It takes all sorts

This is a post for Ada Lovelace Day, celebrating women in technology and science. Today I feature three of my female students and some excellent research they have been doing...

You may have noticed that over the last few days I have been posting abstracts from my third year B.Ed Primary education students. You've probably guessed that I'm very pleased with the way they have applied themselves to the task of identifying key e-learning research areas, and then designing their projects as self-organised studies. They have been involved with the international Atlantis Project for the past year, which among other things took them to Cork in Ireland and Frankfurt/Darmstadt in Germany for 2 weeks, where they were engaged fully in international collaborative e-learning research. Well now it's payback time, and they are all preparing to present their papers in the special Atlantis Track of the Plymouth e-Learning Conference in two week's time. Today's blogpost features a paper from Claire Spiret, Elizabeth 'Tizzy' Logan and Catherine Moore which focuses on individual differences in young children's learning through technology. The title of the paper, A critical analysis of learner preference tests in children's use of ICT, reveals that they have not taken an easy road - they have challenged some of the assumptions we make when we attempt to categorise learners into learning preference modes. Learning styles is a controversial area of research and they have critically evaluated the widely accepted VARK model. Here's the abstract:

Over the years, several theories of learning preference have been presented, but many are aimed at adult learning (e.g. Kolb, 1984; Honey & Mumford, 1992), and controversy surrounds their validity and reliability (see Newstead, 1992). Arguably the most accepted and popular learning preferences model is the VARK model (Visual, Auditory, Read/Write and Kinaesthetic). VARK attempts to explain how learners differ in their approaches to learning, but unfortunately, it may also label learners with the result that teachers fail to provide them with full and varied opportunities to learn. Further, the environment(s) within which children learn change in context, a variable which the VARK model may fail to accommodate.

In this study, we have created a version of the VARK learning preferences test, which is specifically aimed at 5-11 year old children. We used this in 2 UK schools with children (n=60) on two occasions, eliciting 120 responses in our data set. To accomplish this, we tested children during both computer based learning, and non-computer based learning, repeating the test to detect any differences in learning preferences within participants. In this presentation we will discuss the findings from our research, paying specific attention to the varying learning environments and contexts, and how children changed their learning styles to accommodate these variables. We challenge the notion that learning preferences are set and immutable, and counsel that VARK and other learning styles models should be used with caution.
Honey, P. and Mumford, A. (1992) The Manual of Learning Styles. Maidenhead: Peter Honey.
Kolb, D. (1984) Experiential Learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ.: Prentice Hall.
Newstead, S. (1992) A study of two "quick-and-easy" methods of assessing individual differences in student learning. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 62(3), 299-312.

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Andy Mee said…
Steve - this is another interesting paper. Can those who can't attend have a live online stream please?
Jerrid Kruse said…
Hi Steve - you and your students might be interested in a couple of editorial i wrote regarding learning styles: the first one, I summarize why the idea of learning styles is bunk (which your students seem to be finding evidence to support):

The second is a synthesis of four learning theories to better understand learners and how people learn:

I hope they find them useful, and I am open to dialogue with you or your students: twitter: @jerridkruse

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