Designing computer software that takes account of individual learning styles

Lyall, Richard Keith (1995) Designing computer software that takes account of individual learning styles. MSc(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

In this study, an attempt was made to characterise the link between students' learning styles and the way they choose to work through a piece of computer-assisted learning material. It was decided to focus on one aspect of learning style, namely learning motivation: a psychological characteristic possessed by every student that has much influence on the way they prefer to learn. Motivation was an obvious choice, since it is easy to devise a model to describe the way in which the different motivational types map on to styles of working through a teaching program. The model predicts that conscientious and achiever students prefer a type of teaching material that has a strong element of teacher control, whereas the more curious students will prefer an environment that offers more freedom. It is more difficult to predict what preference will be expressed by the socially motivated students in this regard. To test this model, a group of twenty-five students, mostly undergraduates, worked through a piece of computer-assisted learning (CAL) material that offered them a choice of working modes - one more structured, and the other allowing complete freedom of movement. In the background, the computer kept a log of all activity as the student worked through. The log data was refined to extract information about the route taken and the level of involvement in the various activities offered by the program. In addition, each student's learning style was measured using a questionnaire. In order to evaluate the model, correlation was looked for between each student's learning style and the way they used the program. The data strongly suggest that learning style does have some effect on the way people chose to work through the program. Almost without exception, the conscientious students worked through the program in the suggested order using the more structured working mode and showed little sign of departure from it. By contrast, those with curious tendencies tended to choose the more open working mode and adopted a more exploratory working style. Thus, although the sample size was relatively small, it would appear that the results support the basic model, though it is also clear that the exact nature of the linkage is quite complex. Although unanticipated, it seems that a second conclusion could be drawn from the data. A significant difference is also visible between the undergraduates and non-undergraduates in the group with regard to learning and working styles. There seems to be little variation in working and learning styles amongst the undergraduates. It is hypothesised that other factors may be masking the real learning styles of the undergraduates causing them to work in a very conscientious fashion. There is much scope for further study in this unexplored area of research. The link between learning style, both in terms of motivation and other factors, and preferred working style needs to be clarified further, so that CAL material can be designed to cater for the learning needs of individual students and so enhance the effectiveness of their learning.

Item Type: Thesis (MSc(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Adviser: Alex Johnstone
Keywords: Educational technology
Date of Award: 1995
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1995-71676
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 May 2019 09:31
Last Modified: 17 May 2019 09:31
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/71676

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