Within the recent decades, the principles of learning styles theories have been implemented in a number of academic disciplines, and nursing is among them. With the shift to the student-centered nursing education, the curriculum is adapted to the results of the learning styles inventories (LSI) for the purpose of creating the appropriate clinical and classroom settings and enhancing the effectiveness of the teaching-learning process.
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Knowledge of various learning styles and one’s own strengths and weaknesses is helpful for optimization of the learning process and becoming a confident professional nurse. The fact is that abilities as well as learning preferences vary, and any assignment cannot be equally effective for developing the practical skills of the students of the group. Flexibility of the curriculum and individual approach is required for meeting the learners’ demands.
On the one hand, choosing a method of instruction that is the most appropriate for the student’s preferred learning style, an educator maximizes the student learning. On the other hand, learners should develop their skills that are necessary for using the styles besides their preferred one.
Billings and Halstead (2009) noted that “students who habitually use only their preferred learning style are disadvantaged when the situation demands that they use a different style” (p. 32). In other words, the results of LSI can be beneficial not only for adapting the curriculum to the learners’ personal needs, but for improving their skills that are required for using various learning styles.
Researching the learning style provides significant insights as to the effectiveness of particular strategies and approaches for students, giving preference to certain styles. Various contextual characteristics, such as cultural heritage, learning experience and the student’s age category have impact on defining the learning style and need to be taken into consideration while developing the programs and curricula.
However, constant lack of time and peculiarities of one’s own learning style might become hindrances preventing preceptors from implementing the results of the surveys in clinical and classroom settings. The first difficulty consists in realities of clinical practice depriving instructors of opportunities to devote much time to thinking their strategies over and choosing individual assignments for each learner.
Due to the necessity to act quickly, they often choose the approaches which they know best and which were effective previously. Another problem is that most instructors are inclined to use their own preferred leaning styles choosing approaches for training their students. Doing it almost unconsciously, instructors incorporate their own preferences into the learning programs.
Even coming to realization of benefits of implementing the result of LSIs, preceptors have to meet the challenges of finding time for implementing them into practice and overcoming the temptation to use their own preferred learning styles for meeting the objective of enhancing the effectiveness of the learning process.
Young and Paterson (2009) noted that “the concept of learning style provides an opportunity for nurse educators to reflect on how open they have been to alternative styles in their teaching and in their own learning” (p. 92). Considering the principles of leaning styles theories is beneficial for both increasing confidence of students and professional growth of preceptors.
Learning style research tools are helpful for creating the awareness of one’s preferences, strengths and weaknesses and increasing the effectiveness of one’s learning efforts. Critical analysis of the LSI results is required for appropriate practical application of this useful information.
The problem is that going to extreme, each strong point might have devastating effects on the development of other skills. Myrick and Yonge (2004) noted that “it is important that you be aware of the effect that the unit has on the preceptees’ abilities to function and think” (p. 79) For example, according to the LSI results, I have got the highest score in intrapersonal strength. This means that I would feel comfortable working on case studies and problem-based assignments.
It would be beneficial for diagnosing patients and developing the health care plans considering every detail of the case. However, the score of interpersonal and verbal strengths are much lower and might cause problems with establishing the personal rapport with the patients and collaborating with one’s colleagues.
Being aimed at balancing various learning styles and enhancing my competence, I should put more emphasis on group projects, requiring cooperation with peer, improvement of communicative skills and effective communicative exchange. The high score of kinesthetic strength means that I writing the information with my fingers and touching the visual aids would be the most effective way for acquiring information.
At the same time, the score of the visual strength is much lower. Using the approaches aimed at taking advantages of my kinesthetic preferences, it is important to pay attention to development of visual memory. Logical and naturalist strengths are required for becoming a competent nurse and I managed to consider peculiarities of my learning style choosing the profession. The results of LSI provided me with food for thought and influenced my learning behavior and preferences.
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Implementation of the learning style theories is beneficial for enhancing the effectiveness of the student-centered nursing education and improving skills required for becoming a competent preceptor and successful preceptee.
Billings, D. & Halstead, J. (2009). Teaching in nursing: A Guide for faculty (3rd ed.). Philadelphia: PA. W. B. Sanders.
Myrick, F. & Yonge, O. (2004). Nursing precentorship: Connecting practice and education. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Young, L. & Paterson, B. (2007). Teaching nursing: Developing a student-centered learning environment. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.