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Learning Styles Of Engineering & Engineering Technology Students – Similarities, Differences And Implications For Effective Pedagogy

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Knowing Our Students I

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.877.1 - 11.877.11



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Paper Authors


Eugene Rutz University of Cincinnati

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Eugene Rutz is Academic Director in the College of Engineering at the University of Cincinnati. Eugene's responsibilities include new program development, distance learning program development, and evaluation of instructional technologies. He has a BS in Nuclear Engineering and an MS in Mechanical Engineering and is a registered professional engineer. Eugene has worked in the nuclear power industry, as a design engineer, and as a university researcher and instructor.

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Virginia Westheider University of Cincinnati

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Virginia Westheider is Academic Director in the College of Applied Science at the University of Cincinnati.

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

Learning Styles of Engineering & Engineering Technology Students – Similarities, Differences and Implications for Effective Pedagogy

Introduction The academic community has long recognized that individuals have a variety of learning styles and preferences for receiving and processing information. In engineering and engineering technology education, we have seen that undergraduate education has failed to provide instruction in a manner that is engaging and relevant to large numbers of undergraduates. Implications of this failure in pedagogy are that students do not perform as well as possible and that students leave engineering to study other areas. If universities are to increase the number of well-prepared practicing engineers and technologists, especially given flat enrollments, improvements must be made in the educational process.

Beginning in 2000 with a grant from the GE Foundation, the University of Cincinnati began collecting learning style data on engineering students to seek to understand differences in student performance, particularly as it related to educational technologies1. This data collection was extended to engineering technology students with the implementation of a grant from the NSF’s Bridges for Engineering Education program (grant # EEC-0341842). This project also sought to quantify differences in student performance and engagement with various learning technologies2. Kolb’s Learning Styles Inventory was used as a measure of student learning styles preferences.

This paper reports on several aspects of these projects and compares our results to published studies regarding the learning styles of students. Two questions are addressed: 1) how do engineering and engineering technology students at the University of Cincinnati compare to other similar populations?; 2) are there significant differences in the learning styles of engineering students as compared with engineering technology students? Educators who understand these various preferences and who have a good sense of the distribution of learning type have a better opportunity to enable all students to learn more fully.

There are a number of interesting and important aspects of learning styles that the paper does not address. In particular, we did not examine how a student’s preference might change as a result of their experiences in an engineering program or an engineering technology program. We also did not evaluate the efficacy of several learning style instruments. While the paper provides discussion on the implications of what was learned, a measure of the effectiveness of these recommendations was not a part of the scope of the study. The study does provide a snapshot of a relatively large population of students and seeks to answer specific questions about this population regarding learning styles.

Description of Learning Style Model Personality, experience, and preference for how information is received contribute to differences in how individuals learn. These differences in learning styles challenge an educational system that assumes everyone learns equally well in a classroom lecture setting. David Kolb describes a model of understanding learning styles that focuses on two distinct processes: 1) prehension of experiences and 2) formulating meaning (transforming experiences)3,4. The model describes the grasping of ideas along a continuum of concrete experience to abstract conceptualization and the

Rutz, E., & Westheider, V. (2006, June), Learning Styles Of Engineering & Engineering Technology Students – Similarities, Differences And Implications For Effective Pedagogy Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--238

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: © 2006 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