Redesigning university education towards a dual mode approach: the congruency problem in relation to learning styles

Tammy Schellens & Martin Valcke


The Ghent University is a traditional institute presenting a study environment mainly based on face-to-face context. The present study is set up in the context of the freshman course 'Instructional Sciences' that is part of the first year curriculum of students studying Psychology, Pedagogical Sciences, Logopedics and Audiology. This results in a very large and heterogeneous group of students (740).

The course was redesigned for the first time during the academic year 1998-99 and this redesign was extended in 1999-2000. In sharp contrast to the initial traditional instruction approach (lecturing), an on-line course environment was implemented that reflects a task-oriented didactic model.

The focus on 'task-based' learning combines on-line features with a more traditional teaching/learning culture, such as weekly face-to-face sessions. This 'dual-mode- approach was adopted to ensure that the innovative approach does not go too far beyond the current design of educational provisions (e.g., Study culture). Innovative educational models at the level of a single course can be inconsistent with the overall educational approach. We refer to this as the 'congruency problem'.

Learning styles

The congruency problem will be tackled in a variety of ways: congruency related to students' preferred learning style, levels of computer literacy and appreciation of task-based learning. In order to measure learning styles we adopt for an approach based on personality traits, building upon the work of Myers & Briggs. The following 5 dimensions are distinguished. Traits printed in bold are considered most in line with the redesign of the course): 1- Auditory vs. Visual; 2- applied vs. Conceptual; 3- spatial vs. Non-spatial; 4- social vs. Individual and 5- creative vs. Pragmatic.

Research design

The main research question can be stated as follows: What is the congruency between the dominant educational model and the innovative model of the on-line course? Can students cope with the demands of the on-line learning environment? The following research questions are put forward :

Is the on-line course in line with learning style preferences of students?

Is there a correlation between learning style and the right level of computer literacy of students?

Is there a correlation between learning style and the appreciation for the 'task-based learning' model?

A questionnaire was designed and administered during the first lesson. Questionnaire items consisted of 'statements'. Students responded by opting for an A or B alternative (dichotomous) or by indicating an 'appreciation level' (4-point Likert scale).

The conference paper will report the results of this study. We can conclude that:

There are incongruencies between the expected learning styles (in line with the one-line course) and the actual learning styles of students

The redesign is congruent with the dominant study culture of students

The report will further discuss the relationship between learning styles and the level of computer literacy of students and the relationship between learning styles and the appreciation for the 'task-based learning' model.

Return to Abstracts Index