ERIC Identifier: ED393607 Publication Date: 1996-05-00
Author: Griggs, Shirley - Dunn, Rita Source: ERIC
Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL.
Hispanic-American Students and Learning Style. ERIC Digest.
This digest identifies cultural values that may impact the learning processes
of Hispanic-American students, reviews the research on the learning styles of
Hispanic-American students, and discusses the implications of this research for
counseling and teaching Hispanic youth.
CULTURAL VALUES OF HISPANIC-AMERICANS
are united by customs, language, religion, and values. There is, however, an
extensive diversity of traits among Hispanic-Americans. One characteristic that
is of paramount importance in most Hispanic cultures is family commitment, which
involves loyalty, a strong support system, a belief that a child's behavior
reflects on the honor of the family, a hierarchical order among siblings, and a
duty to care for family members. This strong sense of other-directedness
conflicts with the United States' mainstream emphasis on individualism (Vasquez,
1990). Indeed, Hispanic culture's emphasis on cooperation in the attainment of
goals can result in Hispanic students' discomfort with this nation's
conventional classroom competition.
Hispanic adolescents are more inclined than Anglo adolescents to adopt their
parents' commitment to religious and political beliefs, occupational
preferences, and lifestyle (Black et al., 1991). Spirituality, the dignity of
each individual, and respect for authority figures are valued throughout
Hispanic culture. Stereotyped sex roles tend to exist among many Latinos: the
male is perceived as dominant and strong, whereas the female is perceived as
nurturing and self-sacrificing. Note, however, that in Latino cultures, the term
"machismo" (used by Anglos to refer to male chauvinism) refers to a concept of
chivalry that encompasses gallantry, courtesy, charity, and courage (Baron,
1991). Hispanic male adolescents display more and earlier independence than the
male adolescents of the general U.S. population. However, some researchers
(Black et al., 1991) have found that Chicano secondary school students often
exhibit lower levels of self-esteem than their Anglo counterparts.
LEARNING STYLES RESEARCH
An expanding body of research
affirms that teaching and counseling students with interventions that are
congruent with the students' learning-style preferences result in their
increased academic achievement and more positive attitudes toward learning.
Research on the learning styles of Hispanic-Americans in particular, however, is
limited. Within the Latino groups, the majority of studies have focused on the
learning styles of Mexican-American elementary school children. Several
investigations (Dunn, Griggs, & Price, 1993; Jalali, 1988; Sims, 1988; Yong
and Ewing, 1992) have compared various ethnic groups of students in elementary
school through college levels using a measure that identifies 21 elements of
learning style grouped into five categories.
1. ENVIRONMENTAL LEARNING STYLE elements include sound, temperature, design,
and light. A cool temperature and formal design were identified as important
elements for Mexican-American elementary and middle school students (Dunn,
Griggs, & Price, 1993; Jalali, 1988; Yong & Ewing, 1992).
2. EMOTIONAL LEARNING STYLE elements include responsibility, structure,
persistence, and motivation. Sims (1988) reported that Mexican-American third-
and fourth-graders were the least conforming of three ethnic groups studied.
Yong and Ewing (1992), however, found that Mexican-American middle-school
adolescents were conforming. The disparities between these data may result from
subjects' age, lifestyle, and urban/rural differences in the two studies. Both
of these studies reported that Mexican-Americans required a higher degree of
structure than did other groups.
3. SOCIOLOGICAL LEARNING STYLE elements are concerned with the social
patterns in which one learns. Learning alone (as opposed to in groups) was
preferred more by Caucasian students than by Mexican-American children (Dunn
& Dunn, 1992, 1993) and more by Mexican-Americans students than by
African-American children (Sims, 1988). Mexican-American students required
significantly more sociological variety than either African-Americans or
Caucasians (Dunn, Griggs, & Price, 1993; Jalali, 1989). Mexican-American
males were authority-oriented and Mexican-American females were strongly
peer-oriented (Dunn, Griggs, & Price, 1993).
4. PHYSIOLOGICAL LEARNING STYLE elements relate to time of day, food and
drink intake, perception, and mobility. Puerto-Rican college students exhibit a
strong preference for learning in the late morning, afternoon, and evening. The
time-of-day preferences of Mexican-Americans are less clear. Sims (1988) found
that Caucasians preferred drinking or eating snacks while learning significantly
more than did Mexican-Americans. Yong and Ewing (1992) reported that Latinos'
strongest perceptual strength was kinesthetic. Both Caucasians and
African-American were significantly more auditory and visual than
Mexican-Americans (Dunn, Griggs, & Price, 1993; Sims, 1988). The study by
Sims (1988) indicated that Caucasian students exhibited a higher need for
mobility than did Mexican-American students. Contrary to findings for the U.S.
general population, Mexican-American females had a significantly higher need for
mobility than their male counterparts (Dunn, Griggs, & Price, 1993).
5. PSYCHOLOGICAL LEARNING STYLE elements relate to global versus analytical
processing. The construct of field dependence/independence is a component of
this learning style. Field dependent individuals are more group-oriented and
cooperative and less competitive than field independent individuals. Research
generally has indicated that Mexican-American and other minority students are
more field dependent than nonminority students. Hudgens (1993) found that
Hispanic middle and secondary school students were more field dependent than
Anglo students; Hispanic female (and African-American male) students had a
greater internal locus of control than other groups; and Hispanic male (and
African-American female) students had a greater external locus of control than
IMPLICATIONS FOR COUNSELING AND TEACHING
teachers can be aware that, although there are common characteristics in this
population, Hispanic-Americans are a very diverse group and include distinct
subcultures that differ significantly as to custom, values, and educational
orientation. It is also important to recognize the limitations of research.
Demographic variables other than gender and ethnicity that impact on learning
style may not be isolated in studies. These variables include socioeconomic
class, geographical region, primary language, religion, family structure, and
number of generations in the U.S.
Schools can provide Spanish-speaking teachers, counselors, and educational
assistants. This is especially true in areas where there are many
first-generation Hispanic families.
For immigrant Latino adolescents, identity formation and individuation can be
especially challenging and problematic. This is because their cultural values
include strong family loyalty and allegiance, values that are in conflict with
the behavioral styles of mainstream U.S. adolescents who strive for
self-expression and individuality. For Hispanic adolescents with
identity-related problems, group counseling with peers who are experiencing
similar conflicts can be helpful. Referral for pastoral counseling may be
indicated for Roman Catholic youths, because there is usually trust and respect
Educators need to be aware of self-image problems of Hispanic-American
students that may result from a rejection of their ethnicity and from attempts
to conform to the larger Anglo culture. To address these problems, educators can
plan interventions that acknowledge and celebrate cultural diversity when
teaching and counseling Hispanic youth.
Based on the research examined above, teachers and counselors should expect
larger numbers of Hispanic students to prefer: (1) a cool environment; (2)
conformity; (3) peer-oriented learning; (4) kinesthetic instructional resources;
(5) a high degree of structure; (6) late morning and afternoon peak energy
levels; (7) variety as opposed to routines; and (8) a field-dependent cognitive
style. Teachers and counselors should be aware of cultural group
characteristics; for the most responsive teaching and counseling strategies,
however, they should emphasize the learning style strengths of each individual
and try to match instructional resources and methods to individual
environmental, emotional, physiological, and psychological preferences.
Adapted from: Griggs, Shirley, and Rita Dunn. (1995). Hispanic-American
Students and Learning Style. EMERGENCY LIBRARIAN 23(2, Nov-Dec): 11-16. Adapted
with permission of EMERGENCY LIBRARIAN and the authors.
Baron, A., Jr. (1991). Counseling Chicano
College Students. In C. Lee, and B. Richardson (Eds.), MULTICULTURAL ISSUES IN
COUNSELING: New Approaches to Diversity (p.171-184). Alexandria, VA: American
Association for Counseling and Development. ED 329 861.
Black, C., H. Paz, and R. DeBlassie. (1991). Counseling the Hispanic Male
Adolescent. ADOLESCENCE 26:223-232. EJ 429 645.
Dunn, R., and K. Dunn. (1992). TEACHING ELEMENTARY STUDENTS
THROUGH THEIR INDIVIDUAL LEARNING STYLES: PRACTICAL APPROACHES FOR
GRADES 3-6. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Dunn, R., and K. Dunn. (1993). TEACHING SECONDARY STUDENTS
THROUGH THEIR INDIVIDUAL LEARNING STYLES: PRACTICAL APPROACHES FOR
GRADES 7-12. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Dunn, R., S. Griggs, and G. Price. (1993). Learning Styles of
Mexican-American and Anglo-American Elementary-School Students. JOURNAL OF
MULTICULTURAL COUNSELING AND DEVELOPMENT 21(4): 237-247. EJ 470 183.
Hudgens, B. (1993). THE RELATIONSHIP OF COGNITIVE STYLE,
PLANNING ABILITY AND LOCUS-OF-CONTROL TO ACHIEVEMENT FOR THREE
ETHNIC GROUPS (ANGLO, AFRICAN-AMERICAN, HISPANIC). Dissertation
Abstracts International, A53-08, 2744.
Jalali, F. (1988). A CROSS-CULTURAL COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF
THE LEARNING STYLES AND FIELD DEPENDENCE/INDEPENDENCE
CHARACTERISTICS OF SELECTED FOURTH-, FIFTH-, AND SIXTH-GRADE
STUDENTS OF AFRO, CHINESE, GREEK AND MEXICAN HERITAGE. Doctoral dissertation,
St. John's University, Jamaica, NY. Dissertation Abstracts International,
Sims, J. (1988). Learning Styles of Black-American, Mexican-American, and
White-American Third- and Fourth-Grade Students in Traditional Public Schools.
Doctoral dissertation, University of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA.
Vasquez, J. (1990). Teaching to the Distinctive Traits of Minority Students.
THE CLEARING HOUSE 63(7): 299-304.
Yong, F., and N. Ewing. (1992). A Comparative Study of the Learning-Style
Preferences among Gifted African-American, Mexican-American and American Born
Chinese Middle-Grade Students. ROEPER REVIEW 14(3): 120-123. EJ 447 200.
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