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European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 3 (2009)

Perceptual Learning Styles of ESL Students


Almasa Mulalic Faculty of Education, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 UKM Bangi, Malaysia Parilah Mohd Shah Faculty of Education, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 UKM Bangi, Malaysia E-mail: parila@ukm.my Tel: (+603) 8921 6243; Fax: (+603) 8925 4372 Fauziah Ahmad School of Media and Communication Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 UKM Bangi, Malaysia E-mail: zuhair@ukm.my Tel: (+603) 8921 4387; Fax: (+603) 8921 3542 Abstract This paper explores a spectrum of problems and challenges related to Perceptual Learning Style (PLS) of students in English as Second Language Situation (ESL) in Malaysia. Many researchers have created numerous awareness regarding students learning styles (Felder, 1995; Felder and Silverman 1988; Oxford et al. 1991). This paper aims to analyze both learning styles (LS) and the possible implications and consequences of determining students PLS. Students learning styles have been ignored and have been considered as an insignificant component in the learning process. Lecturers are not aware of their own learning styles and that their learning style preferences may differ from their students learning style preferences. Since little attention has been paid to how learners learn and how teachers teach in many institutions, this research attempts to determine the learning styles of the students, and the differences in learning styles of the students according to their gender and ethnicity. Results revealed that the students preferred learning style was Kinesthetic. They expressed minor preference for Visual, Auditory and Group Learning, while on the other hand students expressed negative preference towards Individual and Tactile Learning Styles.

Keywords: Learning style, Learning Preferences, Students, Lecturers, Learning Styles Inventory, ESL

1. Introduction
The contemporary practices in the education are very often idealized from the administrative and pedagogical perspective. However, when one looks deeply into the teaching practices of the lecturers, it is possible to infer that the majority of the lecturers are not aware of their students learning styles. The problems arise when lecturers are unaware of the importance to establish and identify learning styles, and, therefore, when such attitude persists unanticipated consequences are to be expected. Students learning styles have been ignored and have been considered as an insignificant component in the learning process. Rita Dunn (1993) holds that teachers cannot identify students styles without using a multidimensional instrument. Without evaluation, even experienced teachers may misinterpret 101

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 3 (2009) students behaviors such as hyperactivity or inattentiveness. Hence, the need to assess the learning styles of students becomes obvious in order to accommodate different learners. Learning language is among the most challenging life long pursuits one has to undertake. Such lifelong learning process, obviously, involves the professional and educational guidance and, as well as, personal systematic, conscious and mindful engagements in English as a Second Language (ESL). Therefore, the personal reflection on how one acquires language, could serve as a key to an academic mastering of the native tongue, and the learning of the second language. This study, consequently, is driven by the curiosity of the researcher to identify students perceptual learning styles (PLS) and to find out their role in ESL.

Perceptual Learning Styles (LS) of ESL Students Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience (Kolb, 1984: 38). Learning is affected by LS whereas in the case of students who are able to employ multiply learning styles learning outcome is higher (Felder 1995; Reid 1987; Claxton and Murell 1985; Elison 1995). Since the learning styles play crucial role in the learning process, educators should not neglect the problem of addressing it. Once lecturers become aware that different students learn differently they will determine students LS and accommodate them. According to Felder (1996), how much students learn in the class is determined partially by the students ability and prior preparation, and the capability of his or her learning style and the lecturers teaching style. Many researchers have stated that effective teaching is the main predictor of students success. In the past, most educators were advocating that students, not teachers, are the central factors in academic success and many would argue teachers play great role in students academic performance. In her article School reform at the crossroads: Confronting central issue of teaching Darling-Hammond (1997) argues teacher education program must be redesigned to prepare teachers to provide diverse learners with different teaching strategies. Lecturers are not aware of their own learning styles and that their learning style preferences may differ from their students learning style preferences. The teachers also cannot assess learning styles of the students without administering proper learning styles inventory. Since very little attention has been paid to how learners learn and how teachers teach in many institutions the main problem this research attempts to answer is the importance of determining the learning styles of the students, and differences in learning styles of the students regarding their gender and ethnicity. It is to determine the Perceptual Learning Style (PLS) of ESL students. It also aims to analyze differences in learning styles regarding students demographic factors such as gender and race. The research is conducted in order to add to the body of existing knowledge on learning styles and its importance for the students as well as for the lecturers. Therefore, this research will shed some light and provide meaningful suggestions for overcoming the problems that may arise regarding the learning styles of students and how to accommodate different learners in ESL classroom. To realize the importance in determining students learning style, and try to accommodate those learning styles in the classrooms, students should complete a learning style instrument early in the course. This would enable students to realize theirs as well as others learning style preferences. Instructors should be aware that different students learn differently, which would make them aware that they have to approach teaching from different perspectives. Nelson et.al. (1993) concluded in their research that students who completed learning styles inventories at the beginning of the course achieved better at the end, and those students who were participating in learning style workshops persisted in the universities in larger percentages than those who did not participated in the workshops. Teaching and learning styles should become one of the greatest interests of the educators, particularly their relationship. However, one of the weaknesses of the research into LS is the lack of the investigation into the matching teaching and learning styles. Theoretically, many variables exist in the educational literature but few researches dealt with the matching teaching and learning styles. Peacock 102

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 3 (2009) (2001) is one of the significant and influential researchers who investigated matching teaching and learning in the real setting. He concluded that serious mismatches exist between LS of the students and teaching styles of the lecturers. To match teaching and learning in the classroom means that instructors should try to accommodate different learning styles of the students. Some researchers investigated teachers as well as administrators in the schools, as the two are closely related, interdependent, and at large influence students success. Adaptability to different learning styles plays a key role in students academic achievement. Educators who investigated the teaching styles of the lecturers affirmed that teachers could influence students achievement by using different ways of presenting the information. Such studies have indicated the need to match the teaching styles of the lecturers and the learning styles of students in order to increase competency of teaching and learning. Administrative personnel, who often may not be eligible to assess the teaching methodology and suggest remedies, mostly monitor the teaching practice and evaluation of the majority of the lecturers. Such evaluation and remedies do not necessarily parallel with the actual and usual teaching practice of the teachers because in order to fulfill the expectations teachers tend to shift from their natural learning practices to those what the administration in the schools expects them to do. Teaching and learning are active processes and go hand in hand with each other Teachers and learners are interdependent on each other. Once this is realized teachers would be able to enhance their effectiveness and enable students to achieve their full potential (Forest, 2004). Investigation into the teaching styles asserts that mismatch between teaching and learning are continuous, and that this hugely influence students attitudes and motivation. Many teachers expressed preferences for traditional role teaching, and lecturing while most of the students preferred tactile and kinesthetic learning

2. Theoretical Framework
The area of LS is very complex and fragmented matter for the researchers have written on this topic and investigated different aspects of learning styles. Some elements of learning styles appear in the research literature as early as 1900s. The investigation into the LS is rooted in the theories of learning styles such as behavioral, cognitive and constructivist. Behavioral theory, whose main proponent is Skinner (1980), deals with the observable changes in behavior and reinforcement of such desired behaviors. According to this theory, students are able to learn best by being rewarded at the right responses. Such responses, in the educational literature are known as operant conditioning. This theory advocates students learning process through replication of certain learning behavioral patterns based on tangible rewards or punishments. These rewards can be associated, for instance, with merit marks, various forms of academic approvals and special privileges. According to this theory, the educators should emphasize on high-level positive reinforcement in the class and use of materials that are high in structure through which students can work gradually towards better educational achievement. Since behavioral theory emphasizes on behavior and neglects to a certain extent, cognitive aspects of learning, psychologists began to emphasize more on cognition rather than on behavior. Cognitive theory of learning, as a novelty, originated by Jean Piaget (1971), is based on the assumption that information should be acquired and retained for use in the future if learning is to become learnerconstructed, relevant and built upon prior knowledge. Cognitive learning is often organized in chunks and is built-in the memory of the learner, enabling learners to use such information in the future. Cognitive models give learners control by introducing conceptual framework and relying on the learner to build connections. Piaget describes knowledge by emphasizing the concepts of assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is the process by which the learner incorporates the logic of his/her own development and existing understanding or interpretative category into the meaningful whole. Accommodation refers to the process by which human beings adapt their developing understanding and expectations to the realities and constrains of the social and physical world in order to arrive at 103

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 3 (2009) better understanding and explanations (Miller, 1993). Educators, in this regard, must actively involve students in the process of learning. Therefore, Grasha (1996) warns tasks that provide variety and novelty will capture students attention better, but care must be taken not to overload the cognitive system with too much information (p. 121). Constructivist theory, mostly propagated by Bruner (1987), as another alternative to the former theories of learning, asserts that learners do not simply absorb and store information but they make active interpretations of experiences and draw sound independent conclusions. Thus, students from the early schooling age develop active independent learning attitude and construct knowledge rather than receive it. Apart from cognitive approach to learning, educators became more concerned with how students use, receive, construct or deconstruct knowledge (Miller, 1993). Based on the above theories, early theoretical and experimental studies on learning styles were most probably extended and expanded by Thelen as cited in James (2001) who related learning styles to the dynamics of group at work. Then, being influenced by earlier theories of learning of the 70s, many researchers began extending and developing new theories on the learning styles such as, for instance, Myers (1962), Gardner (1983), Reid (1987), Messick (1984), Riding and Rayner (1998). These studies have influenced the course of the educational system in general and the acquiring of the ESL in particular. Therefore, their exposition in what follows is indeed inevitable for the clear illustration of the studies on the PLS. Different definitions of cognitive styles exist in the literature and those definitions represent different conceptions of an identical dimension (Messick 1984; Kogan 1983; Miller 1993; Riding & Rayner 1998). In this regard, Riding and Rayner (1998) defined a principal cognitive style group as multiple dimensions and named them as Wholist-Analytic Cognitive. These studies suggest that in a work context, analytic individuals tend to be compliant, their thinking relies on logical sequences and vertical reasoning, preferring structured approaches to decision making, where systematic methods of investigation is applied. They are especially comfortable when handling problems that require a systematic solution. Wholist-intuitive individuals, on the other hand, tend to be individualist, their thinking relies on spontaneous combination and creative reasoning, they prefer rapid, open-ended approaches to decision making, and they rely on random methods of exploration and they work best on problem solving. The investigation into cognitive learning styles of an individual is very important as it determines how an individual acquires knowledge through different LS. Researchers also discussed the importance and the role of the learning styles in learning process of the individuals. PLS is defined by Reid (1987), who classifies learning styles into auditory (hearing), visual (seeing), tactile (hands-on), kinesthetic (whole-body movement), group (like to work in-group), and individual (like to work individually). The researcher investigated PLS of ESL students in the United States, one of a pioneering research into the PLS. The findings suggest differences in learning styles regarding students cultural background. Wiliams (1983) argued that students learning preferences is determined by whether they are left hemispheric (this individuals are most efficient for processing mathematics, music, and language), or right hemispheric (seeing where things are in relation to other things, and how parts go together to form a whole). On the other hand, another investigation into learning style was done by Witkin et. al (1977) in which they differentiated between analytical (field independent) and relational (field dependent). The field-independent learners tend to perceive element independently of a context or a field. The field-dependent learners perceive the whole visual field or situation rather than its separate parts. Reid (1987), Williams (1983) and Witkins et al (1977) among many researchers represented the importance of assessing the students LS. The styles of learning if accommodated, can improve attitude towards learning. Learning a second language is a very meticulous process and lecturers have to be particularly careful in teaching. Their responsibility is to create a favorable learning environment that will accommodate learners from different social, cultural, and ethnic background as well as students with different learning styles. The researchers have suggested that often lecturers have their own 104

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 3 (2009) teaching preference, influenced by their own learning style preferences. Therefore, negligence concerning the importance of different learning styles and, on the part of the instructors, the failure in accommodating, through diverse teaching styles, different learning styles often results in students poor performance. Certainly, learning styles play an important role in students achievement and, consequently, every educator should stress out on determining students learning style in order to best accommodate different learning styles. Therefore, it is very significant to determine learning styles of the students of English as a second language, whereby educators will focus on students needs when designing the curriculum.

3. Research Framework
This research is conducted in the Department of Language and Communication, Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN).This department offers English, Malay and several other foreign language courses such as Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese, French, German, Russian and Spanish. The English courses are designed to expose students to critical reading, thinking skills, communication skills, public speaking and technical communication skills. All mentioned courses prepare students to excel in English language, while the other languages offered intend to familiarize students with the large spectrum of major world languages. English for Academic Purposes (ENGF 103) is the subject that will be focused on in this research. This course is designed to develop students skills in academic reading, public speaking and critical thinking. Students are required to master academic writing skills, which require students to do research and organize the information. This course is specifically designed for students who need to improve their skills in academic writing and reading. The main objectives of the course are to review grammatical structures and writing skills and introduce work related topics such as report writing, memorandums, letters, proposals, oral reports and job applications ENGF103 is a compulsory subject for all students. The research sample for this research will be taken from the Department of Language and Communication. In this research, the PLS preferences of ESL students was assessed using the PLSPQ research instrument, which Peacock (2001) reported to be of high reliability. In order to familiarize the readers with the larger picture in determining learning styles, some other relevant research instruments are summarized such as KLSI, MBTI, Felder-Silverman Learning Style Model, Gregorcs Learning Style Delinator. One hundred and sixty (N=160) students from UNITEN were selected as respondents in this research, using the stratified random sampling techniques. Seventy-four female students (46.3%) and eighty-six male students (53.8%) participated in the research. The racial composition of the samples was 56 Malays (35.0%), 52 Chinese (32.5%) and 52 Indian (32.5%).

4. Perceptual Learning Style Preference Questionnaire (PLSPQ)


Joy Reid (1987) developed PLSPQ particularly for learners of foreign language. The questionnaire assesses preferred learning styles of the students based on how students learn best using their perceptions: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile preferences, and two social aspects of learning: group and individual preferences. There are several reasons behind choosing this instrument; it is easy to administer, it is easy to interpret, it is self-scoring, and not scored by an external agent, it is relatively quick to administer and complete, it has easily reportable scales, and it has reliability and validity supported by the research. PLSPQ consists of 30 self-report questions. Subjects are expected to indicate how much they agree with each item on a scale from 1 to 5 when they learn English. Each number notes certain measurement such as: (5) strongly agree, (4) agree, (3) undecided, (2) disagree and (1) strongly disagree. According to PLSPQ description visual learners are most comfortable with pictures, images and graphs while studying and retaining information. Example of question for this type of learner 105

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 3 (2009) would be I learn better by reading than by listening to someone, or I learn better by reading what the teacher writes on the chalkboard. Auditory learners learn best when hearing the information and, perhaps, listening to the lecture. Thus, the learner needs to express verbally what he/she learns, solve problems by talking about them and discusses the material in the class. Example question for this type of learner would be I learn better in the class when I listen to someone, or When the teacher tells me the instructions I understand better. Kinesthetic learners prefer active participation experiences, for example drama, role-play or moving around. Such students learn best by experience and by being involved physically in classroom experiences. A combination of stimuli, for example an audio tape combined with an activity helps learner understand new material. Example question for this learner would be I prefer to learn by doing something in the class, or When I do things in the class, I learn better. Tactile learners prefer handson work, for example, handling materials or taking notes. Working on an experiment in the laboratory is the best way for such students to learn new material. Writing notes or instruction can help such learners to remember information easily and physical involvement in the class pays major role in their retention of the information. Example question for this type of learner would be I learn more when I make something for a class project, or I learn more as I make drawings while I study. Group learners prefer studying with others. Group studying make them feel comfortable and it is best way for them to acquire knowledge. Students also value class interaction and class work with other students, and they remember information when they work with two or three classmates. The stimulation of group work will help such learner to understand new information better. Example question for this type of learners would be In class, I learn best when I study with others, or I get more work done when I work with others. Individual learners prefer studying alone and they learn best independently. Such students learn new material best when reading it themselves. Progress and achievement is best visible when they learn alone. Example question for this type of learner would be In class, I work better when I work alone, or I prefer working on projects by myself. Reid (1987) also classified styles as major, minor, or negative. Each student has major, minor, and negative learning style preferences. Major learning styles indicate that an individual could function well as a learner. Minor learning style preferences indicate that an individual still can function well. Negative learning style preferences indicate that the students may have difficulty in learning. One way to solve the problem is to direct learning towards the preferred leaning styles. The researcher will also follow such qualifications in this research.

5. Analysis
Table 1 shows the result of students preference towards perceptual learning styles.
Table 1:
Style Visual Auditory Kinesthetic Tactile Group Individual
13.5 and above = major learning style preference 11.5 to 13.49 = minor learning style preference 11.49 or less = negative learning style preferences

Students Perceptual Learning Style Preferences


Mean 12.00 12.53 13.60 11.25 12.42 11.06

According to the mean score for each learning style, students in this study favored Kinesthetic LS. Their minor learning style preferences were towards Visual (12.00), Auditory (12.53) and Group (12.42) learning styles, while they had negative preferences towards Individual (11.06) and Tactile 106

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 3 (2009) (11.25) learning styles. Previous studies into perceptual learning styles have reported that students have preferences towards Kinesthetic and Tactile learning, and that they disfavored Group style. Reid (1987) reported that Chinese university students favored Kinesthetic and Tactile and disfavored Group style. Melton (1990) reported that Chinese university students favored Kinesthetic, Tactile and Individual styles and disfavored Group styles. In the study of Chu and Chew (1999), students favored Kinesthetic and Tactile style, and they did not disfavor any style. When comparing with previous researches (Table 2), this research somehow yielded similar results. Students major learning style is Kinesthetic LS, and they expressed negative preferences for Tactile and Individual learning. In most of the past researches students disfavored Group style while students in this study had minor preference for Group learning. Researchers have warned that the results on learning styles cannot always be generalized, but that many factors influence students preferences towards particular learning style, such as educational background, ethnicity, gender and motivation to learn.
Table 2:
Style Visual Auditory Kinesthetic Tactile Group Individual
Source: Peacock, 2001

Learning Style Preferences: Mean Score in Two Previous Studies


Reid 13.55 14.09 14.62 14.52 11.15 12.41 Melton 12.16 12.63 13.80 14.33 10.49 13.75 Present Study 12.00 12.53 13.60 11.25 12.42 11.06

In order to demonstrate each learning style individually and how students responded to each statement in the questionnaire the following tables have been provided.
Table 3: Students Visual Learning Style Preference
SA (%) 27.5 20.0 17.5 38.8 25.6 A (%) 46.3 44.4 53.8 40.6 21.9 U (%) 6.3 11.3 8.8 2.5 16.9 D (%) 10.0 21.9 10.0 8.1 31.9 SD (%) 3.8 6.3 10.0 10.0 16.9

Question Item 6. 10. 12. 24. 29. I learn better by reading what the teacher writes on the chalkboard. When I read Instructions, I remember them better. I understand better, when I read instructions. When learning a new skill, I will rather watch someone demonstrate the skill than listen I learn more by reading textbook than by listening to someone.

The result from Table 3 demonstrates that Visual learning style is preferred by the majority of the students 73.8 strongly agree and agree that they understand better from what the teacher is writing on the chalkboard, while 47 % of the students stated that they learn better when reading the book rather than by listening to someone. Consequently, this shows that students can handle tasks in the classroom when the teacher is visual in presenting the material. According to the mean score, overall for Visual learning, students expressed minor LS preference.
Table 4: Students Auditory Learning Style Preferences
SA (%) 13.1 30.0 24.4 24.4 18.1 A (%) 35.6 30.6 31.3 49.4 43.8 U (%) 11.9 14.4 16.3 13.8 18.8 D (%) 24.4 16.3 21.9 8.8 13.1 SD (%) 15.0 8.8 6.3 3.8 6.3

Question Item 1. 7. 9. 17. 20. I find it useful to read out loud when reading the textbook I would rather listen to lecture than read the textbook I remember things I have heard in the class better than the things I have read. I learn better in the class when teacher gives a lecture. I learn better in class when I listen to someone.

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European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 3 (2009) Table 4 indicates that students mostly agree with the statements for the Auditory learning style. Although only 13.1 strongly agree with the statement on reading the textbook loud while studying, the rest of the statements on Auditory learning were preferred mode of learning for most of the students. This is in line with the general conclusion regarding the students Visual learning, which is their minor learning style. Consequently, students are able to handle tasks when teachers preferred mode of delivery is Visual.
Table 5: Students Kinesthetic Learning Style Preferences
SA (%) 36.9 33.8 20.6 16.9 20.6 A (%) 48.1 44.4 28.1 40.0 55.6 U (%) 8.8 8.1 23.8 26.3 8.1 D (%) 3.8 10.0 25.6 15.6 10.0 SD (%) 2.5 3.8 1.9 1.3 3.8

Question Item 2. 8. 15. 19. 26. qI prefer to learn by doing exercises and drills in the class. When I do things in class, I learn better. I benefit more from computer lab classes than lecture classes. I understand better things in class when I participate in role-playing. I learn best in class when I can participate in related activities

Table 5 shows that 36.9% students like to learn by doing exercises and drills in the class, one of the major characteristics of kinesthetic learners. 33.8% of the students strongly agree that they learn better when they do things in the class. More than 56% of the students strongly agree and agree that they learn better when they can participate in the related activities. Overall, Kinesthetic learning, when compared with the other learning style, was students major LS.
Table 6: Students Tactile Learning Style Preferences
SA (%) 26.3 18.1 20.0 24.4 11.9 A (%) 53.1 46.3 43.1 57.5 45.0 U (%) 16.3 21.3 26.3 10.0 20.6 D (%) 1.9 11.3 10.0 7.5 17.5 SD (%) 2.5 3.1 .6 .6 5.0

Question Item 11. 14. 16. 22. 25. I learn more when I can make a model of something I learn more when I make something for a class project I learn better, when I make drawings as I study. When I build something, I remember what I have learned better. I enjoy making something for a class project.

From Table 6 we can see that students were not in favor of Tactile learning compared to the other modes of learning. Only 26.3% of the students agree that they learn more when they can make model of something. Most of the students, more than in any other learning style, were undecided regarding the tactile learning style. Consequently, this learning style was negative learning style for the students when compared to the other learning styles.
Table 7: Students Group Learning Style Preferences
SA (%) 21.9 20.6 15.6 26.3 18.8 A (%) 34.4 33.8 46.3 49.4 25.6 U (%) 19.4 18.1 24.4 12.5 26.3 D (%) 18.1 19.4 10.0 8.1 20.0 SD (%) 6.3 8.1 3.8 3.8 9.4

Question Item 3. I get more work done when I work with others. 4. I learn more when I study with a group. 5. In class I learn best when I study with others. 21. I enjoy working on assignment with two or three classmates. 23. I prefer to study with others

From Table 7, we can see that 21% of the students agree with the statement that they get more work done when they work with others, While 34.4% of the students agree with the same statement. 20.6% of the students strongly agree that they learn more when they study with a group, while 33.8% of the students agreed with the same statement. For the rest of the information in the survey students showed minor learning style preferences towards Group LS. 108

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Table 8: Students Individual Learning Style Preferences
SA (%) 30.0 21.9 13.1 12.5 17.5 A (%) 39.4 39.4 25.6 21.9 31.3 U (%) 10.6 17.5 20.0 16.9 13.1 D (%) 16.9 18.8 35.0 31.9 28.1 SD (%) 3.1 2.5 6.3 16.9 10.0

Question Item 13. When I study alone, I understand better. 18. When I work alone, I learn better. 27. In class, I work better when I work alone. 28. I prefer working on project by myself. 30. I prefer to work by myself.

From the survey (Table 8) on Individual LS 69.4% of the students, strongly agree and agree that when they study alone they learn better. Only 12.5% of the students prefer to work on the project by themselves. From the rest of the information we can see that this is the least preferred LS for the students.

6. Results
The dominant learning styles of ESL students yielded following results. Students preferred learning style was Kinesthetic. They expressed minor preference for Visual, Auditory and Group learning, while on the other hand students expressed negative preference towards Individual and tactile learning styles. In order to accommodate different learning styles in the classroom lecturers need to take into consideration for example that visual learner may prefer reading, observing, and more data for their interpretation or more visual aids, such as movies, diagrams, pictures, graphs etc. Kinesthetic learners prefer hands-on experience to create and develop what they learn. They learn best from the trial and error experiences. Auditory students prefer more listening to the lectures and seminars, and participating in discussions. These students like to listen to the tape recordings of material and have a chance to ask questions about what they have learned or do not understand. Tactile oriented learners prefer to learn with hands-on experience. Working in laboratory on an experiment is the best way for them to learn. Writing notes in the class helps them remember the material that they have to learn. To understand new information, these students have to be involved physical in the class activities. Group oriented learners acquire knowledge best when they study with one or more students in a group. Class interaction is a key for the success of these students. In order to remember information from the class he/she has to work with the one or more students. Stimulation received from the group interaction is the best way for theses students to remember the new information. Individual oriented learners learn best when they learn alone. Information is easily acquired if he is left alone to study or work on any project. Information is best remembered when the learning has taken place in quite environment and if the learner is studying alone. There was a significant difference in learning style between male and female students regarding Auditory and Kinesthetic learning styles. Mean score for the male was higher in both causes, which means that male students favored Kinesthetic and Auditory leaning when compared with their female counterparts. This is in agreement with Dunn and Griggs (1993) study in which they found significant differences in learning styles of Mexican and Anglo-American students. Mexican American males had strongest preferences for tactile learning. Female participants in both groups were more motivated to learn than male students. Significant differences in learning styles of ESL students among Malays, Chinese and Indian were also investigated. Significant differences were found in all learning style among students from different ethnic background. Visual learning style is preferred way of learning for Indian students; Chinese students expressed minor learning style preference for this style, while Malay students considered Visual learning style as their negative learning style. Auditory learning style was mayorlearning style for Indian students; Chinese students reported it as their minor learning style, while Malay students reported it as their negative learning style. Tactile learning style is reported to be negative learning style for the Malay, while Chinese and Indian students reported it as a minor learning 109

European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 3 (2009) style. Kinesthetic learning style was reported as a major learning style for Chinese and Malay students while Indian students reported it as a minor learning style preference. Malay and Indian students reported group learning as minor learning style, while Chinese students reported it as a mayor learning style preference. Finally, Individual learning style was a minor learning style preference for Malay and Chinese students while Indian students expressed it as mayor learning style.

7. Summary and Concluding Remarks


The results of the research suggest that it is important to determine students learning styles and make students aware about different approaches to learning. The answers to the research questions suggested the differences in learning styles among Malay, Chinese and Indian students, and between males and females. Recommendations are suggested in the last chapter, which are: The importance to determine learning styles of the students and that there should be an effort from the educators side to accommodate those differences in the classroom. When the learning styles are determine it is suggested that instructor take into consideration differences among the students when designing the course material. Varity of the materials should be incorporated in the language classroom. Since the differences are established between the student from different ethnic and gender background, those difference should be reconsidered when teaching foreign language. Students are also advise to try to adjust to different learning circumstances in order to avoid any confrontations when exposed to learning styles that does not suite them. Further research into learning styles is suggested, as the area is very broad, and the issue can be approached from many different perspectives. Many factors influence students achievement at all levels. Learning styles of the students are as well one of many factors that need to be considered when researching students attitudes and achievements. The results of the research has shown the importance to determine students learning styles, and that difference do exist in learning styles among the students from different ethnic background and students of different gender. The research suggests that students should be made aware of their learning style preferences. Students may take for granted that their learning styles are habitual. They may not even be aware of their learning styles or of the styles of other students. The awareness of their learning styles may encourage them to realize the importance of learning styles and that it plays crucial role in their learning. According to Pask (1976), knowing ones learning style is important in learning. Conducting a survey research is one of the ways to asses students learning styles and than make available the results to the students.

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European Journal of Social Sciences Volume 7, Number 3 (2009)

References
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