ERIC Identifier: ED341890
Publication Date: 1991-12-31
Author: Griggs, Shirley A.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.
Learning Styles Counseling. ERIC Digest.
Increasingly, educational leaders are recognizing that the process of
learning is critically important and understanding the way individuals learn is
the key to educational improvement. The shortcomings of education in general
have been addressed in "A Nation at Risk" (National Commission on Excellence in
Education, 1983) and "An Imperiled Generation: Saving Urban Schools" (Carnegie
Foundation, 1988). Evidence abounds that the educational establishment in the
United States is comparatively behind that of selected Western European and
Asian nations in teaching youth the knowledge base and skills necessary to
compete in a highly technical era. The challenge for our schools today is to
assess the learning style characteristics of each student and to provide
teaching and counseling interventions that are compatible with those
characteristics. The counselor's role in learning styles is major--both as a
consultant to teachers and as a provider of counseling services.
WHAT IS LEARNING STYLE?
Everyone has a learning style. Our
style of learning, if accommodated, can result in improved attitudes toward
learning and an increase in productivity, academic achievement, and creativity.
A comprehensive definition of learning style was adopted by a national task
force, comprised of leading theorists in the field and sponsored by the National
Association of Secondary School Principals. This group defined "learning styles"
as the composite of characteristic cognitive, affective, and physiological
factors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how a learner perceives,
interacts with, and responds to the learning environment (Keefe, 1979). Included
in this comprehensive definition are "cognitive styles," which are intrinsic
information-processing patterns that represent a person's typical mode of
perceiving, thinking, remembering, and problem-solving.
LEARNING STYLE MODELS
In an attempt to provide a framework
for the growing number of different learning style theories, Curry (1987)
conceived the "onion model," consisting of four layers defined as follows:
Personality dimensions assess the influences of basic personality on
preferred approaches to acquiring and integrating information. Models stressing
personality include Witkin's (1954) construct of field dependence/field
independence and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Myers, 1978) with dichotomous
scales measuring extroversion versus introversion, sensing versus intuition,
thinking versus feeling, and judging versus perception.
Information-processing is the individual's preferred intellectual approach to
assimilating information, and includes Schmeck's (1983) construct of cognitive
complexity and Kolb's (1984) model of information processing.
Social interaction addresses how students interact in the classroom and
includes Reichmann's and Grasha's (1974) types of learners: independent,
dependent, collaborative, competitive, participant, and avoidant.
Multidimensional and instructional preference address the individual's
preferred environment for learning and encompass the Human Information
Processing Model (Keefe, 1989) and Learning Style Model of Dunn and Dunn (1978).
These models are similar because they stress the importance of identifying and
addressing individual differences in the learning process. However, there are
important differences among the models in that some models stress accommodation
of individual style preferences while others stress flexibility and adaptation,
and there is a range of quality among the assessment instruments that
operationalize the various models and lack of a research base for some of the
The Dunn and Dunn (1978) model was selected for the application of learning
styles to the counseling process, because it is a multidimensional model with
reliable and valid instrumentation and a strong research base.
DIAGNOSING LEARNING STYLES
Three instruments assess
learning style. The Learning Style Inventory--Primary Version (Perrin, 1981) for
children in kindergarten through grade two is a pictorial questionnaire; The
Learning Style Inventory (LSI) (Dunn, Dunn, & Price, 1985) for youth in
grades 3-12 is a 104-item self-report questionnaire that identifies 22 elements
relating to the environmental, emotional, sociological, physical, and
psychological preferences of the individual; and the Productivity Environmental
Preference Survey (Dunn, Dunn, & Price, 1982) for adults is a 100-item
self-report questionnaire that identifies individual adults' preferences for
conditions in a working and learning environment.
Diagnosing and interpreting learning styles provide data as to how
individuals perceive, interact with, and respond to the learning environment. A
knowledge of our own learning style makes us aware of counseling interventions
that we tend to favor over others, thus accommodating some counselee whose
styles are similar to our own and possibly alienating others whose styles are
dissimilar. The starting point in teaching and counseling is to respond to the
learning style needs of students, which implies knowledge of our own preferences
and a conscious effort to expand our repertoire of counseling interventions and
techniques to respond to student diversity.
LEARNING STYLES COUNSELING
The counselor's role is a
comprehensive one, involving: (1) individual and group counseling, which are
primarily learning processes, (2) coordinating programs in career education,
psychological education, tutoring, peer helping, and skill development in
communication, conflict resolution, problem solving, decision making, and time
management and studying, and (3) consulting with classroom teachers to create a
learning style environment that is flexible and responsive to a broad range of
learning styles preferences.
Learning styles counseling involves the following steps:
Assessing the developmental needs of students, psychosocial crises, and
developmental tasks that are stage-related, and the special needs of groups,
such as bilingual/bicultural students, and gifted and talented students.
Developing a comprehensive, developmental counseling program based upon the
Assessing the individual learning styles of students, counselors, and teachers
and counseling students to help them develop an understanding of their learning
Planning teaching and counseling interventions that are compatible with the
learning style needs of students.
Evaluating teaching and counseling outcomes to determine the extent to which
program objectives and counseling goals have been achieved.
MATCHING LEARNING STYLE PREFERENCE WITH APPROPRIATE COUNSELING
The profile of each of the students who takes the Learning Style
Inventory, will provide data in the following areas:
Environmental: bright versus dim light; sound present or absent; warm versus
cool temperature; formal versus informal design.
Emotional: high versus low structure; low versus high level of persistence,
motivation; and responsibility versus nonconformity.
Sociological: preference for learning alone; in pairs; with adults, peers, team,
Physical: auditory, visual, tactual, or kinesthetic perceptual strengths; high
versus low mobility; and time of day preferences.
Psychological: global versus analytic; impulsive versus reflective; cerebral
Additional counseling techniques, such as art therapy, bibliotherapy, mime,
musical improvisation, and mutual storytelling with children, and compatible
learning style preferences are discussed in Learning Styles Counseling (Griggs,
CONSULTING WITH CLASSROOM TEACHERS
School counselors need
to become skilled in consultation models and techniques, because they are
perceived by educational professionals as particularly knowledgeable in learning
theory and processes. The counselor is committed to humanizing educational
systems, enhancing the school climate, and providing for individual differences
to develop the potential and uniqueness of each student. Administrators and
curriculum specialists consult with counselors, because they are knowledgeable
concerning students' and parents' complaints about classes, teaching methods,
course requirements, and grading practices. The experienced counselor is able to
identify patterns in these complaints, e.g. teaching methods that are rigid,
monotonous or unchallenging; or teaching styles that accommodate a limited
number of learning styles, such as the use of lecture and discussion
Classrooms and curriculum strategies need to be redesigned to accommodate the
variety of learning style preferences of students.
School counselors across the nation have
implemented learning style approaches in counseling and consulting with
teachers, and they have reported positive changes in students' academic
achievement and attitudes toward school as a result (Griggs, 1991).
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of
Teaching. (1988). An imperiled generation: Saving urban schools. Princeton, NJ:
Curry, L. (1987). Integrating concepts of cognitive or learning style: A
review with attention to psychometric standards. Ottawa, ON: Canadian College of
Health Service Executives.
Dunn, R., & Dunn, K. (1978). Teaching students through their individual
learning styles: A practical approach. Reston, VA: Reston Publishing.
Dunn, R., Dunn, K., & Price, G. (1982). Manual: Productivity
environmental preference survey. Lawrence, KS: Price Systems.
Dunn, R., Dunn, K., & Price, G. (1985). Manual: Learning style inventory.
Lawrence, KS: Price Systems.
Griggs, S. A. (1991). Learning styles counseling. Ann Arbor, MI: ERIC
Counseling and Personnel Services Clearinghouse, The University of Michigan.
Keefe, J. W. (1979). Learning style: An overview. In NASSP's Student learning
styles: Diagnosing and prescribing programs (pp. 1-17). Reston, VA: National
Association of Secondary School Principals.
Keefe, J. W. (1989). Learning style profile handbook: Accommodating
perceptual, study and instructional preferences (Vol. II). Reston, VA: National
Association of Secondary School Principals.
Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of
learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Myers, I. (1978). Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting
National Commission on Excellence in Education. (1983). A nation at risk: The
imperative for educational reform. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing
Perrin, J. (1981). Primary version: Learning style inventory. Jamaica, NY:
Learning Style Network, St. John's University.
Reichmann, S. W., & Grasha, A. F. (1974). A rational approach to
developing and assessing the construct validity of a student learning style
scale instrument. Journal of Psychology, 87, 213-223.
Schmeck, R. R. (1983). Learning styles of college students. In R. Dillon
& R. Schmeck (Eds.), Individual differences in cognition (pp. 233-279). New
York: Academic Press.
Witkin, H. A. (1954). Personality through perception: An experimental and
clinical study. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.