Cognitive Versus Learning Style

Cognitive Versus Learning Style

"Some psychologists show a preference for considering the personality as a whole, thinking of it as a global unit, complex in nature but unanalyzable, which viewpoint is often arrived at in the Gesaltist's protest against the unduly automistic approach of some behaviorists. To the scientifically oriented mind this viewpoint may appear mystical, vague, and of little value in practice."

In Badenoch's (1986) study into personality type, learning style preference and instructional strategies, the author nores that theories of personality, learning, and learning style focus on individual behavior resulting from interaction with the environment. Badenoch differentiates between eprsonality theories which examine individual behavior in an environment and learning which centers on individual behavior as influenced by theenvironment. Learning style theory, proposes the author, investigates the process and product of learning to understand the interactions within the learning environment. Cognitive personality type, therefore, is a classification of learning style theory.

Considerable confusion appears in the literature concerning the terms cognitive style and learning style. Numerous authors use the terms interchangeably. Garity (1985) notes that learning style has been used as a escription for the cognitive process of thinking, perceiving, and remembering (McFadden, 1986). McFadden states that most definitions of learning style as well as cognitive style, illustrate variations in individual information processing and that no single definition for learning style or cognitive style has been identified.

Descriptions of cognitive style, notes McFadden, include: a consistent pattern of behavior within a range of individual variability (Cornet, 1983); a student's consistent way of responding to and using stimuli in a learning environment (Claxton & Ralston, 1978); how individuals process information and prefer to learn (Garity, 1985); the way individuals organize information and experiences (Laschinger & Boss, 1984); a person's characteristic style of acquiring and using information (Haynsake, 1981) and; an expression of psychological differentiation within characteristic modes of information processing (Witkin & Goodenough, 1971, 1981).

Zarghani (1988) notes that learning styles are the cognitive, afective, and psychological traits that serve as relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to the learning environment (Keefe, 1982). LEarning style explains the interaction of different instructional methods with cognitive or personality characteristics of the learners. The term is also referred to as aptitude (or attitude) or treatment interaction (Borg & Gall, 1983). Hunt (1982) defined elarning style as a formal attempt to capture what goes on in effective communication.

Gregorc (1979) emphasized lerners' behavior in his definition of learning style. Fuhrman and Grasha (1983) looked at learning styles as social interaction, describing the different roles students play in the classroom in interaction with their peers, teachers and course content. Ford (1981) described learning style as adaptive strategic reactions to a particular learning situation, which might depend on such factors as level of interest of anxiety or as more stable styles linked with the feature of personality and motivation.

Kocinski (1984) defines learning style as the preferred way to learn and the way a person learns best. Furthermore, Kocinski presents the notion of learning style as an important component of Jung's theory of psychological type. Jungian theorists, especially Myers (1962, 1980) and McCaulley (1974, 1976), have been strong advocates of the idea that learning styles of individuals are reflections of their types of personality. Kocinski, citing Goodman (1970), states that learning styles may be cognitive or affective or a combination of both. Keefe (1979) suggests that learning styles are characteristic cognitive, affective, and psychological behaviors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with and respond to the learning environment (Sewall, 1988).

Messick (1976) considers cognitive style a psychological term which refers to variations among individuals in preferred ways of perseiving, organizing, analyzing, or recalling information and experience (Sewall, 1988). Cross (1976) refers to cognitive styles as the characteristic ways of using the mind and is frequently considered as one element among other elements comprising learning style (Schultz, 1985; Kocinski, 1984). Cognitive styles are also viewed as the typical means of problem solving, thinking, perceiving, and remembering (Messick, 1976).

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    Peter L. Heineman
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