Friday, August 31, 2012

Learning Styles, Personality Types & Generations

by Dr. Vanae E. Morris

If you have a learning style that helps you learn best, does this correlate with the generation you were born in (or perhaps the generation you were raised by) and your personality type?

As in all inventories, tests, and types, it is important to remember that generalities are the norm. First, let’s review definitions for each:

Learning Styles
“A learning style is a student's consistent way of responding to and using stimuli in the context of learning. Keefe (1979) defines learning styles as the ‘composite of characteristic cognitive, affective, and physiological factors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how a learner perceives, interacts with, and responds to the learning environment.’ Stewart and Felicetti (1992) define learning styles as those ‘educational conditions under which a student is most likely to learn.’ Thus, learning styles are not really concerned with what learners learn, but rather how they prefer to learn" (Clark, 2012).

Learning Styles and Personality Tests
The Gregorc Style Delienator, the Barsch Learning Style Inventory, and the personality test based on Jung, which was the basis for the Myers-Briggs Personality Type are some of the tools used to determine how learners prefer to learn.

A generation is a 20-22 year span and those born within that span are defined as possessing certain characteristics, shared values, and beliefs. Each generation has their own set of values, ideals, ethics, and beliefs that dictate individuals’ preferences for living, learning and working. A generation is often defined by significant events experienced as a unit. Events of one generation can have a ripple effect on other generations. Generations don’t solely define a person’s behavior, but the generations into which you were born and raised does help define who you are and will most likely have some impact on your behavior.

In working with both teachers in training and learners in the classroom in kindergarten through higher education, patterns have emerged between what the preferred learning style is, what their personality type is, and which generation they were born within.

The major distinction that emerged is that of a relationship between the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Gregorc Style Delineator similar to the results found in this study. However, I am convinced that generational attributes can also contribute to a preferred learning style and a personality type.

Perhaps this will be my next research project!

What are your thoughts?


Clark, D. (2012). Learning styles & preferences. Retrieved August 28, 2012 from http:

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Start of a New School Year!

by Dr. Vanae E. Morris

So, here we are again, at the start of a brand new school year. When we were children and young adults, this “start” may have had different meanings than they do now as an instructor; however, I think how we approach the new school year is just as important as when we were younger! 

Do you approach a new school year with anticipation, dread, or a combination of the two? Are you excited about the new students you will have in your classes and the eagerness they may bring to the course? Have you designed your course, planned your lessons, and written you syllabus? Are you ready?

Well, for me, being “ready” is a vague term and so I prefer to be prepared with my course design, lesson plans, and syllabus, which does help me be more “ready” than not! 

This past week, I was working with an instructor on a course that she had taught for several years using an asynchronous online environment and she was frustrated with the way the course was designed. Specifically, she was concerned about the number of assignments that the students were required to accomplishment in the 16 week semester, not to mention the time that it took her to grade all of those assignments. 

My first step was to help her examine the objectives of the course and what it was exactly that she wanted her students to be able to do by the end of the semester. This is one of the first steps when you are designing or re-designing a course (there a few other steps before the objectives, but for her this was a good starting place). After we had reviewed the objectives, using measurable verbs for the successful outcomes, honing in on the assessments that would help her students meet the objectives became an easier process and she walked away with some strategies designed to help her students successfully accomplish the objectives of the course and to help save time for both students and instructor when doing and grading assignments. 

How do you prepare for your courses as you approach a new school year? At the Center for Teaching & Learning at the University of Utah (CLTE), Higher Education Instructional Consultants can help you prepare for your courses whether you are teaching a new course or just need to breathe life into an old course. 

You can also check out our Resource pages to help you with various teaching and instructional strategies!

Friday, July 27, 2012

So many students, so little time (Part 3) 

It is nearing the end of the summer semester, the time when I typically realize that I have approximately 100 term papers awaiting grading, and no TA support. Usually my reaction is to put my head on my desk and think "Why did I do this to myself?". But not this semester, oh no! 

I have finally learned from my mistakes. Not only does having an end-of-term paper in my course open the gates to grading hell, it also means that students don't actually ever receive any feedback (although I leave them feedback, very few ever return to the course to read it, as I can tell from the usage reports from our LMS.) So instead, this semester, I tried something new. Students used to have to write a term paper with a number of components to it: a topic that relates to the course material but hasn't explicitly been covered, inclusion of citations from a number of research articles on the subject that they have found themselves, explicit connections to a specific set of concepts from the course, and recommendations to an audience of their choice (as it is an adolescent development course, the audience is typically parents, teachers, policy makers, or teens themselves). This results in a 6-8 paper per student. And, as you can imagine, not only is there a lot of grading, but a lot of repetition (why is it everyone wants to write about anorexia or teen suicide?).

Now, students still write all of these same sections, but they do them as part of a discussion with their classmates. Students were allowed to choose groups based on topics that interested them (which I generated from the past 3 years of term paper topics), and they remained with that group throughout the semester. On "even" weeks, students were assigned a role, and each wrote a post that was similar to one of the sections from the previous version of this assignment. So, for example, someone found an article about the topic and provided the citation and a summary. The online discussion forum also provided opportunities for students to provide other forms of information, such as videos and online news articles, or even websites devoted to the topic. On "odd" weeks, students were required to respond to at least two of their group mates' posts from the previous week. So this way, students got exposed to the same (and more!) information, provided one another with feedback throughout the semester, and I had much less grading to do (see Part 2 from this series). At the end of the semester, I will still have students submit a final report, but this will be a 1-2 page summary of what they learned from the group discussions, written in a format that could actually be of use to someone beyond the individual student . For example, one of my students is writing a letter to parents that could be sent home from the principal of the school where she works.

Of course, I didn't choose this approach simply to make grading easier (although it helps!). The new assignment also designed to be more engaging for students; they are exploring the same topic throughout the semester as they learn about adolescent development, and are doing so in a collaborative fashion where they have one another as models, resources, and sounding boards. Students are required to think critically not only about what they read and discover in academic journals and on the internet, but also about their classmates' posts, and have opportunities to provide feedback, a skill that will come in handy in the "real world". From my reading of the discussions, I can say that the depth of thought, particularly as the semester has progressed, surpasses what I was accustomed to reading in the final term papers. Win-win!