Evaluation of using Computing and Information Technology.  Do students learning styles affect their evaluations?

Anne JelfsProf. Chris Colbourn, University College Northampton. UK.

Higher Education in the UK is adopting and using more in terms of Computer and Information Technology (C&IT) in its teaching strategy.  As members of the Assisting Small-group Teaching through Electronic Resources (ASTER) project team we were interested in the value of  C&IT as a teaching tool.  One of the aspects we looked at was student evaluation of using C&IT for a Virtual Seminar series in Psychology. Our research aimed to identify student learning styles within the group and how this affected their adoption or rejection of the electronic medium.

The benefits of matched conditions for students’ learning strategies and instructional systems has already been identified by Ford (1995), however we have found little research on whether learning styles and evaluation of C&IT has any relationship. Timpson and Andrew (1997) found in their research on evaluation that students’ approaches to learning affected their evaluation of courses and that course evaluation and teaching evaluation needed to be separated.  If a major component of the teaching is conveyed through C&IT we suggest that this is another variable which needs consideration along with student learning styles when C&IT is evaluated. Dunn et al (Dunn, Griggs et al. 1995) state that although some students learn when instruction is provided through strategies that do not complement their learning styles, significantly higher test scores are achieved when they are taught with strategies that complement their learning preferences.  These findings place the emphasis on learning styles at the centre of the discussion on the development of increased use of C&IT in Higher Education.

Our research study was based on a series of seminars conducted at University College Northampton through an Intranet Web board.  The students taking part were Third Year Psychology degree level students completing an optional module which included ten seminar sessions, five face-to-face and five using computer-mediated communication. The students completed the short ASSIST (Approaches and Study Skills Inventory for Students) developed by Tait & Entwistle (1996). 

Our findings indicate only weak correlations between deep, strategic and surface approaches to learning and evaluation of C&IT at a global level. However, individual measures of the deep, strategic and surface approaches to learning indicate potentially interesting relationships, such as positive correlations between the statement: ‘Often I find myself wondering whether the work I am doing here is really worthwhile’ and ‘How comfortable did you feel whilst taking part in the virtual seminars? We are currently researching these aspects of the data with a larger student population.   Further analysis of that data will be available for contribution to the discussion outlined here. Significant positive correlations were also found between how comfortable students felt when taking part in the virtual seminars and a desire to increase the use of C&IT in psychology teaching.  Students who were comfortable with the virtual seminars tended to report the software easy to use.  We aim to
continue to look at these factors within the domain of Psychology, but anticipate the need to look at students’ approaches to study and evaluation of C&IT in other academic areas.


Dunn, R., S. Griggs, et al. (1995). “A Meta-Analytic Validation of the Dunn and Dunn Model of Learning-Styles Preferences.” The Journal of Educational Research 88(6): 353-362.

Ford, N. (1995). “Levels and types of mediation in instructional systems: an individual differences approach.” International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 43: 241-259.

Tait, H. and N. J. Entwistle (1996). “Identifying students at risk through ineffective study strategies.” Higher Education 31: 99-118.

Timpson, W. and D. Andrew (1997). “Rethinking Student Evaluations and the Improvement of Teaching: instruments for change at the University of Queensland.” Studies in Higher Education 22(1): 55-65.

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