Addressing student learning diversity with strategies to improve the learning experience
Beat Reber (Nottingham University Business School).
This study addresses diversity in learning styles of students with strategies to improve the learning experience and module design in finance teaching. There has been an ever-increasing student population at Nottingham University Business School (NUBS). Typical class size for lectures and seminars is now between 200-300 and 30-40 course participants respectively. Growth in student numbers has lead to a higher diversity in learning styles among students and constraints in resources available to teach finance modules. The objective of this project was to identify learning styles of participants and to consider practical measures that can be implemented in finance teaching to cater for diversity in learning styles.
The results of a questionnaire survey exploring different learning styles are reported. The questionnaire focused on Felder-Soloman's Index of Learning Styles: (1) active versus reflective, (2) sensing versus intuitive, (3) visual versus verbal, and (4) sequential versus global. Questionnaires were distributed to second and third year undergraduate students in two finance modules. The survey yielded 119 responses.
A great diversity in preferred learning styles was identified. The average student prefers active processing, sequential understanding, visual input, and sensing perception of information. NUBS students seem to favour sequential, whereas non-NUBS students favour global understanding of information as their preferred learning style. Female students appear to be more verbally oriented than their male counterparts, who seem to favour visual input of information. A better balance between learning styles in lectures and other in-class learning activities (e.g., in seminars) may help alleviate the problem. This may also be extended to out-of-class learning activities with the help of on-line resources and self-study groups.
The study also identifies a mismatch between preferred learning style of the instructor and average student. Since instructors predominantly use their preferred learning style in teaching, some students may be put at a disadvantage. Instructors need to adjust to the preferred learning styles of their course participants and provide a good balance to cater for all students.
Personally administered questionnaires were chosen in part to obtain a high response rate and as a cost-effective method of data collection. The researcher was present when the questionnaires were completed, and this may have lessened the student's faith in issues relating to confidentiality.
This study has not considered postgraduate modules, and not all finance modules at undergraduate level were included. The survey could be modified to accommodate for this. Some concerns have arisen about the construct validity of the survey instrument. An alternative instrument could be used to replicate the survey.