(686d) Impact of Learning Styles on Student Performance and Self-Efficacy in Material Balances Course

Authors: 
Miskioglu, E., The Ohio State University
Wood, D. W., The Ohio State University

The popular American children’s story, The Little Engine that Could, is most renowned for the engine saying “I think I can, I think I can” and instilling the power of self-belief in the young. The importance of this self-belief, otherwise termed self-efficacy, has been studied by many researchers at the university level. Ties between self-efficacy and learning style, learning-style and performance, and self-efficacy and performance have been independently investigated by others in a variety of contexts. We are studying the link between learning style preferences, self-efficacy, and student performance in the context of an introductory chemical engineering course (process fundamentals, i.e., material balances). We will be using the natural bias of homework and exam problems to evaluate student self-efficacy, performance, and whether this correlates with their learning style preferences. Using the Felder-Silverman model of learning styles, and the subsequent Felder-Soloman Index of Learning Styles (ILS) indicator, we are individually analyzing each learning style dimension (active/reflective, sensing/intuitive, visual/verbal, and sequential global) to better understand the subtleties of learning style effects. We are interested in how student preferences may influence their performance, and perceptions/self-efficacy when presented with tasks demonstrating learning style bias. By exploiting the naturally occurring biases in the regularly assigned homework and exam problems, we are able to study correlations between learning styles, performance, and self-efficacy without impacting the course. By evaluating the traditionally run lecture course as it is, we are able to establish a baseline for understanding the role of learning styles in our curriculum. The sample size of this study is approximately 100 students per semester. Data collected include ILS results, student grades by specific task/problem and self-efficacy survey responses, as well as final grade. Surveys are administered with specific homework assignments and exam problems, with questions & statements evaluating student responses to problems based on a Likert scale. Surveys include items such as: I am confident in my answer for problem 5; I am uncertain I solved problem 5 correctly; I am confident in solving problems similar to problem 5. Results provide evidence regarding whether learning styles can affect student performance or self-efficacy, as well as identify naturally occurring biases in chemical engineering problems that are translatable to other fields. We believe that this integrated study of learning styles, student performance, and self-efficacy using the Felder-Silverman model in the context of a traditional, lecture-based engineering classroom will provide valuable information for engineering education. It is commonly accepted that every field attracts a certain “type” of individual, but a correlation between learning styles and success that demonstrates similarities among students who do not succeed in introductory chemical engineering would suggest that our curriculum repels students otherwise interested in the field.  A better understanding of student background and learning preferences is invaluable in developing improved curricula, especially in the ever-changing modern classroom.