Teaching Effectiveness Using Sensory Learning Styles.
AEJNE Volume 4 - No.2 March, 1999.
Audree Reynolds, PhD, RN, FNP-C
Thomas Beeman, PhD RN
The authors of this manuscript are on the nursing faculty at the College ofNursing & Health Sciences, The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso,Texas, USA. If you would like to reply to either author, our emailaddresses are <firstname.lastname@example.org> and <email@example.com>. We would appreciate you feedback and comments.
Teaching is integral to the role of the nurse regardless of the practice setting. However, in the formal role of educator, teaching becomes the primary responsibility. It is the nurse educator's responsibility to teach and facilitate student learning as easily and quickly as possible. In like manner, a match between teaching strategies and student's learning style or sensory mode for processing information, learning is efficient and effective. With this premise in mind, two professors at the University of Texas at El Paso, USA, set out to discover if students' preferred sensory mode for processing information could be determined by observing eye movement cues that are described in psychology and general education literature. It is anticipated that the ability to identify eye movement cues will assist the nurse educator to more effectively adapt teaching trategies to match students' preferred sensory modes for processing information. Teaching and learning could then be more time efficient, meaningful and effective.
Research and literature supporting the preferred learning style of individuals vary. It is commonly agreed that all persons process information for the intent of learning in different ways. Dunn (1990) states that regardless of learning style, all individuals can learn when instructional methods complement or are congruent with a learning style. Also, every person has a preferred learning style and strengths that, when complemented with a matching teaching style, will result in maximum learning. Kinsbourne (1972), Bandler & Grinder (1972, 1979), Hugdahl & Carlgren (1981), Wertheim, Habib & Cummings (1986), Genaro & Violani (1988) and Bergstrom & Kiscock (1988) found that eye movements were related to cognition or information processing. In addition, Kirby, Moore & Scholfield (1988) found that visual learning styles can be assessed and that eye movements indicate sense is used while processing information.
Fifty senior nursing students in a baccalaureate nursing program volunteered for the study of eye movement cues. Each student participated in video taped interview consisting of 12 open ended questions designed by the researchers to elicit thought provoking and reflective responses. Each interview lasted about 20 minutes. Three patterns of eye movements were assessed in this study. These cues were associated with visual, auditory and kinesthetic information processing preferences. Movements of the eyes with the pupils focusing toward the upward and either outward field; e.g. looking at the ceiling, reflect the visual preference. Pupil movement toward a downward position; e.g. looking at the floor, indicates the kinesthetic preference (Brooks, 1989). The prevailing eye movement cue(s) exhibited by each participant were identified and grouped as a predominant eye movement cue (visula, auditory or kinesthetic) or as a combination of two eye movement cues (visula kinesthetic, auditory kinesthetic or auditory visual). Specific hand and head movements associated with specific eye movements are also described in the literature (Brooks, 1989). For example, touching eyebrows or the face around the eyes while looking upward, reinforces the visual preference. Touching or pulling on the ears or twirling strands of hair adjacent to the ears while turning the head to either side reinforces the auditory preference. Scatching the nap of the neck or the top of the head with the head flexed in a downward position is associated with the kinesthetic preference. While these associated body movements were not specifically examined in this study, they were observed in several subjects during the interview.
The researchers found that eye movement cues were easily recognized and readily identified. In fact, the prevailing eye movement cues of the participants were identified within 2-3 minutes into the interview and were repeated throughout the interview. From the original sample of 50 data sets, four sets were discarded due to incomplete information. Upon
independent review of 46 sets of data, there was 78.3% (n=36) agreement between researchers on the identification of eye movement cues. In 4 of the 10 remaining data sets where disagreement occurred, there was agreement that the same eye movement was present either as the predominant cue as identified by one researcher or as a combination by the other researcher.
The most frequently observed eye movement cues included the predominant visual and the visual kinesthetic combination (n=24; 52%). In addition, the auditory kinesthetic combination was frequently identified (n=14; 30%). The predominated auditory cue and the auditory visual combination were observed less frequently (n-8; 19%). In addition, a few participants exhibited a scanning pattern using all three eye movement cues prior to or during some responses, as if searching for the appropriate response. Demographic data including gender, age, ethnicity and grade average had no apparent influence on the findings.
These findings are of interest because there is wide use of auditory teaching strategies in nursing education which include lecture, note taking, transparencies with written materials and huge reading assignments. And yet auditory is the least preferred sensory mode for information processing identified in this study sample. In the present era of computer and INTERNET technology, the findings are of additional interest. Computer mediated learning capitalize on visual and kinesthetic interaction. Verbal interaction between students and faculty typically occur via email and chat rooms. It would seem that the visual and kinesthetic learner would readily adapt to computer mediated and on line learning activities.
Literature suggests that individuals frequently and unconsciously provide verbal cues that are consistent with a preferred sensory mode for processing information (Brooks, 1989). How often have educators heard "I see what you are saying" or "This is clear as a bell" or "This feels right." The astute educator can easily validate similar verbal responses with identifiable eye movement cues to determine the sensory mode for information processing that student is utilizing at a given time. In this manner, a teachable moment can become very effective and meaninful. Typically, the student will unconsciously validate when a match between teaching strategy and information processing occurs with an affirmative comment like "Now I understand." From a visual perspective, "when the light goes on" or and "ah hah" occurs suggesting that a student understands, both the educator and student share the satisfaction of teaching/learning.
If the findings from this study are generalizable, one must consider incorporating teaching methods to accommodate the visual ad kinesthetic learner. This is clearly easier said than done in traditional academic settings. However, faculty can ill afford to not pay attention to the obligation to find the most effective and efficient teaching methods for all students.
Considering the challenge faculty face in trying to teach students within the constantly changing health care delivery system with tighter constraints of time and budgets, these findings suggest the use of eye movement cues with facilitate optimal learning within the caring paradigm. The adaptive teaching method may be especially beneficial in the clinical area where faculty interact with students on a one-on-one basis. By identifying the eye movement cues exhibited by a student, we, as educators, have the potential for adapting our teaching to match the preferred sensory mode for information processing of the student, thereby, captializing on the teachable moment.
The challenge of faculty is to continue investigating this potentially valuable teaching method that has the benefits of cost effectiveness, ease in learning and applicability. The use of eye movement cues associated with verbal cues may have significant relevance for ,educators in academia as well as assisting students to provide effective patient education. Continued research of this method with other samples of nursing students and learners is recommended so that it may contribute to a nurse educators' body of knowledge and repertoire of effective teaching strategies.
List of References
Bandler, R. & Grider, J. (1975). The Structure of Magic. New York:Science and Behavior Books.
Bergstrom, L. J. & Hiscock, M. (1988). Factors influencing ocular motility during the performance of cognitive tasks. Canadian Journal of Psychology. 43(1), 1-23.
Brooks, M. (1989). Instant Rapport. New York: Time Warner.
Dunn, R. (1990). Understanding the Dunn and Dunn learning styles model andthe need for individual diagnosis and prescription. Reading,Writing, and Learning Disabilities. 6(30), 223-247.
Genaro, L. D. & Violani, C. (1988). Reflective lateral eye movements: Individual styles, cognitive and lateralization effects. Neuropsychologia. 26(5), 727-735.
Hugdahl, K. & Carlgren, H. E. (1981). Hemispheric asymmetry as indexed by differences in direction of initial conjugate lateral eye-movements (CLEMS) in response to verbal, spatial and emotional tasks. The Journal of Mind & Behavior. 2(3), 259-271.
Kinsborne, M. (1972). Eye and head turning indicates cerebral lateralization. Science. 176, 539-541.
Kirby, J. R., Moore, P. J. & Scholfield, N. J. (1988). Verbal and visual learning styles. Contemporary Educational Psychology. 13, 169-184.
Wertheim, E. H., Habib, C. & Cummings, G. (1986). Test of the neurolinguistic programming hypothesis that eye-movements relatesto processing theory. Perceptual Motor Skills. 62, 523-529.
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