The use of the Verbaliser-Imager cognitive style as a descriptor in a student model of learner characteristics in a multimedia application

Trevor Barker, Carol Britton, Sara Jones and David Messer

University of Hertfordshire

This paper describes how Riding's Verbaliser-Imager cognitive style dimension (Riding 1991a) was used in a student model of learner characteristics to configure the presentation of a multimedia application. The importance of cognitive style in configuring the presentation of computer based learning material for the individual is described. Student models based upon the psychological characteristics of a learner (global descriptors) are compared in this paper with student models based upon the performance of a learner in the subject domain (overlay models).

In the work reported here, learners were classified as either Verbaliser, Intermediate or Imager based upon the scores they achieved in Riding's (1991b) Cognitive Styles Analysis CSA) test along the Verbaliser-Imager dimension.

Presentation of a mathematics basic skills multimedia learning application was configured to provide additional support for text and narrative for Imagers or to provide additional support for diagrams and images for Verbalisers. Learners classified as Intermediates were able to select either of the additional support options.

The student model developed for use with the multimedia application also held information on students' language abilities, levels of cognitive skills and the level of help or scaffolding they were given. Small groups of learners followed the multimedia course in learning centres located in colleges of Further Education (FE). A Grounded Theory study (Strauss and Corbin 1994) was carried out in order to understand the many and complex interactions that took place between learners, tutors and the learning environment. The stages in this study and the justification for the use of the evaluation method are presented in the paper.

The results of the study presented here are interpreted in the light of the authors' earlier experimental work on the effect of cognitive styles on performance in a multimedia learning application.

The effect of allowing for the learners' cognitive style within a student model was shown in this study to have a positive influence on the quality of the learning provided by the multimedia application.

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