Teaching and Learning Forum 95 [ Contents ]

Learning styles - great minds don't think alike!

Despina Whitefield
Department of Accountancy and Law
Victoria University of Technology
The presenter of this workshop has taught for the past 14 years in secondary, TAFE and university. She has a BEd, GradDipAcctg, MBus and is a qualified accountant. It was not until she undertook postgraduate studies of her own that a greater awareness of how students learn became of paramount importance. This workshop is an investigation of the learning style concept of the Dunn model as it applies to how university educators can teach students to learn more effectively through their individual learning styles. The instrument that is used to identify student learning style preferences is the Productivity Environmental Preference Survey (PEPS). Other activities will include studying strategies based on learning styles, teaching to students learning styles, creating a multi-sensory lecture/tutorial, encouraging creativity and small group learning strategies. This workshop will include elements of theoretical, technical and practical applications educators can immediately use in their particular areas of teaching. Educators should be able to respond to student needs by planning and creating educational settings that enhance and support students' unique learning style characteristics.

This workshop paper is designed for those educators who


Students learn in a variety of different ways. Although research in this area is extensive, as practising tutors and lecturers we often do not have the opportunity to investigate the research findings, concentrating only on our specific subject materials. But the work of such people as Gregorc, Kolb, McCarthy, and Dunn and Dunn has opened up the world of educational research on learning styles and made it user friendly. This workshop deals with the work of Dr Rita Dunn from St John's University in New York and Dr Ken Dunn of Queen's College in New York. They are leading American educators in the area of learning styles. (Whitefield, 1993)

The Dunn and Dunn model

The Dunn and Dunn model is one of a number on learning styles. It identifies five major stimuli to which students respond in learning situations - environmental, emotional, sociological, physical, and psychological. The Dunn model identifies conditions external to the learner, rather than factors that affect a persons ability to manipulate information. These factors affect the external instructional conditions rather than learning strategies internal to the learner (Jonassen and Grabowski, 1993).

The following is a very brief description of the elements under each stimuli adapted from Teaching Students To Read Through Their Individual Learning Styles, Carbo, Dunn and Dunn, 1991.

Environmental Stimuli: student reactions to the stimuli are determined by their biological make up and therefore cannot change their hearing, sight, temperature or body sensitivities. Emotional Stimuli: students emotional elements appear to be developmental ie. they emerge over time through experiences at home, school, playground, on trips etc. Sociological Stimuli: students sociological preferences relate to whether students like to learn alone or in a group and whether studying in a variety of ways helps them to learn the given information. Physical Stimuli: Students physical elements are biological in nature and relate to how people learn through their senses ie. auditory, visual, tactual and kinaesthetic preferences. Psychological Stimuli: The differences in brain functioning are what contribute to individual learning style differences among different people; it is suggested that learning is better accomplished for different people through different approaches.1

The following table gives a summary of the characteristics of global/analytic persons (Whitefield, 1994).

Table 1

Global vs Analytic

Some terms used in educational literature:
    Analytic < ------- > Global
    Left ---------------- Right
    Sequential -------- Simultaneous
    Inductive ---------- Deductive
- learn step by step
- cumulative sequential pattern building towards a concept
- prefer quiet, well lit, formal design
- have a strong need to complete the task they are working on
- respond well to words and numbers
- need visual re-enforcement
- give directions, fact sheets, underline important sections
- provide feedback on details - in sequence
- learn the concepts first
- then concentrate on details
- like to be introduced to information with humour and colour
- can work with distractors
- take frequent breaks
- work on several tasks simultaneously
- most gifted children are global
- need lessons that are interesting to them
- discover through group learning (small group techniques)
- need written and tactual involvement
- respond well to pictures

Clues to recognising analytics/globals

 Analytics Globals

Should I use a pen or pencil Why are we doing this
Is this on the test Not now, I'll do it later
When is this due in I need a break
Can I have more time I'll come back to this later
What do you want me to do first I can't work when it's quiet
Can you check my work please
Is this how you do it

On the PEPS

There are five elements of learning style on the PEPS that indicate whether a person has analytic and/or global processing tendencies.
 Analytic Global
 1) Quiet <Noise> Sound Present
 2) Bright <Light> Dim
 3) Formal <Design> Informal
 4) High <Persistence> Low
 5) Low <Intake> High
If you score 5 in one category, you are either highly G or highly A
If you score 4, you are either very G or very A
If you score 3, you are either mostly G or mostly A
Some people have a mixture of Global and Analytic processing.
We are all different. We do things differently!

Guidelines for teaching GLOBAL students

  • Introducing the material Start the lesson with a story, an anecdote or humour that relates to the content. If possible, have it relate to the students own experiences, or something that is realistic to them.
  • Discovery through group learning. Avoid telling too many facts. Students are to discover these in small groups. Some techniques may be Circle of knowledge, Team learning, Brainstorming, Case study, etc.
  • Written and tactual involvement. Globals love to graph, map, illustrate, draw, role play, create charts, invent games, make things, etc. Then watch them develop teaching skills when they have to teach to other students. This happens a lot with computers.

Guidelines for teaching ANALYTIC students

  • Explanations and visual reinforcement Analytics respond to key words and numbers. Write these on the board as you go. Answer questions about details directly, and use printed visuals such as the board and overheads.
  • Directions List all relevant information about assignments, work requirements, objectives and directions on paper, or have the students copy from the board. Don't tell them, show them.
  • Step by step Proceed step by step through the details that need to be absorbed in order to acquire skills. Put key words on the board, underline important sections or use highlighters, check homework daily, teach independent use of the library facilities, etc
  • Testing and feedback. Provide instant feedback on tests and assignments (as soon as possible), and do what you say you will do! Analytics hold you to your word.
Please note the more traditional methods of teaching are in the analytic part of this. Most teachers are analytical in nature (about 80%) yet only 45% of students are analytical in the early part of high school and become more analytic as they enter university.

Instrument for measuring Dunn and Dunn learning styles

Four instruments have been developed to measure learning styles by Dunn, Dunn and Price. Specific to this workshop, the Productivity Environmental Preference Survey (PEPS) is used. The PEPS uses self-reporting methods to measure preferences. It is a 100-item test which measures 20 factors using a 5 point Likert scale. The reliability results reported by the authors were greater than .60 for 68% of the test-retest reliabilities for the 20 factors (Jonassen and Grabowski, 1993). Students can also be given a printed interpretation of their preferences and suggestions to studying techniques (Dunn and Ingham, 1990).

Creating an environment for student study

By making students aware of their optimal learning preferences and helping them understand how to exploit their strengths and develop their non preferred styles, studying and learning ought to be more productive.

Teaching style

Think about your teaching style! When tutoring/lecturing, what style do you use more frequently: Do you present information in a way which suits your preferences or do you present in such a way that suits most of your students? Consideration must be given on the impact your teaching style has on student motivation and learning.

Creating multi-sensory lecture/tutorial - some ideas

  1. Props/Telling Stories. This technique is used to focus the learners attention on an object or a story they can associate with but relating back to the content of the lecture/tutorial/workshop/class.

  2. Interactive Computer. This is a redesigned Mac Plus. Apart from finding a computer screen shell, the insides are very simple to make. It can also be done with a milk carton. When students come in for consultations they can go to a folder and 'test' themselves on the topic. As an exercise/tutorial students could write up questions/answers on task cards, these can be bundled together, then each student can come up to the computer and feed the cards in. The idea is for the student to think of the answer before feeding the card through. A novel way of you getting a self test written by students, but can be used in future classes.

  3. Celebrity Head. The now world famous game, but used in any university classroom. A colleague did this at the end of teaching about accounting financial ratios. He would write a ratio on a card, then select a student to wear the headband, and try to guess the ratio in 5 or fewer guesses. This concept can be used in almost any topic, but don't overdo it. Nice and simple at the end of a topic, limited only by your imagination. Remember to keep all the inserts!

  4. Pic A Hole. A simple item you can make one of, and have students make other packets. Then have them come up with multiple choice questions. Once the packets are made, and you have a class set, the students must really know their work if they get questions and answers correct on the cards.

  5. Electro boards. A simple idea that lends itself to using technology without a computer! Making electro boards is easy. Finding the continuity tester is the hard part.

  6. Others: Role Plays, Case Studies, External visits.


The techniques demonstrated and written about here are not new. Educators have been using them for years. Unfortunately, the further we go up the educational ladder, the fun seems to disappear out of teaching and learning. When did your 2nd year university class last do a role play, play celebrity head, or go on an excursion? When did you as a lecturer or tutor bring in props to help explain a concept, use humour, or tell a story to get a point across? What is new is knowing about how students learn and making them aware of how to learn and study more effectively.


Carbo, Marie, Dunn, Rita and Dunn, Kenneth (1991). Teaching Students to Read Through Their Individual Learning Styles. Prentice Hall.

Dunn, Rita and Ingham, Joanne (1990). Productivity Style: The Interpretation. Computer disk. Learning Styles Network.

Jonassen, David and Grabowski, Barbara L. (1993). Handbook of Individual Differences, Learning and Instruction. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Price, Gary E., Dunn, Rita and Dunn, Kenneth (1991). Productivity Environmental Preference Survey. (PEPS Manual). Lawrence, KS: Price Systems, Inc.

Whitefield, Tony (1993). The Learning Styles Approach to Teaching. Compak, November, pp 12-17.

Whitefield, Tony (1994). Kew High School Professional Development. Presentation given to staff at Kew High School, Victoria, 17 August.


  1. Within the overall model the global/analytical element is the most extensively researched cognitive control. Research began over 40 years ago, and it remains the most prescriptive of learning and instructional outcomes. Those with a global cognitive preference are highly influenced by the entire perceptual field. They see the forest rather than the trees. Those with an analytic cognitive preference try to understand the perceived field (Jonassen and Grabowski, 1993). They see the trees in the forest. Most of us fall somewhere between these two extremes.
Please cite as: Whitefield, D. (1995). Learning styles - great minds don't think alike! In Summers, L. (Ed), A Focus on Learning, p271-275. Proceedings of the 4th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, Edith Cowan University, February 1995. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf1995/whitefield.html

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