The relationship between instructional methods and the learning styles of ESL students
Prinsloo, Hermanus Bornman
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The purpose of this study was to determine whether instructional method (i.e. lecture vs CAl vs combined) affects language achievement differentially for ESL students with dissimilar learning styles. •The following research questions were formulated: • What does the learning style "profile" of this specific group of first year ESL students look like, and how does this "profile" compare with other "profiles" compiled in similar South African studies? • What learning styles, if any, can be regarded as the most significant predictors of the language achievement of this specific group of students? • Does instructional method affect language achievement differentially for ESL students with dissimilar learning styles? • What are the implications of these results for ESL teaching/learning and teacher training? A review of the literature indicated that the nature of the interaction between instructional methods, and learning styles is very complex. The identification of learner characteristics can be used to assign students selectively to appropriate methods of instruction and it can also provide an exciting opportunity to improve the delivery of language teaching to a more diversified student body. The accessible population included a total of 186 first year students taking English at a university in the North West Province. Students participating in this study were randomly divided into three treatment groups: • Students that received instruction via lecturing only; • Students that received instruction via CAl only; and • Students that received instruction via a combination of lecturing and CAl. A t-test was used to compare the mean scores of two groups in order to determine whether the two means differed statistically significantly from each other. A two-way analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was calculated to determine the interaction between instructional methods and learning styles. Follow-up post-hoc Tukey HSD tests were calculated to determine where the differences in the mean performances occurred. A stepwise multiple regression analysis was performed to determine which learning styles, if any, could be regarded as the most effective predictors of the language achievement of this specific group of students. The results of the study indicated that students with dissimilar learning styles achieved differentially as a result of instructional method. The interaction between learning styles and instructional method was statistically significant. While the lecture method is employed traditionally at most schools and universities over the world, it is mainly geared towards students that have a decided auditory modality preference. Auditory students have the best chance of succeeding and excelling in a traditional lecture-based instructional scenario. The results of this study indicated that the majority of the students had a decided visual modality preference across gender and language. Auditory students did statistically significantly better in the lecture only group and visual students did statistically significantly better in the CAl only group. While pairing of students to a specific instructional method based on sensory preference will definitely increase student performance, this is not practically feasible in most academic institutions. Combining methods of instruction seems to be the most practical and cost effective way of accommodating all students regardless of sensory preference, and offering all students a fair chance of excelling in a specific course. An understanding of the way students learn is an important factor in improving educational opportunities for students. No single instructional modality may be optimal for all students; therefore, an awareness of individual learner characteristics and their association with learning outcomes is essential. Computer-assisted instruction holds significant potential for language instruction. If used properly, technology can interest and motivate learners, expand access to a greater number of learners, provide flexibility of instruction, and develop learners' competence and expertise in certain aspects of language. However, technology is not a panacea that suddenly transforms all learning. The effectiveness of educational technology depends on how it is employed to meet educational goals for particular kinds of students in specific language learning environments. The implications of the results for ESL teaching/learning and teacher training are discussed. Second language learning achievement depends on so many variables. In the final aspect, what the student has learned and what the student can achieve with that knowledge are the most important measures of success. Understanding and accommodating individual differences in our second language learning and teaching can facilitate better achievement as well as better student performance. Further exploration and clarification of the relationship between technology and students with different cognitive characteristics should contribute to the knowledge required to develop optimal learning environments as well as a better understanding of the human-machine teaching relationship relative to student achievement.
- Humanities