Another nail in the coffin for learning styles? Disparities among undergraduate anatomy students' study strategies, class performance, and reported VARK learning styles

Polly R. Husmann, Valerie O'Loughlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The concept and existence of learning styles has been fraught with controversy, and recent studies have thrown their existence into doubt. Yet, many students still hold to the conventional wisdom that learning styles are legitimate, and may adapt their outside of class study strategies to match these learning styles. Thus, this study aims to assess if undergraduate anatomy students are more likely to utilize study strategies that align with their hypothetical learning styles (using the VARK analysis from Fleming and Mills, Improve Acad. 11:137-155) and, if so, does this alignment correlate with their outcome in an anatomy course. Relatedly, this study examines whether students' VARK learning styles are correlated with course outcomes regardless of the students' study strategies, and whether any study strategies are correlated with course outcomes, regardless of student-specific VARK results. A total of 426 anatomy students from the 2015 and 2016 Fall semesters completed a study strategies survey and an online VARK questionnaire. Results demonstrated that most students did not report study strategies that correlated with their VARK assessment, and that student performance in anatomy was not correlated with their score in any VARK categories. Rather, some specific study strategies (irrespective of VARK results), such as use of the virtual microscope, were found to be positively correlated with final class grade. However, the alignment of these study strategies with VARK results had no correlation with anatomy course outcomes. Thus, this research provides further evidence that the conventional wisdom about learning styles should be rejected by educators and students alike.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAnatomical Sciences Education
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018

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Anatomy
Learning
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Research

Keywords

  • Active learning
  • Desirable difficulty
  • Flashcards
  • Learning preference
  • Learning styles
  • Retrieval
  • Study strategies
  • VARK
  • Virtual microscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Embryology

Cite this

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abstract = "The concept and existence of learning styles has been fraught with controversy, and recent studies have thrown their existence into doubt. Yet, many students still hold to the conventional wisdom that learning styles are legitimate, and may adapt their outside of class study strategies to match these learning styles. Thus, this study aims to assess if undergraduate anatomy students are more likely to utilize study strategies that align with their hypothetical learning styles (using the VARK analysis from Fleming and Mills, Improve Acad. 11:137-155) and, if so, does this alignment correlate with their outcome in an anatomy course. Relatedly, this study examines whether students' VARK learning styles are correlated with course outcomes regardless of the students' study strategies, and whether any study strategies are correlated with course outcomes, regardless of student-specific VARK results. A total of 426 anatomy students from the 2015 and 2016 Fall semesters completed a study strategies survey and an online VARK questionnaire. Results demonstrated that most students did not report study strategies that correlated with their VARK assessment, and that student performance in anatomy was not correlated with their score in any VARK categories. Rather, some specific study strategies (irrespective of VARK results), such as use of the virtual microscope, were found to be positively correlated with final class grade. However, the alignment of these study strategies with VARK results had no correlation with anatomy course outcomes. Thus, this research provides further evidence that the conventional wisdom about learning styles should be rejected by educators and students alike.",
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