Developing flexible delivery for vocational students: stability and dimensionality of learning preferences

Peter J Smith

Deakin University, Australia

This paper reports research into the learning preferences of four groups of vocational education and training (VET) students. The research is intended to provide data useful in the design and delivery of flexible learning at the VET level. The Canfield Learning Styles Inventory was used to test the learning preferences of 1252 VET students in a number of apprenticeship, technology, business and health programs. This testing program was conducted with the same set of VET learning programs, but in two different years and with different students on each of the two occasions. The results show high degrees of similarity between the two testing occasions within each of the programs, indicating considerable stability of preferences within each program. A factor analysis of the complete matrix identified a Verbal–Nonverbal factor and a Self-directed–Dependent learning preference factor. These findings bear a relationship to both the Riding and colleagues' conceptualisation of cognitive style as containing a Wholist-Analytic and a Verbaliser-Imager dimension; and to the work of Witkin et al. On Field-dependence–Field-independence.

Differences between the factor scores of apprentices, technology, business and health students are also discussed. The findings have some clear implications for the flexible delivery of VET learning programs.

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