A Learning Style Approach to Curriculum Design

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Peter Taylor


Classroom instruction improves when teachers systematically assess and remodel lesson plans. One approach to remodeling is to use learning styles framework to review and rework curriculum in order to target specific learning style modalities. This synthesis offers a literature review of learning style theory which identifies the goals of a learning style approach to instruction (Sternberg, 1994; Dunn, 1990); and, reviews and addresses difficulties flicing educators wishing to incorporate learning styles into curriculum (Curry, 1990; Snider, 1990; Horton and Oakland, 1997). Such difficulties include the validity and reliability of learning style research, the lack of a unified body of knowledge concerning the conceptualization of learning style, and the variety of learning style models available. I argue, despite criticisms, that learning styles provide a useful, systematic basis for remodelling lessons, and that systematic reexamination improves teaching quality and student learning through increased metacognitive awareness. Four different learning style models (Myers-Briggs, KoIb, 4MAT, and the Felder-Silverman Model, (ILS)) are introduced and examined. Following the literature review, I present a case study based on the Felder-Silverman Model which examines the learning styles of two groups of at-risk youth in an urban, alternative high school diploma program. Results indicate no clearly dominant learning style for these two populations. However, trends exist which may have implications for educators wishing to use learning styles as a lens through which to evaluate and redesign curriculum. The group profile for these populations showed a majority of learners who are active, visual, sensing and sequential learners. By modifying Richard Paul's (1993) model for incorporating critical thinking skills into curriculum, I suggest a method for the critical review of lessons using learning styles. This synthesis concludes by offering an original, eight-component planning matrix. The planning matrix allows an educator to reflect on lessons to establish the learning styles all ready incorporated and those needing to be addressed. At this time, there is no quantitative means for assessing student "pre"' versus "post" learning style intervention for this method. A guide for teachers interested in remodelling their classes using the ILS is included as an appendix.


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