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Teaching and Learning Styles

Teaching Styles  | Learning Styles

The research literature on the efficacy of customizing teaching and learning activities to a student's particular learning style(s) is inconclusive. Yet, many have found it useful to identify and reflect upon the way teaching and learning styles (and the interaction among them) affect classroom dynamics and the quality of student learning. This might help in writing a teaching philosophy as well. On this page, you will find annotated links to selected literature overviews and multiple free online teaching and learning inventories that you and/or your students can use.

One of the three key findings in John Bransford's book How People Learn, is that a 'metacognitive' approach to instruction can help students learn to take control of their own learning by defining learning goals and monitoring their progress in achieving them." (2nd ed, p. 18). This is one justification for using teaching and learning styles inventories as well as metacognitive reflection in your courses.

Teaching Styles

One of the best-known books on teaching styles is Teaching with Style, by the late Anthony (Tony) Grasha ( Pittsburgh, PA: Alliance Publishers, 1996). This book not only presents a research-based taxonomy of teaching styles, it also discusses the match (or mismatch) between various teaching and learning styles.

Teaching Style Inventories
The Grasha Riechmann Teaching Style Survey has 40 questions. This online tool automatically provide your score.

Grasha identified five teaching styles: expert, formal authority, personal model, facilitator, and delegator.
Grasha also found that these five styles group into four clusters:

Cluster 1 - expert/formal authority
"tends toward teacher-centered classrooms in which information is presented and students receive knowledge."
Cluster 2 - personal model/expert/formal authority
"is a teacher-centered approach that emphasizes modeling and demonstration. This approach encourages students to observe processes as well as content."
Cluster 3 - facilitator/personal model/expert cluster
"is a student-centered model for the classroom. Teachers design activities, social interactions, or problem-solving situations that allow students to practice the processes for applying course content."
Cluster 4 - delegator/facilitator/expert
"places much of the learning burden on the students. Teachers provide complex tasks that require student initiative, and often group work, to complete."

The Teaching Perspectives Inventory ,developed by Dan Pratt, has been taken by over 5,000 instructors across multiple disciplines. For Dan Pratt, a teaching perspective "is an inter-related set of beliefs and intentions that gives direction and justification to our actions." (Good teaching: one size fits all, p. 1)

The five perspectives are:

"Effective teaching requires a substantial commitment to the content or subject matter."
"Effective teaching is a process of enculturating students into a set of social norms and ways of working."
"Effective teaching must be planned and conducted 'from the learner?s point of view'."
"Effective teaching assumes that long-term, hard, persistent effort to achieve comes from the heart, as well as the head."
Social Reform
"Effective teaching seeks to change society in substantive ways."

--From Summaries of Five Teaching Perspectives

For a more detailed description, see Good teaching: one size fits all?

This inventory will provide you with detailed feedback.

The Teaching Goals Inventory has 53 questions.

"The Teaching Goals Inventory (TGI) is a self-assessment of instructional goals. Its purpose is threefold: (1) to help college teachers become more aware of what they want to accomplish in individual courses; (2) to help faculty locate Classroom Assessment Techniques they can adapt and use to assess how well they are achieving their teaching and learning goals; and (3) to provide a starting point for discussion of teaching and learning goals among colleagues." (

The Teaching Goals fall into six clusters:

  1. Higher-order thinking skills
  2. Basic academic success skills
  3. Discipline-specific knowledge and skills
  4. Liberal arts and academic values
  5. Work and career preparation
  6. Personal development

The TGI was developed by Angelo and Cross. The sourcebook is:
Angelo, T.A. and Cross, K.P. (1993) Classroom Assessment Techniques. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2nd edition.


Learning Styles

There is an enormous amount of information on learning styles and a good deal of controversy about whether teaching to learning styles make a positive difference or whether teaching against a learning style might help strengthen a weaker style.

Several popular methods to categorize Learning Styles Inventories:

  • Environmental (preferred lighting, temperature, noise level, etc)
  • Information processing (sequential or global)
  • Personality (MBTI)

Don Clark's Learning Styles overview covers the VARK, Kolb Myers Briggs (MBTI), and Gardner's Multiple Intelligences.

New Students - New Learning Styles by Charles Schroeder discusses the disparities between faculty and student learning styles and how this can affect the classroom.

Learning Style Inventories
Many learning styles inventories are not free. What follows is a list of free online inventories.  Having your students do one of these might provide information for them on effective learning strategies as well as provide you with information on effective teaching strategies. You might also find it helpful to do one or more of these yourself as it might give you information about your preferred learning style (and therefore preferred teaching style).

ILS - Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire
Barbara Solomon and Richard Felder's instrument at North Carolina State University. The questionnaire contains 44 questions. The dimensions tested are active/reflective, sensing/intuitive, visual/verbal, sequential global.

VARK - VARK stands for Visual, Auditory, Read/write, and Kinesthetic.
This site contains a learning styles inventory as well as a good deal of explanatory information. For example, after you complete the questionnaire and get your results, you will also be provided with links to helpsheets that provide strategies for working in your learning style(s). The questionnaire has only 13 questions and can be done very quickly. Note: it is possible to choose more than one option for each question.

Multiple Intelligence Inventory - A free 80-question inventory based on eight of Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences.

Baron's Simple Inventory - A one-paged pdf with a list of terms to read out loud to a class. Students raise their hands if they think the term applies. (This might be more efficiently done as a Blackboard survey.)

Flexible Model based on the work of David Kolb - This is not an inventory but could be made into one.

MBTI  (Meyers Briggs) type inventory.



Page updated: 28-Sep-2011

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