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).