Institute of Learning Styles Research

Dissertation Abstracts

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Abstract Title

Cherry, C. E. (1981). The measurement of adult learning styles: Perceptual modality (Doctoral dissertation, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, 1981). Dissertation Abstracts International, 42(09A), 3852.


This study focused on the measurement of individual perception learning styles. The seven styles under investigation were originally conceptualized by Dr. Russell L. French in 1975; six of those styles were first measured by Dr. Daryl V. Gilley in the same year. The seven measured styles were: print, aural, interactive, visual, haptic, kinesthetic, and olfactory. Two individual subject styles measurement systems were used in the study. One was a revision of Gilley’s Multi-Modal Paired Associates Learning Test (MMPALT); the other was the Perceptual Modality Preference Survey (PMPS) which was developed specifically for this study.

While Gilley’s research was conducted with third grade students, subjects in this study were adult volunteers. They varied in age, education, and geographic background. Represented were 31 different states, an age range of 19 through 68 years, and a formal education range of eighth grade to advanced degrees. The population included 76 males and 20 females. Volunteers were used because adult learners are generally self-directed and self-motivated toward learning and because the focus of investigation was the measurement of learning style within individuals rather than adults in general.

The revised MMPALT was used to identify the dominance pattern of the seven perceptual styles in each subject. The PMPS was used to measure the pattern of each subject’s personal preferences among styles. In both assessments, patterns for the entire subject population were determined by simple summations of individual subject data. Patterns within various recognizable sub-groups were also established using the summative approach. Because of the nature of the subject population, the group and sub-group derived conclusions are not generalizable to the other adult learner populations. The study did; however, produce the following findings:

  1. The seven perceptual styles conceptualized by French did exist as perceptual learning styles in this adult population.
  2. There were measurable variations in perceptual learning styles of individual adult learners in this study.
  3. Overall, the most dominant perceptual style found empirically in these adults was the visual; the second most dominant style was the haptic.
  4. Patterns found in these adult subjects were comparable to those found by Gilley in third grade children; however; variations apparently influenced by differences in age, experience, maturity, and education did appear.
  5. Correlations between subject self-reports (preference data) and empirical test data were low to slight.
  6. Correlations between self-report data and empirical test data increased with subjects’ years of formal education and knowledge of learning styles concepts.


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