Learning styles of health professions undergraduate students from a single institution
Abstract: Introduction: The concept of “learning styles” derives from theories postulating that students learn by following diverse pathways and that learning is more effective when the adopted teaching strategies more closely match specific student characteristics and learning preferences. Objectives: To determine, in first-year students attending different undergraduate courses in the health area at the same higher education institution, the frequency of different learning styles, categorized according to the four dimensions of Felder & Soloman (FS) model, and to detect any differences associated with the type of course and gender. Method: The study population (N=283; 190 women) consisted of first-year students attending the Medicine, Biomedical Sciences, Physical Therapy, Speech-Language Pathology, Nutrition and Metabolism, and Occupational Therapy courses, with 68.2% of them aged between 18 and 20 years. The students answered a sociodemographic characterization questionnaire and the FS Index of Learning Styles (ILS) questionnaire, which allowed determining the frequencies of the different learning styles and their associations with the type of undergraduate course and gender. Results: the student group showed a predominance of “Sensory”, “Visual”, “Reflective” and “Sequential”, learning styles, in the “Perception”, “Input”, “Processing” and “Understanding” dimensions of learning, respectively. There was no statistically significant difference in terms of learning styles, in any of the dimensions, that could be associated with the type of course and gender, although women showed a significant predominance of the “Reflective” style in the “Processing” dimension. Conclusion: It was not possible to establish significant differences between the different undergraduate courses in the health area, or between men and women, regarding the students’ predominant learning styles, although women showed a significantly higher frequency of the Reflective style. These findings must be considered when planning learning activities and, mainly, in pedagogical support, giving students the opportunity to learn about their learning styles and helping them to better adapt to the strategies employed in each institution.