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Learning Styles In The Physics Classroom: A Research Informed Approach

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Physics in the K-16 Classroom

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.815.1 - 8.815.14



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Paper Authors

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Budny Dan

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Teresa Larkin

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2480

Learning Styles in the Physics Classroom: A Research-informed Approach

Teresa L. Larkin & Dan D. Budny American University/University of Pittsburgh


This paper explores relevant research documenting that a learning-style approach in the classroom leads to enhanced learning gains. Particular emphasis will be placed on the Dunn and Dunn Learning Style Model. The basic tenets of this learning-style model are highlighted. The Dunn and Dunn model forms the basis of the Productivity Environmental Preference Survey (PEPS) which is a valid and reliable learning-style identification instrument. The PEPS is currently being used as a research tool within the introductory physics course for non-majors at American University. Two teaching approaches that have been developed based on a learning-style approach will be shared. These approaches include the use of writing as well as interactive, live online chats using Blackboard technologies. Ideas for effective adaptation of these approaches by educators in other branches of science, as well as mathematics, engineering, and technology (SMET) education are discussed.


The brisk changes that continue to occur in modern society, and in academia in particular, suggest that learning must be a continuous process. A growing body of research on adult learners suggests that increased learning gains can be achieved when instruction is designed with students’ learning styles in mind [1]-[6]. In addition, several practitioners within the domain of physics, as well as engineering education, have noted the importance of teaching with learning styles in mind [7]-[14]. Furthermore, attention to learning styles and learner diversity has been shown to increase student interest and motivation to learn.

The particular population of students that encompasses the focus of this paper is non-science majors taking introductory physics at American University. Most students take this introductory course to satisfy the university’s General Education requirements for graduation. Because the backgrounds and ability levels of this group of students is quite broad-based and diverse, it is anticipated that the teaching and learning strategies to be described in this paper can be adapted for use with other populations of students as well. The underlying message is quite simple - a learning-style approach CAN be successfully applied with ANY population of students.

This paper addresses the critical role that a learning-style approach can play in terms of teaching introductory physics. A detailed overview of the learning-style model used by the author will be provided. In addition, two specific teaching and learning strategies developed, in part, from current research on learning styles will be highlighted. These strategies involve extensive use of writing as a teaching and learning tool as well as the use of live, online chats

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Dan, B., & Larkin, T. (2003, June), Learning Styles In The Physics Classroom: A Research Informed Approach Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12374

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2003 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015