Institute of Learning Styles Research

Dissertation Abstracts

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Abstract Title

Smith, R. D. (1996). An analysis of the dominant learning styles of functionally illiterate adult education students in a correctional education setting (Doctoral dissertation, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, 1996). Dissertation Abstracts International, 57(03A), 977.


The purpose of this study was to assess the dominant perceptual modalities of functionally illiterate adults. Forty-eight inmates at a large Central Florida correctional institution were evaluated using the Multi-Modal Paired Associates Learning Test-Revised (MMPALT II). The sample was composed of four groups: white/learning disabled, black/learning disabled, white/non-learning disabled, and black/non-learning disabled. Dominant perceptual modalities were determined globally and comparisons were made between black and white and between learning disabled and non-learning disabled. Based on significant differences on subtest scores, it was concluded that the dominant perceptual modalities of functionally illiterate adults were the interactive, visual, and aural modalities. No significant difference was found between the dominant perceptual modalities of black and white functional illiterates. Learning disabled subjects scored significantly lower across subscales than non-learning disabled subjects. Implications of this study include the need for in-service training in instructional techniques to take advantage of the interactive, visual and aural strengths identified in the study. The practice of modification of instructional techniques for atypical learners was supported by the findings of this study. Recommendations for practice include the use of tutors and the learning team approach to accommodate the interactive modality and the use of visuals such as charts, graphs, illustrations, and models to accommodate the visual modality. Due to this population's history of failure in traditional classroom settings, it was recommended that the dominant aural modality be capitalized upon through the interactive approaches rather than through extensive use of lectures. Recommendations for further research include conducting similar research with females, across age ranges and different ethnicities, and with other categories of atypical learners such as the emotionally handicapped, the mentally ill, and the physically impaired. Research should also be conducted to correlate the MMPALT II with other performance-based learning style instruments in order to better establish construct validity for this instrument, as well as for the concept of perceptual learning styles.

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