A Comparison of Learning Styles Across the Decades

Tressa F. Eubank, OD, FAAO, FCOVD
Jill Pitts, OD


Purpose: To determine whether “Millennial” students’ approach to learning in our Southern College of Optometry (SCO) curriculum is different from a previous class of optometric students classified as Generation Xers. Methods: The 1976 format of the Kolb LSI Learning Style Inventory was placed on the intranet. Students currently enrolled in all four years of the SCO optometric curriculum were invited to voluntarily complete the survey. The primary investigators determined which category of learner the students were based on the survey answers. These findings were compared to the research done in 1993 using the graduated Class of 1994. Results: There were 167 respondents, 90 females and 77 males. They completed the 12-question survey, identifying which learning statement was most like them. Upon review of the data, a demonstrable shift in learning styles between the class surveyed in 1993 and that of 2010 was found. Given that the data are categorical, a nonparametric test was used. A chi-square test showed that the distribution of learning styles is different (p<0.00001). In 1993, SCO’s Gen-X learners were primarily comprised of two major categories, Assimilators (45.3%) and Convergers (37.2%). Divergers accounted for 12.7% of responses, with very few Accommodators (4.6%) found. The 2010 data revealed a fairly even distribution between Assimilators (28.1%) and Divergers (26.3%), followed by Accommodators (20.9%) and Convergers (16.7%), while 7.7% students were placed into the Mixed category as they did not demonstrate a strong preference for any individual learning style.The data revealed a significant decrease (45%) in the percentage of students who are classified as Convergers and a 62% decrease in those who are classified as Assimilators.It also revealed a significant increase (200%) in the number of students classified as Divergers. The greatest change (450%) was found in those students who were classified as Accommodators. Conclusions: The data revealed a significant drop in the percentage of students who prefer to learn through abstract conceptualization. It also revealed a significant increase in those students who prefer to rely on concrete experience, their own imagination and intuition when learning. The greatest change found was the number of students who prefer to combine concrete experience and active experimentation to learn and solve problems using their own intuition.

Key Words: Teaching, educational assessment

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