Learning styles and barriers to learning perceived by adult students on campus

Mertesdorf, Jane
Major Professor
John P. Wilson
Committee Member
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The purpose of this study was to ascertain if there was a relationship between learning styles and barriers to learning as perceived by adult students in higher education. The sample included 431 randomly selected students 25 years or older who were enrolled at the University of Northern Iowa. A three-part questionnaire, mailed to the students, consisted of the Barriers to Learning Index, Kolb's Learning Style Inventory, and demographic questions;The Barriers to Learning Index developed by the researcher was a series of 43 (Likert type) statements which were reflective of the three dimensions (i.e., dispositional, institutional, and situational) of the barriers to learning concept. It was hypothesized that dispositional barriers, defined as negative psychological perceptions about oneself as a learner, would be more consuming, critical, and difficult to cope with than the more tangible situational and institutional barriers;Kolb's Learning Style Inventory was used to examine the dominance of the adaptive learning modes. Kolb theorized that for students to be most effective learners they need to develop the capacity to learn using four adaptive modes: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. It was conjectured that students with dominant learning modes would have more difficulty coping with and adapting to the learning environment than would students with balanced learning modes;The findings in this study revealed no relationship between the adaptive learning modes and perceived barriers to learning. Future research using the LSI to measure this relationship should assess the dominance of specific learning style types using a larger and more diverse population. Alternative methodologies for assessing barriers to learning are needed before concluding that institutional and situational barriers are more problematic than dispositional barriers.