The concept of matching temperament preference or traits with instructional and learning styles have been investigated by numerous researchers. Evans (1986) citing Kurt Lewin's earlier works (1935, 1942) notes that Lewin proposed that behavior is a function of both the individual and the environment and more specifically that there are three interacting forces which influence the learning process; the student, the instructor, and the learning environment. An imbalance of any of these factors, Lewin concluded, would result in a faltering process. Bloom (1971, 1976) echoes this sentiment with his three factors which account for student learning variance; student cognitive characteristics, affective entry characteristics, and the quality of instruction.
The concept of matching temperament with learning styles to crete a "goodness of fit" as proposed by Thomas and Chess (1977) is summarized by the authors as follows:
This formulation stems from the conviction that normal or pathologic psychologic development does not depend on temperament alone. Rather, it is the nature of the interaction between temperament and the individual's other characteristics with specific features of the environment which provides the basic dynamic influence for the process of development.
If there is a goodness of fit between child and environment, the foundation for a healthy self-concept and stabel self-esteem is laid down. If there is a poorness of fit, a negative, denigrated self-evaluation begins to crystalize. If, in latter childhood or even in adult life, a poorness of fit can be altered, such as by the emergence of new positive capacities or a favorable change in the environment, then a negative self-image may be transformed into a positive one (p.15-16).
The concept of goodness and poorness of fit is similar to Kagan's (1986) perceptual schemata in infants and their interaction with new environmental stimuli. From a Piagetian developmental theory facet, matching is nothing more than an assimulation which has no effect on student growth. Talwar, Nitz, and Lerner (1991) note:
"This perspetive involves the ideal that development occurs through reciprocal relations, or dynamic interactions between organisms and their contexts...The goodness of fit concept derives from the view that the person-context interactions depicted within developmental contectualism involve 'circular functions'...that is, person-context relations predicated on others' reactions to a person's characteristics of individuality"(p.30).
Earlier, Lerner (1986) and colleagues proposed,
"The child's individuality, in differentially meeting the demands of the context, provides a basis for the feedback he or she gets from the socializing environment. That is, just as the child brings his or her characteristics of individuality to a particular setting, there are demands placed on the child by virtue of the social and physical components of the setting. First, these demands may take the form of attitudes, values, or expectations held by others in the context of the child's physical or behavioral attributes or others in the context with whom the child must coordinate, or fit, his or her behavioral attributes for adaptive interactions to exist.
From the perspective of the goodness of fit model, adaptive psychological and social functioning do not derive from either the nature of the person;s characterisics of individuality per se or the nature of the demands of the contexts within which the peson functions...Rather, to the extent that a person's characteristics of individuality (or exceed) the demands of a particular setting, adaptive outcomes in that setting will accrue. In turn, people whose characteristics do not fit (or fall short of) the context's demands should show evidence of nonadaptive outcomes" (p.101).
Van Heck (1991) notes that the concept reflects consonances and disonances between "(1) environmental opportunities, expectations, and demands, and (2) the temperament characteristics of the person" (p.167). The author sumizes that it is increasingly recognized that temperament varables play an important role in the elicitation of reactions from others in the social environment, but also situation perception, situation selection, and the development of strategies that individuals use when trying to satisfy their needs" (p.167.
The popularity of the goodness of fit model according to Doyle & Rutherford (1984) stems from the apparent logic of learner differences and how these differences are likely to influence learning styles and that it provides a conceptual framework for dealing with diversity among students (Sewall, 1988). Kocinski (1984) draws attention to the isue of matching styles from the aspect of accountability; maximizing learning for each student is dependent upon assessing how each student learns best. Zarghani (1988) reiterates this sentiment noting that most learning style studies have focused on the issue of accountability from the perspective of matching learner with teaching styles; the intent being to increase student achievement, retention rates, and satisfaction. Powe (1989) and Badenoch (1986) propose that we must first uinderstand who we are to understand how we can improve instruction.
Numerous authors have addressed the issue of matching teaching style to learner temperament preference and correlation stastics between student performance and matching are mixed. Rita Dunn (1983) reviewed several research findings on students' learning styles and their achievement at college, secondary and elimentary school levels. Her findongs, as well as those of Letteri (1982) and Hodges (1982), indicate that matching student learning styles with teaching styles had a positive effect on achievement scores, attendance, attitude towards school, and motivation for additional education.
Powe (1989) in reviewing the literature on the relationship of psychological types and learning style references numerous authors who had found positive effects of matching including Far (1971), Flanders (1951), Cogan (1958), Cross (1976), Shuert (1970), DiStephani (1969), McAdams (1971), Lange (1969), Schroeder (1970), and Taylor (1968). In reviewing the literature for this investigation, positive correlations were also reported by Scholtz (1985); Evans (1986); McFadden (1986); Badenoch (1986); Vance (1991); and Hoffman, Waters, and Berry (1981). Casey's (1993) investigation of learning styles and their influence on success at an academic instructor school indicated that when curriculum, handouts and tests, critique sheets, rooms, and equipment were standardized, the affective variable of teaching style and personality influenced learner performance.
Researchers including Witkin (1954, 1962, 1977); hunt (1971, 1972, 1978, 1979, 1981); rehage (1951); Della-Doro and Blanchard (1979); Laos (1977); Spaulding (1978); Cross (1977); Slawski (1972); Sadler, Plovinck and Snope (1978); Claxton and ralston (1978); Ingram (1974); Cunningham (1975); and Malio (1978) report no direct correlation between student performance and matching. Authors, including Grasha (1984), Davidson (1990), Bonham (1989), Check (1984), and Wentura (1984) maintain there is insufficient current research to support matching and learning styles and that matching styles may not be appropriate. Matching teaching styles to learning styles may not permit a student to be challenged or stretched their learning environment. Bonham qualifies her views by contending that matching would seem advisable if a student needs to learn a body of knowledge quickly or needs remediation; otherwise, students need to experience alternate styles to increase their resilience and ability to work outside comfortable learning paradigms."
Kenneth and Rita Dunn (1978) point out that when a student learns in a way that is natural for him, the possible outcomes can include increased academic achievement, improved self-esteem, a liking for learning, improved basic skills, a stimulation of creativity, and a gradual increase in learner independence. The authors propose that outcomes are more apt to be positive when teaching styles match learning styles. Matching does not, note the authors, guarantee effective teaching or positive learning outcomes.
Arguably, the research offers sufficient stastical support for matching teaching styles and learning styles. This view, however, is probably at odds with traditional classroom expectations. Attention to learning styles as proposed by this investigation are suggested as a means of diversifying teaching styles and creating a more dynamic learning environment. While matching may not permit a student to be challenged, it could enhance the students' opportunities and permit teachers to further enrich their instructional capabilities by addressing a broader range of individual differences.
All contents copyright (C) 1995
Peter L. Heineman
All rights reserved.
Comments to: PHeineman@metropo.mccneb.edu