An examination of the ways in which learning style characteristics appeared to change as students advanced from grade to grade was conducted by Price (1980). It was revealed that selected environmental, emotional, sociological, and physical traits appe ared to be stable over time, whereas others tended to parallel the growth curve. A total of 3,972 subjects in grades 3 through 12 completed the LSI during the 1979-1980 school year. Some of the statistically significant findings revealed were:

  • The higher the grade level, the more Sound and Light were preferred.
  • The higher the grade level, the less preference was indicated for Formal Design (wooden, plastic, or steel chairs when studying).
  • Self Motivation decreased during grades 7 and 8, but then a gradual increase was evidenced in each of the grades thereafter.
  • The higher the grade level, the less Teacher-Motivated students became.
  • The higher the grade level, the less Motivated in general, students were. The biggest shift was between grades 7 and 8, with grade 11 having the highest peak for being Unmotivated.
  • An overall decrease in the need for Structure was evidenced the higher the grade.
  • Although the junior high school years are considered strong periods for Peer influence, there was a greater need to learn/study alone in grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 than during any other interval.
  • The highest need to learn with Peers occurred in grades 6 through 8; the lowest need was in grade 12, followed by grade 9, with a slight increase in grades 10 and 11.
  • The younger the student, the more tactual and kinesthetic he/she was. Those modalities were followed by the development of visual strengths and, beginning with grades 5 and 6, the development of auditory strengths.

Price (1980) revealed how learning style changed as students moved from elementary school into adolescence and young adulthood. Others found that learning styles are also different by achievement level, gender, and age (Dunn & Griggs, 1995). Thus general changes in style can be anticipated as students develop.


Cognitive Style

Go into any classroom, at any level, in any school, and select a textbook in any subject. Chances are excellent that the textbook is not presented compatibly with how more than half the students in that classroom learn best. How is that possible?

A large majority of educators are analytic processors whereas many students at any level are global processors. Neither method is better than the other and both types can learn the same information; they just do it differently. Analytics respond best w hen ideas are presented sequentially with new information building upon past knowledge leading up to eventual understanding of entire concepts. Globals, on the other hand, need to “see the whole picture” first. They respond best when a teacher begins with a short story that explains why learning this information is important. Globals must be able to relate new information to what they already know. For a greater understanding of the differences between global and analytic processors, we turn to the research.

Kaley (1977) investigated field dependence versus field independence and how it affected sixth-grade readers. She found that of the good readers, half were analytic and half were global. Of the poor readers, 85% were global. She concluded that good rea ders were field independent (analytic) because they could see each letter, sound it out individually, and piece it together with others to form words.

Two years later, Trautman (1979) explored the relationship between selected instructional techniques and cognitive style. He used Contract Activity Packets (CAP’ s) with junior-high school social studies classes. Half the objectives were written analyt ically and half were written globally. Each student completed all the objectives. Trautman’s findings indicated that the groups matched with their processing styles achieved statistically higher gains on those objectives than on the objectives written in the unmatched style.

Further support for matching instructional techniques to cognitive style was provided by Tanenbaum (1982) who studied high school students enrolled in nutrition classes. Trautman’s, Douglas’, and Tanenbaum’s students all produced significant gains when instructional techniques matched their cognitive styles.

At about the same time, Dunn, Cavanaugh, Eberle, and Zenhausern (1982) found that right/left brain dominance was linked with certain learning-style elements. Using a scale for brain dominance developed by Zenhausern, the researchers identified high sch ool students as being either right-brain dominant or left-brain dominant. Their findings revealed that students who were strongly left-brain dominant needed quiet, bright light, formal design, were persistent, and required no intake while studying. Conver sely, right-dominant students needed sound, preferred low lighting and informal seating, were not persistent, and often required intake while learning. The findings of Dunn, Cavanaugh, Eberle, and Zenhausern constituted a significant breakthrough in our understanding of the importance of cognitive processing. For the first time, specific conditions under which analytics and globals learn were identified.

One of the first correlational studies that revealed a relationship between IQ and cognitive processing was conducted by Cody (1983). She examined the learning styles of highly gifted, average, and underachieving students. Among her findings were that: (a) of the students with an IQ of 145 or higher, 9 of 10 were global: (b) of the students with an IQ of 135 or higher, 8 of 10 were global: (c) of the students with an IQ of 125 or higher, 8 of 10 were analytic: and (d) analytics performed better than gl obals in school. Furthermore, Cody noted that the learning styles of gifted, average, and underachievers were very different from each other.

The most crucial point that teachers need to know is how to teach both analytically and globally. Analytics learn best when information is presented in a step-by-step sequence, whereas globals need to understand the whole concept first; they then f ocus on the details. To engage a global learner, a teacher should introduce a new lesson with a humorous story and use diagrams, illustrations, and pictures to represent key ideas. It is important to note that many globals prefer to work with peers rather than alone or with a teacher, and they often like to structure their own tasks. Globals appear to concentrate best with Sound, Soft or Low Lighting, an Informal seating arrangement, and some form of Intake. Also, they take frequent breaks while studying and often work on several tasks simultaneously. Analytics, on the other hand, prefer to work on one assignment at a time before proceeding to the next. They prefer a quiet, well illuminated environment and formal seating. Most analytics do not require intake to concentrate (Dunn, Cavanaugh, Eberle, & Zenhausern, 1982).

Many highly gifted students and most underachievers are global. The difference between the two groups is that underachievers tend to become unmotivated and are essentially Tactile/Kinesthetic learners. Globals appear to concentrate best with Sound, Sof t or Low Light. It would be wise to vary tasks to increase students’ motivation and persistence and to encourage active, hands-on participation while learning.

It is interesting to note that the majority of elementary school-age children are global. However, as children develop and progress through the grades, many become increasingly analytic (Dunn, Dunn, 1992, 1993; Dunn, Dunn, & Perrin, 1994).

Go further, click Learning Style Reference Materials