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Controversial issues about the relationship between intellectual styles and academic achievement
时间:2011-5-4 下午 10:17:08,点击:0

Even though some relevant issues about the relationship of intellectual styles with achievement have been well addressed, some important issues for further explorations include the connections of style match/mismatch, style awareness, and utilities of styles in different learning environments with students’ academic achievement. Adequate research on them might enhance our understanding about the work of intellectual styles on learning performance.

Style match/mismatch between students’ and teachers’ styles and academic achievement

Empirical studies have actually produced a paradox on the issue of the influences of style matching/mismatching on academic achievement. Some empirical results have revealed the importance of style matching between teachers and students in students’ learning performance. The relevant supporting evidence was mainly related to Witkin’s (1962) FDI styles (e.g., Paradise & Block, 1984) and other styles based on other models (e.g., Gregorc’s mind style). For instance, meta-analyses on the studies in FDI model, done by Garlinger and Frank (1986) argued that field-independent students showed greater achievement when matched with similar teachers. It has also been reported that learning style matching may have a positive impact on student achievement. Teachers even tend to positively estimate those students whose styles match those of the teachers (Sternberg & Grigorenko, 1995). Saracho’s (2001) study provided evidence for this view, reporting that field-dependent (FD) students rated teachers with FD characteristics higher than teachers with field-independent (FI) characteristics; meanwhile, FD students preferred FD teachers, and FI students preferred FI teachers.

However, a number of investigations have found little impact of style matching on students’ achievement levels, based on different style constructs, such as cognitive styles and learning styles (e.g., Riding & Cheema, 1991; Thomas, 2001; Tomes, 2005). Kavale and Forness (1987) reviewed 39 studies and found that matching children by cognitive styles had nearly no effects on achievement. Meanwhile, some experiments on cognitive-style matching have failed to find the proposed matches. For instance, Tomes (2005) found that style match between a professor and students according to Gregorc’s (1979) mind styles did not affect students’ learning performance. Particularly, in computer-based training programs, Smutz (2003) found no significant difference between those participants whose learning styles were matched and those whose learning styles were mismatched. Accordingly, some researchers (e.g., Rayner & Riding, 1997) have criticized style-matching research for overemphasizing teachers’ matching their styles to their individual students and for unreasonably thinking that a good instructor should try to know his or her students’ internal traits so that individuals can reach their potential.

Style awareness and its influences on academic achievement

Style awareness in the learning process refers to self-recognition and identification of one’s own intellectual styles, and goal-directed application of style strategies in learning (Hacker, 1998). Theoretically, the significance of an awareness of style has its potential for enhancing and improving learning performance in a variety of learning contexts. By investigating the effects of learning-style strategies applied to mathematics homework and studying, Cook (1990) identified the relationships between learning-style awareness and responsive study strategies. Fourier (1983) indicated that disclosure of cognitive style map information has an important beneficial effect on academic achievement. Awareness of intellectual styles has been found to relate positively to achievement because the awareness of different styles can help students become more “in tune with how they usually approach their learning tasks and help them identify their preferred, as well as their non-preferred learning styles” (Zhang & Sternberg, 2000, p. 479). In general, these findings support the claim that there are significant relationships between learning style awareness and academic achievement.

However, some results did not support the effect of style awareness on academic achievement. For example, Ehrhard (2000) reported that those students who knew their learning-style preferences and were assisted with study strategies did not academically outperform those students who did not know their preferences. Within an instructional hypermedia module, Fyle (2010) even found that both field-dependent and field-independent students with style awareness achieved higher scores on the multiple-choice test than their counterparts who received no style awareness; he also found, however, that there was no effect of style awareness on performance on a design task. Therefore, as one of the issues related to meta-cognition, style awareness should be further investigated with more well-designed studies.

Comparison of the effects of styles on academic achievements between traditional and non-traditional environments

Since the 1980s, with the rapid development of computer and internet, people have begun to think about computers and the Web (e.g., Intranet, World Wide Web) as learning tools that students learn with, not from. In consideration of some theoretically-claimed advantages (e.g., instant interaction between teacher and students) over traditional learning (Nielsen, 1995), some authors (e.g., Large, 1996) have argued that various non-traditional learning environments are multiple-style-like and adaptive to different learners with different learning styles. Given the significant influences of intellectual styles on academic achievement, could these “all-style” learning conditions provide more effective environment for the contributions of intellectual styles to academic achievements?

As reviewed above, some individual studies simply examined the relationships between intellectual styles and academic achievement under different types of non-traditional environments, but generated very inconsistent results by using different style constructs, such as Witkin’s (1962) FDI styles, Kolb’s (1976) learning styles, and Gregorc’s (1979) mind styles (e.g., Ku & Soulier, 2009;Liu & Reed, 1994). Some other empirical studies (e.g., Atkinson, 2004; Cicco, 2008; Fan et al., 2010; Musgrove, 2002) have been conducted comparing the relationship between intellectual styles and academic achievement in traditional and non-traditional environments; however, the results were controversial as well. For example, Fan (2008) longitudinally investigated the contributions of Sternberg’s (1997) thinking style model in predicting academic achievement in hypermedia-based and traditional learning environments. In his study, even though the relationships between thinking styles and academic achievement were supported in both types of learning environments, the study did not support that the non-traditional learning environment possess obvious advantages over the traditional environment in using particular styles for improving students’ learning performance (Fan, 2008).

This might suggest that not all learning styles are suitable for non-traditional learning environments. Or rather, those proposed advantages in non-traditional learning environments over traditional conditions have yet to be empirically demonstrated (Moore, 1994). Many authors have suggested that the associations between intellectual styles and academic achievement are not better supported in those nontraditional environments over than those in traditional conditions (e.g., Dillon & Gabbard, 1998). In other words, those non-traditional learning environments are no more effective than traditional methods in the use of intellectual styles in terms of producing better academic achievement To sum up, as in the traditional situations, even though the significant connections between styles and academic achievement were supported, the inconsistent findings in the relationship still needs to be further examined; what’s more, the non-traditional environments did not show obvious advantages over the traditional environments in influencing the relationship between intellectual styles and learning performance.

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From Weiqiao Fan & Yunfeng He (2011). Intellectual Styles and Academic Achievement. In Zhang, L. F., Sternberg, R. J., & Rayner, S. (Eds.) (2011). Handbook of Intellectual Styles: Preferences in Cognition, Learning, and Thinking. Springer Publishing Company: New York.

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