2001 OPEN FORUM Abstracts
A PROFILE OF LEARNINGSTYLE PREFERENCES OF RESPIRATORY THERAPY STUDENTS IN A BACCALAUREATE DEGREEPROGRAM
Tom Smalling,MS, RRT, RPFT, RPSGT State University of New York at Stony Brook.
BACKGROUND: To advance researchon learning styles among respiratory therapy students and to provide informationto educators for purposes of improving teaching strategies.
METHOD: This study profiledthe preferred learning style of students based on Kolb?s Learning Style Inventory(LSI) (Kolb, 1985). In addition, a comparative analysis was made to ascertaingender and race-related differences in learning style preferences. Forty-twothird and fourth-year respiratory therapy students accurately completed a 1-pagedemographic questionnaire along with twelve questions on learning style preferencesfrom the Kolb LSI. The data were collected and descriptive analysis performed.The twelve ranked questions of the LSI were translated into four cycles of learning:Concrete Experience (CE), Reflective Observation (RO), Abstract Conceptualization(AC), and Active Experimentation (AE). The CE, RO, AC, and AE values were thenused to determine the predominant learning style of diverger, assimilator, converger,and accommodator.
Results: 37 students werefemale (88%) and 5 were male (12%). There were 13 Asian-Americans (31%), 12Caucasians (29%), 7 African-Americans (17%), 7 Hispanics (17%), and 3 Other(7%). The average age of the cohort was 22.3 (SD=2.11) years. The average ageof males was 22.8 (SD=2.78) years. The average age of females was 22.3 (SD=1.92)years. The oldest was 30 and the youngest was 20. The results showed that learningoccurred in all four learning cycles. The order of learning modes from mostused to least used were CE (74.5%), AC (51.5%), RO (47.5%), and AE (33%). Thedominant learning modes were then subcategorized according to gender and race.The dominant learning mode remained CE for both females (73.6%) and males (81%).In addition, the dominant learning mode also remained CE for Asian-Americans(74.6%), Caucasians (77.1%), African-Americans (74.1%), Hispanics (67.6%), andOther (80.7%). The two most dominant learning styles were diverger (52%) andassimilator (24%). Only 5% of participants were classified as convergers. 3out of 5 males (60%) were accommodators and 21 out of 37 females (57%) weredivergers.
Conclusions: The majorityof the cohort characterized themselves as concrete learners. According to Kolb,(1976) students scoring high in concrete experience (CE) represent a receptive,experience-based approach to learning that relies on feelings-based judgements.High CE people tend to be empathetic. They learn best from specific examplesin which cooperation is emphasized. These learners tend to relate to peers,not authority. The data coincides with Belenky et al. (1997) and MacKeracher(1994) studies which suggest that female students place emphasis on relationships,are empathetic in nature, prefer to work in groups (as do divergers) and preferto learn in an environment where cooperation is stressed rather than competition.The results also coincide with studies by Enns (1993) and Cavanaugh & etal. (1995) showing females to more likely exhibit concrete experience and activeexperimentation preferences. It is important for educators to be aware of studentlearning styles and adjust their instruction accordingly. In light of the results,it is suggested that respiratory therapy educators design a curriculum and deviseteaching strategies aimed at the dominant learning styles of its students. Respiratorytherapy educators need to adapt their teaching to the different cognitive styles,as well as the cultural backgrounds of those students.