First-year medical students prefer multiple learning

styles
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Advan in Physiol Edu 30:13-16, 2006. doi:10.1152/advan.00045.2005
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Assessment of learning styles of undergraduate medical students using the VARK
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doi:10. 4. and Stephen E. depending on the neural system with which a learner prefers to receive information. and level of preparedness as well as learning preferences and styles. In contrast. knowledge transfer THE TRANSITION FROM UNDERGRADUATE to first-year medical education can be difficult for students because of the dramatic increase in the volume of content.2005.vark-learn. kinesthetic.—Students have preferences for the ways in which they receive information. student motivation and performance improves when instruction is adapted to student learning preferences and styles (22).Adv Physiol Educ 30: 13–16. We used the VARK Inventory Tool for assessing individual preferences for learning with sensory domains. kinesthetic (VARK) questionnaire identifies student’s preferences for particular modes of information presentation. We were interested in learning the preferred learning styles of our first-year medical students so that we could develop appropriate learning approaches. store. exploring material through discussions. Creation of Study Environment. aural. First-year medical students prefer multiple learning styles. and other image-rich teaching tools. the VARK questionnaire is freeware that can be completed online. The VARK questionnaire developed by Fleming identifies the preferences of students for particular modes of information presentation. Wayne State University School of Medicine. experience. medical education. The class consisted of 250 first-year medical students.com/english/index.00 Copyright © 2006 The American Physiological Society 13 Downloaded from on January 24. Heidi L. and 3) motivate teachers to move from their preferred mode(s) to using others.2005. 2006. because students have significantly different learning styles.4%)] of information presentation. whereas kinesthetic learners learn through touching and experiences that emphasize doing. How We Learn First-year medical students prefer multiple learning styles Heidi L. auditory. it is the responsibility of the instructor to address this diversity of learning styles among students and develop appropriate learning approaches (33).1152/advan.1152/advan. was administered to our first-year medical students. DiCarlo.1% preferred using all their senses (kinesthetics: learning from touch. or WebCT.8% preferred auditory (learning from speech). Dept. Fleming (11) expanded VAK to VARK to include reading/writing as an additional type of mixed sensory learning modality. and 166 of 250 students (66%) returned the completed questionnaire. Sometimes these types of studies are called hypothesis-generating studies (to contrast them with hypothesis-testing studies). The VARK questionnaire with instructions can be obtained free of charge (12).1% of the students preferred a single mode of information presentation. Recently. Procedures. The VARK questionnaire was administered during the respiratory component of our medical physiology class at Wayne State University School of Medicine. smell. If you are using a virtual learning environment. This diversity is welcomed. it also presents a challenge for instructors to meet the educational needs of all students. Michigan Submitted 29 July 2005. Knowing the students preferred modes can 1) help provide instruction tailored to the student’s individual preference. Adv Physiol Educ 30: 13–16.edu). DiCarlo Department of Physiology.. process. Specifically. We administered the VARK questionnaire to our first-year medical students to determine their preferred modes of information presentation. and talking through ideas. 166 of the 250 students (66%) returned the completed questionnaire. 2006. Detroit. and flow diagrams). 7. today’s medical students represent a broad spectrum in terms of age. Auditory learners learn by listening to lectures. a study that attempted to reveal patterns associated with a specific group without an emphasis on prespecified hypotheses. doi:10. of Physiology. Thus. eCollege. learners most efficiently and most effectively perceive. 3 modes (32. The rational for this descriptive study was to help us design a lesson plan that addressed all students and to identify areas for further research. The visual. however. and 18. We administered the VARK questionnaire to our first-year medical students. METHODS Design. read/write. Thus VAK is a perceptual. We administered the questionnaire as a hard copy. charts. most students (63. hearing. and kinesthetic. the administration and analysis of the questionnaire can be completely managed on the virtual learning environment. auditory. we designed a descriptive study.8% preferred printed words (learning from reading and writing).4% preferred visual (learning from graphs. and recall what they are attempting to learn (16). 2015 Lujan. The VARK questionnaire (12) was included with the class packet for the physiology course. and manipulation of objects. the Blackboard Learning System. Wayne State Univ.vark-learn. Only 36. School of Medicine.asp?p⫽questionnaire). and sight). or 4 modes (43. one mode is often dominant and preferred. Among these students. taste. Furthermore. 1043-4046/06 $8. A learning style or preference is the complex manner in which. accepted in final form 10 October 2005 visual. To achieve this goal. VAK is an acronym that stands for three major sensory modes of learning: visual. instructional preference model that categorizes learning Address for reprint requests and other correspondence: S. MI 48201 (e-mail: sdicarlo@med.8%) preferred multiple modes [2 modes (24. reading/writing. The VARK questionnaire. learning modes.wayne. The following are internet links to the VARK homepage (http://www.com/english/ page. . by sensory preferences. and conditions under which. e. DiCarlo. E. asp) and questionnaire (http://www. pictures.00045. visual learners learn through seeing drawings. culture. physical involvement.00045. One characterization of learning styles is to define the learners’ preferred mode of learning in terms of the sensory modality by which they prefer to take in new information. ethnicity. For example. 5.5%). Although learners can use all of these sensory modes of learning. however. Lujan and Stephen E. 2) overcome the predisposition to treat all students in a similar way.1%). developed by Fleming (12). Reading/writing learners learn through interaction with textual materials.g.. Detroit.

4%).8% of all students) who preferred multiple modes of information presentation. and K (12.4%). and multiple modes (63. Only 36. reading/writing. . and K (11. auditory. Figure 2 presents the percentages of students who preferred two. some students preferred V and K (5. and some students preferred four modes (quadmodal. including In this study. Fig.1 % of the students preferred a single mode of information presentation (either V. R. kinesthetic (18. Eighteen percent of the students preferred their learning by using all their senses. Percentages of students who preferred two. A.9%). Only 36. some students preferred V.4%). reading/writing (7. RESULTS DISCUSSION Fig. some students preferred two modes (bimodal. kinesthetic (K. some students preferred visual and auditory (0. and some students preferred auditory.How We Learn 14 VARK STYLES OF LEARNING Analysis. reading/writing (R. and K (8.8% of all students) who preferred multiple modes of information presentation. R. Of the students who preferred two modes of information presentation.3%).6%) (Fig. some students preferred visual and kinesthetic (5.1% of the students preferred a single mode of information presentation (either visual. only 8% revealed a preference for accessing information from printed words. Advances in Physiology Education • VOL 30 • MARCH 2006 Downloaded from on January 24.6%).6%). Of the students who preferred two modes of information presentation. and K (43. Only 36.1 % of the students preferred a single mode of information presentation (either visual. Of the students who preferred three modes of information presentation. Of the 106 students (63. One hundred sixty-six of the 250 students (66%) returned the completed questionnaire. of the students who preferred four modes of information presentation. reading/writing. which arrives to the learner’s ear and is therefore coded as auditory by the questionnaire. some students preferred visual and reading/writing (4. three.8%). 4. some students preferred V and R (4.7%). auditory. Percentages of students who preferred visual (V.6%).8%) of information presentation.6%). 32. all students preferred visual. some students preferred three modes (trimodal. and kinesthetic (11. 2. 43.4%). 3. Obviously.5%). 3). some students preferred A and R (6. and kinesthetic (43. The number of students who preferred each mode of learning was divided by the total number of responses to determine the percentage of students in each category.8%). A. some students preferred three modes (trimodal.1%). auditory (A.4%). or four modes of information presentation. Only 5% of the students preferred the visual. and flow diagrams. Most students preferred three or four modes (76%) of information presentation.3%).8%). three. 24. They are sensitive to different or changing spatial arrangements and can work easily with symbols. or kinesthetic). some students preferred visual. and multiple modes (63. reading/writing. charts. some students preferred visual.1%). and some students preferred reading/writing and kinesthetic (6. and kinesthetic (8. 7. some students preferred V.1%). These students prefer information to arrive in the form of graphs. only 5% of the students preferred receiving information by speech.4%). 5.3 %) (Fig.9 %). Obviously.4%). 24. and some students preferred R and K (6. 43.6%).4%).8%). Most students preferred three or four modes (76%) of information presentation. some students preferred auditory and reading/writing (6.8 %) of information presentation. reading/writing. all students preferred V. Fig. of the students who preferred four modes of information presentation. and some students preferred four modes (quadmodal.3%). auditory (4. or four modes of information presentation. these students were coded as reading/writing learners because they use reading and writing as their preference for taking in information. 32. and some students preferred A.7%). or kinesthetic). Similarly. A. Of the 106 students (63. 1.1%). auditory. some students preferred two modes (bimodal. or K). and kinesthetic (12. we administered the VARK questionnaire to our first-year medical students to determine their preferred modes of information presentation. auditory. 3). some students preferred V and A (0. Of the students who preferred three modes of information presentation. 18.5%). reading/writing. R. R. 2015 Figure 1 presents the percentages of students who preferred visual (5. Of the students who preferred a single mode of information presentation.

Collins HL. Rodenbaugh DW. smell. Students have significantly different learning styles. Forrest S. 1999. the VARK questionnaire identifies student’s preferences for particular modes of information presentation. role playing. visual learners are targeted by the presence of models and demonstrations (4. 2015 touch. should one mode be used more than another? How well do grades correlate with learning styles for specific classes. These students had a balanced set of preferences. Construction of a model demonstrating neural pathways and reflex arcs. To achieve this goal. Cooperative learning exercises. however. Computer-aided DSM-IV-diagnostics–acceptance. they can easily learn conceptual and abstract material provided it arrives with suitable analogies. Modes of presentation (VARK) in the tertiary classroom. Collins HL. The questionnaire can motivate teachers to move from their preferred mode(s) to using others. In conclusion. auditory. and DiCarlo SE. 12. the traditional lecture format assumes that all students acquire the same information presented orally at the same pace without dialogue with the presenter. 10. Adv Physiol Educ 27: 102–108. In contrast. Adv Physiol Educ 21: 1–18. debate (31). 25. To meet these needs. However. These students may adjust to the different teaching styles faced in a day or they may opt in and out of alternative strategies. 8. 2001. These activities also promote working in groups and generate high levels of motivation and enthusiasm. Most students (64%). hearing. Fleming ND. Does accommodating learning preference really address learning outcomes? All of these questions merit further research. 3. Howard MG.com/english/page. Adv Physiol Educ 277: 15–28. 11. and sight. 14. 24). 23. 2003. Murphy TP. Collins HL. 2005. they can reach more students because of the better match between teacher and learner styles (1. Cortright RN. such as being visual in cardiovascular physiology and reading/writing in respiratory physiology. which means they prefer information to arrive in a variety of modes. the traditional lecture format assumes that all students are auditory learners. Rodenbaugh DW. 1998. Bailey CM. do multiple-mode learners perform better in the classroom than single-mode learners? From the instructor perspective. 30. Collins HL. and DiCarlo SE.] 13. it is the responsibility of the instructor to address this diversity of learning styles among the students and develop appropriate learning approaches (33). Fleming ND. Adv Physiol Educ 25: 143. Educational Resources Information Center ED 424 287. or metaphors (11). 18 –20. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak 5: 1. 15. Proceedings of the 1995 Annual Conference of the Higher Education and Research Development Society of Australasia 18: 308 –313. How can physicians’ learning styles drive educational planning? Acad Med 80: 680 – 684. With active learning strategies. 3. 2004. taste. Pisegna JM. collaborative testing (8. This is important because employment opportunities in the future will require employees to work cooperatively to solve problems and develop solutions. investigators have reported an increase in students’ achievement with the use of simulations and games. Bergman LG and Fors UG. vark-learn. not dumb. and answering questions (9). and kinesthetic activities. I’m different. The rationale for this descriptive study was to help us design a lesson plan that addresses all students and to identify areas for further research. Colored letters: a tool to increase class participation in a large classroom. Gordon HRD. 1991. 1995. auditory. DiCarlo SE. 2004. 2005. NJ: Prentice Hall. [On-line: http://www.asp?p⫽questionnaire. teaching should be multisensory and filled with variety. VARK. Thus most students may benefit from active learning strategies over the traditional lecture format. use and perceived usefulness in relation to users’ learning styles. games (2. simulations. In so doing. and DiCarlo SE. 9. Auditory learners are reached through discussion during peer instruction (7. 1999. Adv Physiol Educ 271: 14 – 42. Cortright RN. 29). 14. active learning strategies may be superior to the traditional lecture format in promoting thinking. Adv Physiol Educ 26: 30 –37. e. multisensory experiences in their learning. A Guide to Learning Styles. Hsu CT. In addition. This group was described as kinesthetic. 15 . Most students (64%) preferred multiple modes of information presentation. reading/writing. For example. 27). Collins J. 2005. Manipulating models (4. edited by Zelmer A. Educational puzzles for understanding gastrointestinal physiology. this helps to overcome the predisposition of many educators to treat all students in a similar way (11). 6. for example. These students prefer concrete. it becomes important to use active learning strategies (28). Although learning by doing matches their needs. 32) and role playing (17) satisfies kinesthetic and tactile learners. models. and DiCarlo SE. J Contin Educ Nurs 35: 74 –79. Peer instruction enhanced meaningful learning: ability to solve novel problems. These students had a balanced set of preferences. and DiCarlo SE. and decision-making skills. Identifying learning styles. Student retention of course content is improved by collaborative-group testing. Layshock JP. and DiCarlo SE. Knowing the students’ preferred modes can enrich the learning experience. 15. 1998. “Survivor” torches “Who Wants to be a Physician?” in the educational games ratings war. Furthermore. Kullics JM. and Rosian RL. reading/writing. 2002. Learning and teaching: the reciprocal link. Education techniques for lifelong learning: principles of adult learning. In: Research and Development in Higher Education. 6. 22. Armstrong E and Parsa-Parsi R. Most students are able to learn effectively as long as the teacher provides a blend of visual. REFERENCES 1. some students prefer one of the modalities over the other three so strongly that they struggle to understand the subject matter unless special care is taken to present it in their preference mode. Chan V. 5. 26). Adv Physiol Educ 29: 107–111.How We Learn VARK STYLES OF LEARNING Future directions. and students usually expressed positive feeling about the experiences (35). An inquiry-based teaching tool for understanding arterial blood pressure regulation and cardiovascular function. With regard to future research. problem-solving. DiCarlo SE and Collins HL. 4. and kinesthetic schemes. For all these reasons. several questions regarding learning styles emerged from this study. 13. 7. Radiographics 24: 1483–1489.. reasoning. Sipe E. 34). Rosian RR. 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