Understanding patterns in student learning styles to guide curriculum innovation

Brumm, Thomas
Steward, Brian
Steward, Brian
Brumm, Thomas
Mickelson, Steven
Mickelson, Steven
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Agricultural and Biosystems EngineeringHuman Computer Interaction

Student learning styles effect how students learn. If there is a mismatch between most students’ learning styles in a class and the teaching style of the instructor, student learning can be compromised. Learning styles of the students of two curriculums in the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department (ABE) at Iowa State University, Agricultural Engineering (AE) and Agricultural Systems Technology (AST), were measured in courses over several years using Felder and Silverman’s Index of Learning Styles (ILS). Midterm surveys were implemented to assess student learning preferences. In focus groups assessing specific AE and AST upper level courses, students were questioned about their learning styles and the transcripts from these focus groups were analyzed with learning styles in mind to confirm or refute the aggregate results of the ILS. AE and AST students tend to be visual, active, and sensory learners, confirming the ILS results, and are mismatched with traditional teaching styles used in many courses. Using the outcomes of these assessments, several class changes and innovations to the curricula have been and are being developed. Examples of these innovations are inclusion of more visualization in courses, in-class active learning assignments, and the use of electronic portfolios across these curricula. Understanding patterns in student learning styles has pedagogical value, as it has helped ABE instructors understand not only how the students to tend learn best, but also how classes should be structured so that students can learn in situations that don’t match their learning style.


This proceeding is published as Steward, B. L., T. J. Brumm, and S. K. Mickelson. "Understanding patterns in student learning styles to guide curriculum innovation." In: 2003 North Midwest Section Proceedings. North Midwest Section Meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education, October 11, 2003. Ames, Iowa. Posted with permission.