Learning and teaching style

Friday, September 01, 2006

Individual Differences in Learning Styles

Gender differences

Montgomery found that women engineering students were more geared to an active learning mode than their male counterparts by a margin of 7% (72% to 65%); and Groat found that women architecture students showed a similar tendency by a margin of 17% (67% to 50%).

There is also some evidence that male and female students are differentially attuned to the four different learning styles identified by Kolb. Researchers have found that in a sample of adults (across a wide range in age and ethnicity), nearly half of the male respondents (48%) preferred the assimilator (abstract/reflective) mode, whereas only 20% of the women did (Philbin et al, 1995). Not only were the women's responses more evenly distributed across the four styles, the women's predominant modes were diverger (concrete/reflective) and converger (abstract/active).

Another potential area of interest relates to the Thinking/ Feeling dimension of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the only dimension which demonstrates a consistent gender difference. About two-thirds of women have profiles in which feeling predominates, while two-thirds of men have profiles in which thinking predominates (Kroeger & Thuesen, 1988). This could pose problems for students in particular gender-dominated disciplines. For example, women students taking courses in male-dominated fields are more likely to find a logical, objective emphasis alienating; and similarly male students taking courses in other disciplines may be more likely to object to what they see as an over-emphasis on subjective interpretations and personal relationships.


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