Learning, Types of Learning, Traditional Learning Styles and the Impact of E-Learning on the Performance of Secondary School Students : The Perception of Teachers

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Proceedings of the 2007 Computer Science and IT Education Conference
Learning, Types of Learning, Traditional Learning
Styles and the Impact of E-Learning on the
Performance of Secondary School Students:
The Perception of Teachers
Mahendrenath Motah
University Of Technology, Mauritius
Pointe aux Sables, Mauritius
[email protected]
This paper deals with the concept of learning from the traditional modes of learning through the
learning styles to e-learning among adolescent students reading at secondary school level. These
students aged between twelve and twenty are faced with the task of accommodating the influence
of the traditional learning methods and the new approaches to learning through the introduction of
new learning media. E-learning is spreading at a vertiginous speed and sweeping both teachers
and students off their balance in many cases; posing serious adjustment problems when teachers
and learners are unprepared to face the complex challenges which e-learning is bringing in its
trend. Things become even more complex when programmes and equipments become obsolete
within short periods of time, due to the introduction of new and more sophisticated approaches to
dealing with information, communication and education.
Keywords: learning, learning styles, types of learning, e-learning, performance, perception, new
learning media.
Secondary school teachers reading for their MSc Educational Administration and Technology,
and their Post graduate Certificate in Education were solicited to fill in a questionnaire compris-
ing of questions related to learning approaches, learning styles and the impact of e-learning on the
performance of their students. They were also asked to express their views on the influence of e-
learning on the way students learn. All, if not most of them are quite conversant with the concepts
related to learning, learning styles and e-learning. They were given the exercise towards the end
of the semester. During the lecture sessions they had the opportunity to discuss lengthily on the
importance of teaching methods and students’ learning styles; the introduction of information
technology; the need for new teaching
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Learning, Types of Learning, Traditional Learning Styles
A majority of teachers concerned in this study believed that the most appropriate teaching method
is the talk and chalk method, followed by demonstrations, discovery, discussions, observations,
ands research work. The students’ learning styles were in order of priority: Accommodator, di-
verger, converger, and assimilator.
Although the study has touched a sample of teachers, education officers and students from vari-
ous regions, the result obtained should not be extrapolated over the whole region before an in-
depth study of the impact of e-learning on the performance of students at all levels: primary, sec-
ondary and tertiary.
Caution should be exercised in drawing hasty conclusions, as students have various personal
characteristics; there are several other social and cultural factors that need to be considered as
well as the interplay of individual differences; the learning needs of each individual learner, and
the learning preferences of each and everyone should be major aspects to be closely studied.
The paper could be an eye opener to other teachers who are confronted with the learning and
teaching issues raised by the introduction of e-learning, multi-media programmes and the use of
information technology in the pedagogical activities.
Our concern for the impact of e-learning on the academic performance of students was aroused
by the recent developments in the teaching and learning conditions as influenced by the decision
of educational authorities to declare 2007 as the Year of Information Technology. Much empha-
sis is being laid on sensitising all active members of the population to get involved in the cam-
paign, and to get as much knowledge and skills in dealing with information technology and the
latest trends in electronic multi-media. The whole population is encouraged to be actively in-
volved in getting access to the internet, e-mail, World Wide Web (www) for information, com-
munication and education (IEC). For the purpose of this paper, we have solicited the collabora-
tion of student teachers reading for their postgraduate degrees in educational institutions and uni-
versities. The goal of this study is to find out how teachers view the importance of e-learning as
compared to the traditional teaching-learning approach, and to express their opinion on the influ-
ence of the use of multi-media and information technology on the performance of their students.
Literature Review
Much research has been carried in the field of learning, and suggestions as to what factors inter-
vene in learning among humans, and how most effective learning occurs abound in the literature
on learning issues. Various authors, Kolb, Gagne, Skinner, Ausubel, Bandura, Rogers, Knowles
among others have expressed their views on the concept of learning and have proposed learning
styles, learning models and learning cycles.
Learning is defined as actions under the guidance of the teacher aiming at bringing some rela-
tively permanent change in the way students think, feel act

Some of the guiding principles are:
• Learning should be RELEVANT to existing knowledge and any future tasks.
• Learning should comprise of appropriate SEQUENCING of INSTRUCTION.
• Learning is incomplete without FEEDBACK on PERFORMANCE
Students understand and remember better if they can fit their learning into a framework (Ausubel,
1960), and students are motivated to learn if that framework fits into what they understand as
their ultimate goal.
Learning is adding knowledge to what we already know. Student’s understanding is enhanced if
teaching is sequenced in a rational order which enables the subject to be developed in a coherent
sequential framework (Gagné, 1974)
Sequence can progress from:
• simple to complex
• known to unknown
• example to principle
• concrete to abstract
Active Involvement
Active involvement of students in the learning process is more effective than uninvolved rote
Students must be given every opportunity to practice and apply new knowledge to consolidate
their understanding and promote its retention in memory.
Learning is a process of acquiring new habits, knowledge and skills which together enable the
students to do something they could not do before.
It is therefore essential that the teacher provide opportunities not only for students to practice and
apply their new learning but also to receive feedback on their performance
Observational Learning
Observational Learning, also called imitation or modeling, is learning that occurs when a person
observes and imitates someone's behavior. The capacity to learn a behavior patterns by observa-
tion eliminates tedious trial-and-error learning. Albert Bandura (1977) describes four main proc-
esses that are involved in observational learning:


Learning, Types of Learning, Traditional Learning Styles
For observational learning to take place, the first process that
has to occur is attention. Before people can reproduce a model's
action, they must attend to what the model is saying or doing.
Attention is influenced by various factors such as type, warmth,
power, novelty, interest etc.
To reproduce a model's action one must code the information
and keep it in memory so that it can be retrieved.
Motor reproduction
The next process involved in observational learning is motor
reproduction. People can attend to a model and code in memory
what they have seen, then reproduce the action.
The final process in observational learning involves reinforce-
ment, or incentive conditions.
Theories of Learning
Sensory stimulation theory (Laird, 1985)
Effective learning occurs when the senses are stimulated. The Theory states that when multi-
senses are stimulated greater learning takes place. The theory has had an excellent appreciation
among teachers, particularly those dealing with young children in the pre-school and primary
school sector
Reinforcement theory (B.F. Skinner, 1938, 1953)
This is the belief that behaviour is a function of its consequences. Learner will repeat the desired
behaviour if positively reinforced. Positive reinforcement, rewards, certificates etc; as well as
negative reinforcement can also strengthen behaviour when a negative condition is stopped or
avoided. Parents and teachers alike have adopted the theory which still has many well-wishers.
Cognitive-gestalt approaches (R. Burns)
The emphasis is on the importance of experience, meaning, problem-solving and the development
of insights. Many teachers believe that exposure to various situations can help students develop
problem-solving abilities if placed in appropriate situations and exposed to varied experiences.
Facilitation theory (Carl Rogers, 1961)
This humanist approach is based on the premises that learning will occur, when the educator acts
as a facilitator, learners feel comfortable, atmosphere allows sharing of new ideas, and learners do
not feel threatened. The theory is being used by many teachers and counsellors, emphasising the
client-centred approach.
Action learning (Reg Revans)
This approach links the world of learning with the world of action through a reflective process
within small cooperative learning groups known as ‘active learning sets’- there can be no learning
without action and no action without learning. Reg Revans (1940) applied the concept of action
learning in education. Nowadays, Action learning is receiving a lot of support with the develop-
ment of electronic media offering learners with loads of information

Experiential learning (D.A. Kolb, 1984)
Experiential learning proposes a four-stage learning process: concrete experience, reflective ob-
servation, abstract conceptualisation, and active experimentation. The process can begin at any
stage and is continuous. The theory asserts that without reflection we would simply continue to
repeat our mistakes.
Kolb found that people learn in four ways with the likelihood of developing one mode of learning
more than another. That people learn through concrete experience, observation and reflection,
abstract conceptualisation or active experimentation. Based on the above, Honey and Mumford
identified four learning styles: Activist, Reflector, Theorist, and Pragmatist.
Holistic learning theory (Laird, 1985)
This theory rests on the premises that the individual personality consists of many elements… spe-
cifically... the intellect, emotions, the impulse or desire, intuition and imagination that all require
activation if learning is to be more effective.
Adult learning (andragogy) (Malcolm Knowles, 1990)
Andragogy argues that adulthood has arrived when people behave in adult ways and believe
themselves to be adults. Is based on the following assumptions – the need to know; self-concept;
learners’ experience; readiness to learn; orientation to learning, motivation to learn.
Study Group
The study involved eighty four secondary school personnel, out of whom, two were Inspectors
having taught for over 20 years and the rest were all Education Officers, the majority of them
have over 12 years experience and a few of them had at least five years teaching experience. The
sample comprised of both male and female, involved in teaching various subject areas and were
all below the age of 50 years. The distribution gender-wise and subject- wise is shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Details of sample, gender and subject areas
As a % of Total
Subject Areas
No of Teachers
Physical Educ
Art & Design
Maths 5
V.Arts 1
Biology 5
Chemistry 3
Economics 4
Inst. Music
Bus. Studies
Accounting 5
Language 3
Computer -
Home Economics
Total Number of Teachers


Learning, Types of Learning, Traditional Learning Styles
They were teaching in Public and Private schools situated in geographical regions which are gen-
erally classified as urban, rural and coastal, as shown in Figure 1. Authorities are trying to put the
same facilities at the disposal of all institutions irrespective of their location. Hence both teachers
and students would be expected to be provided with access to information technology.
Although it is felt that in many cases the access to such facilities is not available. As most schools
are situated in the Rural areas as compared to the urban and coastal areas and free education is
provided to all children up to the age of 20 years; and the majority of teachers work in Public
schools as compared to Private (government subsidised) schools. Figure 1 shows how the teach-
ers are distributed gender-wise in Public and Private Schools

Figure 1. Distribution of teachers gender-wise in Public and Private Schools
Free education and the provision of education facilities to all children and adolescents up to the
age of 20 years without discrimination has resulted in an almost 90% attendance in all schools
irrespective of the geographical location of the educational institutions.
Table 2 shows the distribution of the student population in all three areas for both boys and girls.
The student population aged between11–20 attended classes in schools situated in the specified
regions indicated in the table.
Table 2. Ratio Statistics for Number of Boys / Number of Girls
95% Confidence Interval for
Std. Deviation

Lower Bound
Upper Bound



The confidence intervals are constructed by assuming a Normal distribution for the ratios.
Figure 2 shows the geographical location of the Public and Private educational institutions con-
cerned with the study. It is noted that more private institutions are situated in the urban areas,
while more public institutions are found in the rural areas.

Figure 2 – Geographical location of the number Public and Private institutions
This state of affairs puts pressure on authorities to provide institutions found in the rural areas
with the same facilities offered to institutions in urban areas. It is important to note that the rural
areas do not enjoy the same facilities as the urban areas.
We wanted to know the teaching methods used by the teachers and learning styles of the students.
As mentioned earlier, the teachers involved in the study are all following postgraduate studies and
have had intensive exposure and discussion on learning, learning styles and the impact of e-
learning. Some of them have also used learning styles tools to find out the learning styles and
learning preferences of their students. All the teachers are graduates and are recognised as having
expertise in the area of teaching and learning.
Participants were requested to fill in a questionnaire comprising questions on the teaching meth-
ods they usually used during their classes; the learning styles of their students; their level of com-
puter literacy; the need for training in the field of IT; the accessibility to e-learning programmes
and equipment; and other questions on the impact of e-learning on the performance of their stu-
dents; and their views on the advantages and drawbacks of computer-assisted teaching and learn-


Learning, Types of Learning, Traditional Learning Styles
The following diagrams illustrate the result obtained after the analysis of the data through SPSS.
0% Talk and Chalk Demonstration Discovery Discussions Audio Visuals Research

Figure 3. Teaching methods used by teachers
As shown in Figure 3, the preferred method among teachers was the talk and chalk method fol-
lowed by demonstration; discovery and discussion; use of audio-visuals and finally research
method. The traditional talk and chalk method seem to a diehard method and teachers feel that it
remains one of the best methods that appeal to both teachers and students. It appears from discus-
sions with teachers concerned with the study that the two methods that, in total, claimed 50% of
the preferences among teachers is the traditional methods that have been used over centuries in
almost all countries in the world, and seem to be universal.
From teaching methods to learning styles, we have looked into the existing research on learning
styles and found Kolb Learning styles classification of Accommodator, Diverger, Converger and
Assimilator best fit to appreciate the students learning styles. We have closely analysed the re-
sponses of the teachers and have found that we could either use the Honey and Mumford “Activ-
ist”, “Reflector”, “Theorist”, and “Pragmatist” or the above mentioned Kolb Learning Styles. Af-
ter having studied the pros and cons of both these models, we opted for the Kolb proposal, as it
helps us to better illustrate our point.
Figure 4 shows the preferred learning styles of the students referred to by the teachers in relation
to their appreciation of their students learning styles. The majority of them prefers learning by
doing and feeling 30%; those who prefer learning by observing and feeling represent 27% ; stu-
dents who learn better by doing and thinking are found in the 24%; and the remaining 19% are
those students who prefer learning by observing and thinking. The learning preferences of the
students put more pressure on teachers who need to be always present to guide them. Hence, the
more independent learning as proposed through the introduction of e-learning might prove to be a
very important issue for both teachers and educational authorities.


Figure 4. Learning styles among students
The conditions prevailing in the education sector, the emphasis on training of teachers and the
various possibilities offered by both public and private training institutions, Universities and In-
stitutes have paved the way for the consolidation of IT programmes in almost all educational in-
stitutions. Coupled with the demand for more IT literate workforce, the e-learning projects and
programmes can find a high rate of success if wisely handled. As shown in Figure 5, we have an
important IT literate teacher population.

Figure 5. Computer literacy among teachers
(Bars show percents)
Despite the fact that 95% of the sample were said to be IT literate, the need for training is felt by
a majority (62%) of the teachers who expressed the view that they needed training in the field of


Learning, Types of Learning, Traditional Learning Styles
information technology (Figure 6). The willingness and commitment of those concerned with the
study could easily be extrapolated to the whole of the teaching profession. The will is there, we
need to find the right pathway to ensure the successful implementation of all Information Tech-
nology Educational endeavours.

Figure 6. Need for IT training among teachers
An analysis of the data collected on the need for training has revealed some very important issues
that can negatively affect any IT project implementation. The success of any project lies in the
provision of desirable resources, facilities, equipment, know-how, training opportunities, manage-
rial commitment, necessary logistic support, and other factors which can guarantee the success
for all involved.
The study revealed that nearly a quarter of the institutions concerned are not equipped with e-
learning equipment. The accessibility of these important tools is an important aspect which can-
not be overlooked as the success of the e-learning project rests on the premises that all concerned
should enjoy the same facilities. It is inconceivable to have 24% of the school population de-
prived of such facilities (Figure 7).