1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Educational research has been engaged for some time in investigating the methods by which people learn, an area of great interest to those involved in higher education. Emerging from this was the concept of learning styles, of which there are several forms. Cognitive style (e.g. Riding & Cheema, 1991; Allinson & Hayes, 1996; Rayner & Riding, 1997) refers to how students approach cognitive tasks and ‘make sense of their world’ (Price, 2004), while learning preferences (e.g. Reichman & Grasha, 1974) refer to how students prefer to be taught. Learning approaches (e.g. Entwistle & Ramsden, 1983) involve how students adopt certain strategies (surface, deep, strategic) when studying, while information processing (learning style) (e.g. Kolb, 1984; Honey & Mumford, 1986) may be defined as how students characteristically approach different learning tasks. Some cross-culture research has revealed that certain ethnic groups have learmng styles that aredistinct fi-om those ofother ethnic groups (Dunn et al., 1990). Witkin and Berry (1975) found that the cultural background ofindividuals can influence learmng styles. While not all persons of a particular culture may leam in the same way, there are patterns in how members of different cultures leam more effectively (Flannery, 1991). Any variability in learning styles might be explained by other characteristics of the individual such as gender or academic major (Miller & Escolme, 1990). Dorsey and Pierson (1984) found that age and prior experience affect learning style more than did gender or ethnic background. Claxton and Murrel (1987) reported that students’ perceived knowledge of learning styles increased their academic success in college courses. Nelson et al (1993) found that knowledge of learning styles preferences increases college students’ achievement and reduces their dropout rate. Corlett (1992) found that, when students are taught in a manner consistent with their learning styles, they experience increased academic achievement, improve their attitudes toward learning and have a reduction in discipline problems Kirk (1986) reported that learning styles correlate with grade point average and parental education. However, age, gender, and college major/minor do not correlate significantly. According to Blank and James (1993), the rationale for assessing student learning styles is to be able to provide a learning environment that maximizes learning for each student by teaching to his or her strengths and avoiding weakness
A little research has been conducted on the relationship of intelligence, critical thinking and learning styles. Some of these have been presented below: Schmeck and Ribich (1978) reported that students who scored high on critical thinking, scored high on deep processing but low on methodical study. This exposed those high reflective thinking skills for the deep processors but low skills for methodical students. Review of Related Research 30 Stewart (1979) inquired into the difference. Hackman (1988) designed a study to determine whether differences exist between gifted and non-gifted students in their learning style preferences. Findings of the study revealed that significant learning style differences existed between gifted and non-gifted students. Gifted students, as opposed to their no gifted peers, expressed strong positive preferences for a cluster of self-directed instructional activities (independent study, discussion and teaching games) and strong negative preferences for several teacher-directed activities (lecture and programmed instruction) whereas on the other hand non-gifted students showed positive preferences for a cluster of teacher-directed activities (programmed instruction, lecture and teaching games) and milder preferences for instructional activities (projects and discussion). From this it may be inferred that intelligence has a relation with learning style. Verma and Tiku (1990) studied the
There is general acceptance that the manner in which individuals choose to or are inclined to approach a learning situation has an impact on performance and achievement of learning outcomes. Whilst- and perhaps because-learning style has been the focus of such a vast number of research and practitioner-based studies in the area, there exist a variety of definitions, theoretical propositions, models, interpretations and measures of the construct. As Keefe (1997) claims, the 3 biggest dilemma would be, ‗how can we improve the achievement of our students if we do not know how they learn? ‘How can we pretend any longer that we are serious about creating a learning society if we have no satisfactory responses to the questions: what model of learning do we operate with and how do we use to improve our practice and that of our students? There is a strong intuitive appeal in the idea that instructors, course designers and educational psychologists should pay closer attention to students ‘learning styles- by diagnosing them, by encouraging learners to reflect on them and by designing teaching and learning interventions around them. When this is done, learners will become more motivated to learn by knowing their strengths and weaknesses. In turn, instructors can respond to individuals ‘strengths and weaknesses, then retention and achievement rates in formal programs are likely to rise and ‗learning to learn ‘skills provide a foundation for lifelong learning. Sternberg (1997) proposed that styles are at least in part socialized suggesting that they can, to some extent, be modified. Therefore, learners‘ knowledge of their learning style preference can help them optimally develop their meta-cognition and learning skills and abilities thus maximizing learning (Sternberg, 1997). In summary, Sternberg (1997) believed that greater awareness of learning preferences and styles helps teachers to be more flexible in their teaching and to utilize a wide range of classroom methodologies. The aim is not to match teaching style to learner preferences, but to help the learner build their skills and capacities to learn well in both preferred and less preferred modes of learning (meta-learning), thus developing effective and life-long learners who can monitor their learning strategies and evaluate their outcomes or achievement. Although it has been found that students ‘learning styles do significantly influence their academic achievement, these findings are mostly based on research conducted in other countries 4 and vary depending on the country. According to Gokalp (2013), a country never stops to explore and develop its own methods of learning in order to respond to the demands particular to its environments (Yamazaki, 2005). For instance, Bennett (1993) summarizes that the learning styles of African Americans may be inconsistent with the teaching approaches applied in most schools. Hence it is pertinent that the relationship between learning styles and academic achievement be examined based on a country-context perspective (Bennett, 1993), and so is the purpose of this study. The findings of this research adds to the existing body of discourse and consolidates the belief that learning styles as determined by self-assessment instruments improve academic achievement, since the learner is able to discover his/her preferred way of knowledge acquisition and the learning process they employ in a learning situation especially in secondary school.