What Are Learning Style Inventories, and Should You Use Them?


Feb 28, 2023

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It is every educator’s job to seek ways to make their teaching more personalized, precise, and effective for every student. For decades, people in education created tools to gauge how students learn optimally. Learning style inventories are one method. These are assessments of individual students to teach educators how students learn. These tests have pros and cons, depending on their utilization and how much a teacher relies on them.

Why Should I Use a Learning Style Inventory?

The most commonly known learning styles originate from Fleming’s VARK questionnaire. They are:

  • Kinesthetic learners
  • Auditory learners
  • Visual learners

Every inventory has aspects of these, but some are more comprehensive because they analyze learner personality traits, skill sets, and life priorities.

Learning style inventories allow educators to ask students questions in a low-pressure way. It’s easier to hand a student a pre-made test than to spend hours conducting interviews. For a teacher’s time management, inventories are an excellent option.

Experiments have also shown that, once students understand their learning style, their realizations lead to more productive studying. It reinforces self-driven learning, leading to more noticeable development.

So, it’s possible the tests help the student as much as the educator. However, each inventory provides different insights, so it’s essential to understand their unique applications.

What Are Some of the Most Influential Tests?

Jackson’s Learning Styles Profiler (LSP)

Chris J. Jackson imagined a multi-purpose test, both for students and professionals. With his Learning Styles Profiler (LSP), it’s possible to see how you learn in school and at work.

First, it analyzes individual characteristics and learning styles based on a questionnaire. After this assessment, it gives the tester a learner model, which reveals more about their personality. It can show how an individual’s learning style is affected by experience and even biology.

Do they seek sensations? Are they goal-oriented? How does their emotional intelligence affect them? The LSP hybridizes a personality test with educational analysis to create a comprehensive picture of the learner.

Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory (LSI)

David Kolb rooted his inventory in experiential learning theory. Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory (LSI) emphasizes that humans learn by doing, and that experiences are the glue that helps our minds hold on to information.

This assessment is intricate, receiving revisions over the years to maintain relevance. The test asks takers to rank words based on how they perceive they learn. Some word groups include “abstract,” “intense,” “risk-taker,” and “productive,” to name a few.

The assessments gathered from the test-taker reveal the learner’s preferred mode:

  • Concrete experience: Focuses on immediate experiences, emphasizing feeling more than thinking.
  • Reflective observation: Focuses on observations and emphasizes a reflective understanding of situations.
  • Abstract conceptualization: Focuses on thinking over feeling, and theorizing ideas logically and intuitively.
  • Active experimentation: Focuses on influencing situations with active participation rather than observing.

The inventory emphasizes that all modes are equally valid. They describe how students learn, not how well they learn.

Barsch Inventory

The Barsch Learning Style Inventory (BLSI) measures similar modes as the VARK. It groups learners into visual, auditory, and tactile, or kinesthetic, learners. It is one of the most popular assessments due to its length and accessibility.

The test structure is different from the VARK. It asks learners to respond to the trueness of a statement instead of answering a question about preference.

With prompts like, “I consider myself an athletic person,” and, “I grip objects in my hands while learning,” it has relevance to almost any demographic, while some of the other tests may not.

But, Do They Work?

Is there data backing the effectiveness of learning inventory systems? Is there any potential for them to hinder students’ learning more than help?

Researchers have debated this for as long as the inventories have been in use. Some say the learning inventories oversimplify teaching practices for educators – what teachers need are the best teaching methods, not tons of different ones.

Even though experiments show that most people believe in learning styles, their opinions are split on how essential they really are. Those who view learning styles as essential tend to see learning as more rigid and inherited – whereas nonessentialists believe learning is environmental and fluid. Both fail to provide a comprehensive view of effective teaching models.

Ultimately, the data proving their necessity is scarce, so any inventory system implemented should not be regarded as the only solution for familiarizing yourself with your students.

Are We Fostering Individualized Education?

Above all else, the priority of any learning style inventory is to ensure carefully crafted educational attention for all. Educators may find these tools helpful, but they are not the only tool. Inventories can provide students with insight about themselves they may not have known otherwise.

As some educators state, these systems provide a catalyst for reflection. It is vital to emphasize proper studying habits over-relying on learning styles. Self-awareness across disciplines is key for well-rounded learning. The most important asset any educator or learner can have is wanting to improve – and although learning style inventories can provide that, it is not the only route to success.

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