Construction and validation of a Learning Styles Inventory test for

Learning Styles Inventory – in the Asian context, Ritu Dangwal and Sugata Mitra, J. Psychological
Researches, 42 (3) p.138-145 (India), 1998.
Construction and validation of a Learning Styles Inventory test
for use in India
Ritu Dangwal and Sugata Mitra
R&D Centre
NIIT Limited
8 Balaji Estate
Kalkaji Extension
New Delhi 110 019
The importance of learning styles for increasing the effectiveness of the learning
process is discussed. It is pointed out that the use of learning style "aware"
teaching-learning material is crucial to the heterogeneous learning profiles of
today. The design, construction and validation of an adaptation of Kolb's original
learning styles inventory test is described.
Learning Styles
Learning styles have been the focus of considerable study (S. Montgomery,
1996; Snow, 1989; Mumford & Honey, 1996). They suggest that learning
depends upon many personal factors. It is also suggested that everyone has a
distinct learning style.
The term "Learning Style" has been defined as the composite of characteristic
cognitive, affective, and physiological factors that serve as relatively stable
indicators of how a learner perceives, interacts with, and responds to the learning
environment (Keefe, 1979).
It is obvious that the process of learning is critically important and understanding
the way individuals learn is the key to educational improvement. One of the
current challenges in teaching, particularly distance teaching over media such as
the Internet, is trying to meet the needs of heterogeneous students. It is expected
that styles of learning, if accommodated, can result in improved attitudes toward
learning and an increase in productivity, academic achievement, and creativity. It
is further supposed that the most effective learning occurs when the learning
activities most closely match the learners' prefered style. Similarly, just as
different learning styles require different learning techniques, different learners
with varied motivations also require different learning styles.
According to Cronbach & Snow (1977), learning styles could be used to predict
what kind of instructional strategies or methods would be most effective for a
given individual and learning task.
In this connection it is also interesting to take note of the past 20 years work at
the Saint Louis University on the relationship between psychological type and
various aspects of the educational process. Some fascinating relationships were
observed between student performance, learning patterns and such variables as
academic aptitude, college achievement, and choice of subjects.
Learning style models
In an attempt to provide a framework for the growing number of different learning
styles theories, different models have been propounded. Personality dimensions
assess the influences of basic personality on preferred approaches to acquiring
and integrating information. Models stressing personality include Witkin's (1954)
and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Myers,1978). Information processing is the
individual's preferred intellectual approach to assimilating information which
include Schmeck's (1983)and Kolb's (1984) models. Social interaction addresses
how students interact in classrooms that include Reichmann and Grasha (1974)
models. Multidimensional and instructional preference address the individual's
preferred environment for learning and encompass the Human Information
Processing Model, Keefe (1989)and Dun & Dun(1978) models. These models
are similar because they stress the importance of identifying and addressing
individual differences in the learning process.
The most commonly used inventory is the one proposed by Kolb (1984). It
proposes a theory of experiential learning that involves four principal stages:
conceptualization (AC), and active experimentation (AE). The CE/AC and AE/RO
dimensions are polar opposites as far as learning styles are concerned and Kolb
postulates four types of learners (divergers, assimilators, convergers and
accomodators) depending upon their position on these two dimensions. For
example, an accommodator prefers concrete experiences and active
experimentation (AE, CE).
Kolb's explanation of Learning Styles
Concrete Experience (CE): Needs time to digest information. Needs tangible,
"hands on" approaches. Will probably not volunteer to ask or answer questions
spontaneously. Works well in individual tutorials and one-on-one situations.
Should do a lot of reading to build the background knowledge that can facilitate
Reflective Observation (RO): Takes learning personally. It is important for this
type to like a course and to find a personal link with it. Usually, needs to know on
how to understand material without feeling compelled to agree with it.
Abstract Conceptualization (AC): Connects information with prior learning.
Learns through linking new knowledge with previous knowledge and
experiences. Sees the big picture. May have difficulty with organizing
information, finding focus, or attending to details. In writing essays, may appear
to be "all over the place".
Active Experimentation (AE): Has a need for immediate feedback. Learns best
by asking questions. May jump ahead of the instructor and interrupt with
questions. Is often an academic rebel, i.e. likes to "buck the system" or look for
exceptions to the rules. Works well with group tutorials and group study.
NIIT's involvement with Learning Styles
NIIT is one of the largest educational organisations in the world. It deals with over
200,000 students through around 500 classrooms spread over most of the world.
It also operates one of the worlds first virtual universities, the NetVarsity
(, where it addresses around 2000 heterogeneous
learners. It is also one of the world's largest producers of Computer Based
Training (CBT) materials. It is vital for NIIT to address the diverse learning needs
of its students through the effective methods. To do so, its R&D Centre operates
with the following assumptions:
People learn in a variety of ways, and different people prefer to learn things in
different ways.
Courses should be designed to deal with different learning styles.
Information about learning styles can help faculty become more sensitive to
the differences students bring into the classroom. And can serve as a guide
in designing learning experiences that match students' styles.
Identifying a student's style and then providing instruction consistent with that
style contribute to more effective learning.
Incorporating some of these assumptions in a recent model, NIIT has proposed
an instructional design strategy for the development of learning materials for use
over the Internet (Mitra, 1996).
Indianization of Kolb's Inventory
India, with a population of close to one billion, represents a microcosm of
heterogeneous learners in the world. The adaptation of Kolb's inventory to the
Indian context is considered vital to Indian education. In this paper, at attempt to
adapt Kolb's Inventory in the Indian context is described.
Test Standardization
One can diagnose specific areas of a person's assets and liabilities through
"psychometry". Psychometry are the techniques for quantitative assessment of
human behavior through psychological tests. A psychometric test is a
standardized instrument designed to measure objectively one or more aspects of
a total personality by means of sample of verbal or non-verbal responses, or by
means of other behavior. The fundamental purpose of standardization is to
establish "reliability" and "validity" of the test.
Reliability refers to the ability to yield consistent results from one set of measures
to another; it is the extent to which the obtained test scores are free from such
Validity, on the other hand, refers to the degree to which a test measures what it
purports to measure, when compared with accepted criteria.
The first essential quality of a valid test is that it be highly reliable.
Another important issue is whether a test is "culture-fair" or not. Since every
person must develop in an environment of some kind, his skills, information,
repertory of responses, modes of thinking, and so on, are to some extent
culturally determined. Some psychological tests are more culture-fair than others.
A questionnaire to determine learning inventory was devised. The inventory
underwent pilot runs and during each run, modifications were incorporated. The
methodology applied remained constant. For each pilot run:
 a new sample was taken
 the sample size varied from 100 to 300 people
As there was not much literature available on Kolb's Inventory, not much
information could be gathered regarding the Inventory. Such as:
1. What statistical treatment was given by Kolb while deriving the 36 items.
2. The rationale behind choosing the various buffer items.
3. The meaning of the various adjectives, as meanings can be interpreted
4. The reliability and validity of the Inventory.
Kolb's Inventory:
There are 36 items that measure the learning style of the individual. Four
dimensions namely, CE, RO, AC, AE (explanations of which have been stated
above) measure these 36 items. Each dimension is measured by nine items.
However, out of these 9 items, 3 items are buffer items. Hence, 24 items
measure the 4 dimensions. (Appendix 1). The pattern of scoring is simple, you
total the scores for the 4 dimensions and then apply the formula (AC - CE) & (AE
- RO), thereby plotting the score on the graph. The four types of learners are:
Analytical learner, Precision learner, Imaginative learner and Dynamic learner.
After each pilot run, certain changes were incorporated for e.g. in the 1 st run, an
attempt was made to simplify the items such as the word "discriminatory" was
replaced by "critical". In the 2nd phase, the scoring was changed, in the 3rd
phase, similar modifications were made. In all the phases, the scores were
statistically treated on SPSS and it was observed that there was no one to one
match between the original test by Kolb and our adaptation.
A qualitative report on the feedback given by people suggested that they found it
difficult to understand the meaning of the adjectives and in relating them to their
present situation. In other words, the adjectives were vague. This aspect
indicated that there are cultural differences in the original inventory and that it is
not a culture-fair test. To maintain uniformity and comprehension, it was felt that
if a statement replaced the adjectives, there would be better understanding and
less inconsistency in comprehending the meaning of the adjectives.
An attempt was made to procure some reference material and interestingly
enough it was found that Piaget had talked of a Model on learning & cognitive
development that was similar to Kolb's Model. This model also infiltrated in the
Jung's psychological types. Piaget's work had identified 4 major stages of
cognitive growth that emerge from birth to about the age of 14-16 yrs. In the first
stage (0-2)yrs, the child is predominantly concrete & active in his learning style.
This stage is called the sensory-motor stage. Learning is actively enactive
through feeling, touching, & handling. Representation is based on action – for
example 'dig a hole'. The greatest accomplishment of this period is the
development of goal-oriented behavior. Learning occurs primarily through the
association between stimulus and response.
In the second stage (2-6)yrs, the child retains his concrete orientation but begins
to develop a reflective orientation as he begins to internalize actions, converting
them to images. This is called the representational stage. Learning is now
predominantly iconic in nature, through the manipulation of observations and
images. He is captivated with his ability to collect images & to view the world
from different perspectives.
The third stage (7-11)yrs, the intensive development of abstract symbolic powers
begins. Learning in this stage is governed by the logic of classes & relations.
Thus, in contrast to the child in the sensory-motor stage whose learning style
was dominated by accommodative processes, the child at the stage of concrete
operations is more assimilative. He relies on concepts & theories to select & give
shape to his experiences.
Piaget's final stage of cognitive development comes with the onset of
adolescence (12-15)yrs. In this stage, the adolescent moves from symbolic
processes based on concrete operations to the symbolic processes of
representational logic, the stage of formal operations.
As one can observe, this brief outline of Piaget's cognitive development theory
identifies those basic developmental processes that shape the basic learning
process of adults.
Human beings are a learning species, and our survival depends on our ability to
adapt not only in the reactive way of fitting into the physical & social worlds, but
in the proactive ways of creating & shaping those worlds.
All the models above suggest the idea that learning is by its very nature a tension
and conflict-filled process. New knowledge, skills, or attitudes are achieved
through confrontation among four modes of experiential learning. Learners, if
they are to be effective, need four different kinds of abilities – concrete
experience abilities (CE), reflective observation abilities (RO), abstract
conceptualization abilities (AC), and active experimentation abilities (AE). That is
they must be able to involve themselves fully, openly, and without bias in new
experiences (CE). They must be able to reflect on and observe their experiences
from many perspectives (RO). They must be able to create concepts that
integrate their observations into logically sound theories (AC), and they must be
able to use these theories to make decisions and solve problems (AE).
Jung further worked upon Piaget's model and devised The Myers-Briggs Type
Indicator (MBTI) which is a widely used psychological self-report instrument to
assess people's orientation (Myers, 1962). Correlations between individual's
scores on MBTI and the LSI should give some empirical indication of validity of
relationships between Jung's personality types and the learning styles proposed
Both the LSI and MBTI instruments are based on self-analysis and report. In a
more systematic study of 220 managers ad M.B.A students, Margerison and
Lewis (1979) investigated the relations between LSI and MBTI scores using the
technique of canonical correlation. They found a significant canonical correlation
of .45 (<.01) between the two sets of test scores. When the resulting pattern of
psychological types is plotted on the two dimensional LSI learning space,
relationships between the Jungian types and learning styles become clear and
consistent with our predictions (fig 1.2)
Fig 1.2 The relationship between LSI and Jung's Psychological Types.
We have already acknowledged and examined to some extent the indebtedness
of experiential learning theory to Jung's theory of psychological types. Now we
examine more specifically the relations between Jung's types and the four basic
learning styles. Jung's typology of psychological types includes four such pairs of
dialectically opposed adaptive orientations, describing individuals' (1) mode of
relation to the world (introversion/extroversion) (2) mode of decision making
(perception/judgement), (3) preferred way of perceiving (sensing/intuition) and (4)
preferred way of judging (thinking/feeling).
If we now associate the Jungian personality type with the four basic learning
style, it is as follows:
 accommodator is the dynamic learner
 diverger is the imaginative learner
 assimilator is the analytic learner
 converger is the precision learner
Keeping in view the compatibility of Jung's psychological model and Kolb's model
(which is an extension of the Piaget's model), the present learning style was
changed and made descriptive in nature. There were 52 items out of which 26
items measured the AC,CE continuum and 26 items measured the AE,RO
continuum. For example:
The respondent then checks on either a) or b) whichever statement is applicable
to him. Likewise, he checks on all the 52 items. This test was run over approx.
100 people and the scores were statistically treated to study the reliability and
validity of the test.
Reliability: The overall reliability for the 52 items was found to be Alpha .66
which is relatively high. When split half Alpha taken for the 26 items, Alpha part
1 was observed to be .57 and Alpha part 2 was observed to be .56, which again
was found to be relatively high. Thus, the reliability of the test was observed to be
very high.
Validity: When inter-dimensional validity was studied it was observed that AE vs.
RO was observed to be –1.000 (< .01 level) and AC vs. CE was observed to be –
1.00 ( < .01 level). Thus, the bipolar dimensions were found to be significantly
negatively correlated. In other words, if an item on AC is high then the same item
would be low on the CE dimension and the same applies to the AE vs. RO
continuum. There is negative correlation between the bipolar dimensions,
thereby indicating a high inter-dimensional validity.
If we now examine the relationship between Learning Styles and Jung's
Psychological Types we find that the dynamic quadrant or the accomodator is
negatively correlated with the analytical learner or the assimilator [ACRO and
AECE are significantly negatively correlated = -1.00 (< .01 level)]. Similarly, the
precision learner or the converger is negatively correlated with the imaginative or
diverger [CERO and AEAC are significantly negatively correlated = -1.00
If we examine the correlation between the four dimensions, AC and AE is
negatively correlated (-.2024), AC and RO is positively correlated (.2024), RO
and CE is negatively correlated (-.2024) and CE and AE is positively correlated
(.2024). This implies that even though the correlations are not significant there
are certain items between the dimensions that are overlapping while there are
other items between the dimensions that are not overlapping.
It is expected that the new test will be useful for determining the learning styles of
Indian students and thereby assist with the development of learning style
enabled materials for use in Indian classrooms and the Internet.
Several discussions with persons involved with instructional design assisted in
the development of this test. Discussions with A. K. Jalaluddin and Sushmita
Mitra were particularly useful.
Financial assistance from NIIT is gratefully acknowledged.
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