The implications of the research literature on learning styles for the design of instructional material
AbstractAn enduring question for educational research is the effect of individual differences on the efficacy of learning. Aspects of individual differences that have been much explored relate to differences in learning styles, strategies and conceptions of learning. Such differences present a profound challenge for instructional designers, as research has shown that the quality of learning material is enhanced if the material is designed to take into account learners' individual learning styles (Rasmussen, 1998; Riding & Grimley, 1999). In the context of the present research, learning style is taken to mean a consistent or habitual of mode of acquiring or imparting knowledge through study, experience or teaching (Beishuizen & Stoutjesdijk, 1999). The purpose of this article is to propose ways in which individual differences can be accommodated when designing self-instructional learning materials in print for distance learners. It is advocated that instructional designers turn to research on learning styles to inform the design of adaptive learning material. Kolb's (1984) learning cycle and associated learning styles are described with a view to providing instructional design guidelines which accommodate (i) each stage of the learning cycle (ii) individual differences between learners in processing and presenting information. Examples of learning activities for each stage of the learning cycle are provided from a tertiary bridging course for adult learners. It is recommended that in designing for a diverse student body, the research literature on learning styles can provide insights that have the potential to improve instructional design.
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