, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 79-90

Lack of interaction between sensing–intuitive learning styles and problem-first versus information-first instruction: a randomized crossover trial

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Abstract

Background

Adaptation to learning styles has been proposed to enhance learning.

Objective

We hypothesized that learners with sensing learning style would perform better using a problem-first instructional method while intuitive learners would do better using an information-first method.

Design

Randomized, controlled, crossover trial.

Setting

Resident ambulatory clinics.

Participants

123 internal medicine residents.

Interventions

Four Web-based modules in ambulatory internal medicine were developed in both “didactic” (information first, followed by patient problem and questions) and “problem” (case and questions first, followed by information) format.

Measurements

Knowledge posttest, format preference, learning style (Index of Learning Styles).

Results

Knowledge scores were similar between the didactic (mean ± standard error, 83.0 ± 0.8) and problem (82.3 ± 0.8) formats (p = .42; 95% confidence interval [CI] for difference, −2.3 to 0.9). There was no difference between formats in regression slopes of knowledge scores on sensing-intuitive scores (p = .63) or in analysis of knowledge scores by styles classification (sensing 82.5 ± 1.0, intermediate 83.7 ± 1.2, intuitive 81.0 ± 1.5; p = .37 for main effect, p = .59 for interaction with format). Format preference was neutral (3.2 ± 0.2 [1 strongly prefers didactic, 6 strongly prefers problem], p = .12), and there was no association between learning styles and preference (p = .44). Formats were similar in time to complete modules (43.7 ± 2.2 vs 43.2 ± 2.2 minutes, p = .72).

Conclusions

Starting instruction with a problem (versus employing problems later on) may not improve learning outcomes. Sensing and intuitive learners perform similarly following problem-first and didactic-first instruction. Results may apply to other instructional media.