I’m doing a lot of reading lately on learning styles in preparation for a paper I’ll be presenting at PNSQC this fall (“Learning Styles and Exploratory Testing”). This (so far) has focused primarily on the Felder-Silverman learning style model (where students are marked on 4 or 5 continua (active-reflective, visual-verbal, global-sequential, sensing-intuitive, and inductive-deductive)). I’ll be writing more about each of those continua in the near future, but in reading Felder’s “Reaching the Second Tier: Learning and Teaching Styles in College Science Education”, I came across a thought that I wanted to make sure didn’t get lost.
Felder is talking about verbal and visual learners and the differences between them. He says that (bolding mine)
Most people (at least in western cultures) and presumably most students in science classes are visual learners while the information presented in almost every lecture course is overwhelmingly verbal—written words and formulas in texts and on the chalkboard, spoken words in lectures, with only an occasional diagram, chart, or demonstration breaking the pattern.
The part that caught my attention was the part I made bold in the above quote. Seeing this prompted me to wonder how much (and whether) a person’s learning style is influenced by the culture they grow up in. I haven’t seen mention of the subject yet in anything I’ve read (though I’ll admit to being early on in the reading process). So, this could be a reference to an area of the learning styles literature that I haven’t stumbled across yet (but need to). It could also just be a disclaimer that Felder has only looked at data from western cultures, but maybe sees the possibility of a connection. Either way it is something I need to look into more.
It seems to me that it is quite possible that culture plays a large role in determining learning style, particularly the way that the culture interacts with its young children. Young children (infants and toddlers) in western cultures are often given brightly colored, highly visual toys. Auditory elements are present as well, but in the families I personally remember observing, the toys that were highly auditory were less favored (by the parents) due to the often loud and repetitive noises quickly becoming an annoyance factor. This is, of course, highly unscientific. It could lead to some interesting conclusions when investigated though (and perhaps already has…)