Learning styles: Self-reports versus thinking-aloud measures

Marcel V.J. Veenman*, Frans J. Prins, Joke Verheij

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background. Learning styles are often assessed through students' self-reports on instruments such as Vermunt's Inventory of Learning Styles (ILS). Recent research, however, has questioned the adequacy of questionnaires for the assessment of learning styles. Aims. The objective of this paper is to evaluate methods of learning style assessment as a means for identifying students at risk. Therefore, the ILS as a self-report instrument will be compared with the students' actual study processes, assessed through the thinking-aloud method. Sample. In the first study 1,060 students from the Technical University of Delft participated. Thirty-three of them were selected on the ILS for participation in the second study. Method. The ILS was administered to the 1,060 participants and their study results (GPA and credit points) were collected. Next, the selected 33 participants studied a technical text while thinking aloud. Knowledge acquisition was measured by means of a post-test. Thinking-aloud protocols were analysed on frequencies of study activities, thus representing process measures of learning styles. Results. The ILS proved to be a rather weak predictor of study results in Study I. Results from Study 2 show hardly any correspondence between ILS and study process measures, although principal component structures of both measures were highly similar. Furthermore, study process measures outweighed the ILS in the prediction of study results (post-test, GPA and credit points). Conclusions. Learning style theory was confirmed by results on the study process measures. The assessment of learning styles through self-report instruments such as the ILS, however, should be reconsidered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-372
Number of pages16
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2003


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