning styles are defined as internally based characteristics, often not perceived or used consciously, that are the basis for the intake and understanding of new information; students can identify their preferred learning styles and stretch those styles by examining and practicing various learning strategies. Kinsella (1995) explains the same point by drawing from an everyday analogy. Kinsella believes that, earning style refers to an individual’s natural, habitual, and preferred way(s) of absorbing, processing, and retaining new information and skills which persist regardless of teaching methods or content area. Everyone has a learning style but each person’s is as unique as a signature. Each signature appears to be influenced by both nature and nurture; it is a biological and developmental set of characteristics.
Oxford also adds to the definitions of language learning styles believing that, language learning styles are the general approaches used to learn languages. Language learning styles include not just cognitive styles but a whole range of social and affective factors too (Oxford, Hollaway, Horton-Murillo, 1992; Oxford & Lavine, 1991; Oxford, 1995).
It is also mentioned that an individual’s preferred method for receiving information in any learning environment is the learning style of that individual (Kraus, Reed, & Fitzgerald, 2001).
As it is manifested in the literature that learning styles have important role in leaning, it can be referred to the related models provided to this end. Most frequently used learning style models are the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI), Felder-Silverman Learning Style Model, McCarthy (1980), Reid’s Perceptual Learning Style Preference and Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory (LSI). Although all the styles classify different learning types in different manners, their aim and approach are similar. Reid (1995) believes 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.
Many different dimensions of learning styles have been identified so far. Reid (1987), for example, based on the findings of a survey, distinguished four perceptual learning modalities and two social ones:
1) Visual learning: Learns more effectively through the eyes (reading and studying charts);
2) Auditory learning: Learns more effectively through the ear (listening to lectures);
3) Kinesthetic learning: Learns more effectively through body experience (physical responses);
4) Tactile learning: Learns more effectively through touch (as in building models);
5) Individual learning: Learns more effectively through working alone; &
6) Group learning: Learns more effectively through working with others.
2.3.6 Researches on Learning Styles
Jie & Xiaoqing (2006) did a research on the relationship between learning styles and language learning strategies in the EFL context in China. The study presented two kinds of data: quantitative and qualitative. The analyses showed that learning styles have a significant influence on learners’ learning strategy choices. The Judging scale correlated positively with seven sets of learning strategies. Thus it turned out to be the most influential learning style variable affecting learners’ learning strategy choices. Compared with low achievers, high achievers were more capable of exercising strategies that were associated with their non-preferred styles.
Coiner and Scherz (2009) explored the relationship between memory strategies and sensory modality strengths. Forty “typical” adults completed various memory tasks and learning style assessments and reported memory strategies. No significant relationship between sensory modality strength and memory strategies used to complete the various memory tasks was found. Individuals used a variety of memory strategies unrelated to their sensory modality strength and the type of memory task. Speech language pathologists should be aware of their clients’ individual differences and be prepared to teach an assortment of strategies to clients with memory impairments.
Another studies conducted on learning styles was conducted by Rossi-Le (1989), who found a significant relationship between sensory preference (visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic) and overall strategy use on the ESL/EFL SILL, and she also found significant predictive relationships through multiple regression. The results Rossi Le (1989) obtained indicated that the visual learners used visualization strategies and that auditory learners used memory strategies more frequently than did the other learners. Tactile learners showed significant use of strategies for searching for communicating and meaning and self-management/ metacognitive strategies. Kinesthetic learners did not use general study strategies or self-management/metacognitive strategies as frequently as the others did.
Lu et al. (2003) studied the impact of student learning styles, learning patterns, and other selected factors on their learning performance in a Web Course Tools (Web CT) MIS graduate course. The results suggest that, at the graduate level, students are able to learn equally well in Web CT online courses despite their different learning styles.
Conceição (2003) analyzed the relationship between learning style and critical thinking in an online course that used discussions forums and concept maps as teaching strategies. Data were collected using quantitative and qualitative methods: (a) a learning style indicator adapted from Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning style, (b) concept maps, (c) self-reflections, and (d) records of participants’ online discussions. Eight learners enrolled in an online course in Fall (2003), participated in this study. Learning styles used by students in the course were assessed using a Kolb-based learning style inventory. Students’ critical thinking skills were assessed by asking them to create concept maps of the reading materials and discussions in the course. Findings of this study show that there was no relationship between learning style and critical thinking; however, it suggests that individual factors (learner’s competency using concept map software, learner’s motivation about topics discussed, and individual learning style) and group factors (combination of learning styles in a group and group facilitation) influenced the ability of students to demonstrate successful critical thinking skills in the course.
Suliman (2006), aimed to investigate the relationship between Critical thinking and learning in conventional and accelerated programs styles of students. This was a descriptive correlational study. The convenience sample consisted of 80 Stream I and 50 Stream II students. The following instruments were used for data collection: The Learning Styles Inventory of Kolb and the California Critical Thinking Dispositions Inventory of Facione and Facione. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze the data. Results showed Stream II students were significantly more critical thinkers and self-confident. The predominant learning styles of Streams I and II were the diverger and the converger, respectively, with no difference except in relation to their learning abilities, namely, concrete experience in favor of Stream I. Further, the findings indicate a weak though significant (range of P = 0.017– 0.000) correlation between learning abilities and various critical thinking dispositions.
There are also many studies conducted on learning styles in Iran:
Salehi and Bagheri (2011) also conducted a study to identify the learning styles and strategies of students, to check the relationship between students’ learning styles and strategies. The data analysis of the questionnaires revealed that students’ major learning styles were auditory and group learning styles and memory strategies were favored the most. Also significant relationships were found between the visual styles and memory strategies, the auditory styles and metacognitive and social strategies, the kinesthetic styles and the cognitive and the compensation strategies, the group learning styles and the metacognitive strategies. The think aloud protocols revealed that students used various strategies.
Nosratinia (2011) conducted a study to identify the relationship between personality type, learning style preferences and use of language learning strategies of Iranian EFL learners of English Literature and English Translation. The data analysis of the questionnaires revealed that there is a significant difference between the English Literature students’ learning styles and English Translation students learning styles. The “visual learning style”, was the preferred learning style among Literature