Matching learning and teaching styles in a Turkish EFL university classroom and its effect on foreign language development
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The learning style movement, i^hich evolved from previous research on various theories in relation with individual learner differences such as personality trait, information processing, and aptitude-treatment interaction, is a new approach to teaching- According to the advocates of the learning style approach, learning style represents each person's biologically and experientially induced characteristics that either fester or inhibit achievement. Several instruments have been developed for identifying individual styles, but learners can describe their strong preferences; they âre, however, unaware of those style elements that do not affect: their learning. Elements that learners strongly prefer are their 5 trengths-meaning that it is easier for them to absorb and retain when they are taught through their strengths. Working with more than 21 elements of style, the researchers in the field have reported consistently positive results indicating that teaching through learners' strengths increase academic achievement, and improves attitudes toward school. Perception, being one of the learning style elements, has also been investigated by the learning style researchers from different points of view. For example, research investigating perceptual modality preferences and reading treatments supports the hypothesis that reading achievement improves significantly when students learn through their strongest modalities (Carbo, 1983). In addition, research comparing the learning styles of good and poor readers indicates that poor readers have different perceptual style preferences (Carbo, 1983; Dunn, 1984) In this study, which was conducted with Turkish foreign language (English) students at Anadolu University, the hypothesis that there is a relationship between matching perceptual teaching/1 earning styles and academic achievement in grammar and reading courses tested. The study was carried out with 60 students (ten of whom dropped later) and four English language teachers. The researcher's concern in selecting them as subjects was that the student subjects were taught by the same teachers for almost 7 months. After identifying students' and teachers' perceptual 1earning/teaching styles, the student subjects were assigned either to experimental or control groups. Students whose perceptual learning styles matched their teachers' teaching styles were placed in the experimental groups, and students with unmatched learning styles were placed in control groups. Then a matched pairs t-test was performed in order to compare the gain scores of the groups, obtained by means of pre and posttests. However, the analysis of the data did not show statistica11y significant relationship. Although the findings of the study did not confirm the experimental hypothesis, the analysis of the data by means of SPSS revealed some results which were consistent with the findings of previous research. There was, for example, a significant relationship between sex and visuality. That is, female subjects were more visual than the male ones. In addition, the analysis showed a higher correlation between kinesthetic and tactile, and kinesthetic and auditory learning styles whereas it indicated a slightly negative correlation between auditory and tactile; visual and kinesthetic; and auditory and visual modalities. Apart from these relationship and corre 1 ations, a general tendency among Turkish EFL learners toward kinesthetic learning style was observed. These all may have some implications for teaching English as a foreign language to Turkish 5 tuden t s .