Higher Education

, 49:205 | Cite as

Relations between student learning patterns and personal and contextual factors and academic performance

  • Jan D. Vermunt


This study was aimed at clarifying relations between the way students learn and personal, contextual and performance variables. Students from seven different academic disciplines completed the Inventory of Learning Styles (ILS). Besides, data about their age, gender, academic discipline, prior education and exam performance were gathered. Regression and correlations analyses were used to analyse the data. The results showed that students’ learning patterns were indeed associated with personal and contextual factors such as academic discipline, prior education, age and gender, but that the different learning patterns had different sources. Second, students’ learning patterns proved to explain an important part of the variance in their academic performance. However, the results also revealed that exams as usually used in the first years of higher education hardly capitalise on students’ use of critical, analytical and concrete processing strategies.


academic performance contextual influences learning strategies learning style personal factors student learning 


  1. Busato, V.V., Prins, F.J., Elshout, J.J., Hamaker, C. 1998Learning styles: A cross-sectional and longitudinal study in higher educationBritish Journal of Educational Psychology68427441Google Scholar
  2. Busato, V.V., Prins, F.J., Elshout, J.J., Hamaker, C. 1999The relation between learning styles, the Big Five personality traits and achievement motivation in higher educationPersonality and Individual Differences26129140Google Scholar
  3. Boyle, A.B., Duffy, T., Dunleavy, K. 2003Learning styles and academic outcome: the validity and utility of Vermunt’s Inventory of Learning Styles in a British higher education settingBritish Journal of Educational Psychology73263290Google Scholar
  4. Cunningham, D.J. 1991‘Assessing constructions and constructing assessments: a dialogue’Educational Technology311317Google Scholar
  5. De Jong, F.P.C.M. 1995Process-oriented instruction: Some considerationsEuropean Journal of Psychology of Education4317323Google Scholar
  6. Entwistle, N., McCune, V. 2004The conceptual bases of study strategy inventoriesEducational Psychology Review16325345Google Scholar
  7. Entwistle, N. (2000, December). Some aspects of the teaching–learning environment influencing approaches to studying. Paper presented at the first meeting of the Edinburgh-2000 Group, Edinburgh, UK.Google Scholar
  8. Entwistle, N., McCune, V., Hounsell, J. 2003‘Investigating ways of enhancing university teaching–learning environments: Measuring students’ approaches to studying and perceptions of teaching’de Corte, E.Verschaffel, L.Entwistle, N.van Merriënboer, J. eds. Powerful Learning Environments: Unravelling Basic Components and DimensionsPergamonOxford89107Google Scholar
  9. Entwistle, N., McCune, V., Walker, P. 2001‘Conceptions, styles and approaches within higher education: analytical abstractions and everyday experience’Sternberg, R.J.Zhang, L.F. eds. Perspectives on thinking, learning and cognitive stylesErlbaumMahwah, NJ103136Google Scholar
  10. Geisler-Brenstein, E., Schmeck, R.R, Hetherington, J. 1996An individual difference perspective on student diversityHigher Education317396Google Scholar
  11. Kolb, D., Boyatzis, R.E., Mainemelis, C. 2001‘Experiential learning theory: previous research and new directions’Sternberg, R.J.Zhang, L.F. eds. Perspectives on thinking, learning and cognitive stylesErlbaumMahwah, NJ227247Google Scholar
  12. Lindblom-Ylänne, S., Lonka, K. 1999Individual ways of interacting with the learning environment–Are they related to study success?Learning and Instruction9118Google Scholar
  13. Lindblom-Ylänne, S., Lonka, K. 2000Dissonant study orchestrations of high-achieving university studentsEuropean Journal of Psychology of Education151932CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Lonka, K., Heikkilä, A., Lindblom-Ylänne, S. and Maury, S. (1997, August). Are epistemologies related to study activities in an innovative course? Paper presented at the 7th Conference of the European Association for Research on Leaning and Instruction, Athens, Greece.Google Scholar
  15. Lonka, K., Olkinuora, E., Mäkinen, J. 2004Aspects and prospects of measuring studying and learning in higher educationEducational Psychology Review16301323Google Scholar
  16. Marton, F., Säljö, R 1997‘Approaches to learning’Marton, F.Hounsell, D.Entwistle, N. eds. The Experience of Learning2Scottish Academic PressEdinburgh3958Google Scholar
  17. Meyer, J.H.F. 2000The modeling of ‘dissonant’ study orchestration in higher educationEuropean Journal of Psychology of Education15518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Meyer, J.H.F., Parsons, P., Dunne, T.T. 1990Individual study orchestrations and their association with learning outcomesHigher Education206789Google Scholar
  19. Ramsden, P. 1988‘Context and strategy: situational influences on learning’Schmeck, R.R. eds. Learning strategies and learning stylesPlenum PressNew York159184Google Scholar
  20. Richardson, J.T.E. 2000Researching student learningSRHE and Open University PressBuckinghamGoogle Scholar
  21. Richardson, J.T.E., Morgan, A., Woodley, A. 1999Approaches to studying in distance educationHigher Education372355Google Scholar
  22. Rozendaal, J.S., De Brabander, C.J. and Minnaert, A. (2001, August). Boundaries and dimensionality of epistemological beliefs. Paper presented at the 9th Conference of the European Association for Research on Leaning and Instruction, Fribourg, Switzerland.Google Scholar
  23. Severiens, S.E., Ten Dam, G.T.M. 1997Gender and gender identity differences in learning stylesEducational Psychology177993Google Scholar
  24. Trigwell, K., Prosser, M. 1991Relating approaches to study and quality of learning outcomes at the course levelBritish Journal of Educational Psychology61265275Google Scholar
  25. Trigwell, K., Prosser, M., Waterhouse, F. 1999Relations between teachers’ approaches to teaching and students’ approaches to learningHigher Education375770Google Scholar
  26. VanderStoep, S.W., Pintrich, P., Fagerlin, A. 1996Disciplinary differences in self-regulated learning in college studentsContemporary Educational Psychology21345362Google Scholar
  27. Vermetten, Y.J., Lodewijks, H.G., Vermunt, J.D. 2001The role of personality traits and goal orientations in strategy useContemporary Educational Psychology26149170Google Scholar
  28. Vermunt, J.D. 1996Metacognitive, cognitive and affective aspects of learning styles and strategies: A phenomenographic analysisHigher Education312550Google Scholar
  29. Vermunt, J.D. 1998The regulation of constructive learning processesBritish Journal of Educational Psychology68149171Google Scholar
  30. Vermunt, J.D. 2003‘The power of learning environments and the quality of student learningde Corte’, , E.Verschaffel, L.Entwistle, N.van Merriënboer, J. eds. Powerful Learning Environments: Unravelling Basic Components and DimensionsPergamonOxford107122Google Scholar
  31. Vermunt, J.D., Verloop, N. 1999Congruence and friction between learning and teachingLearning and Instruction9257280Google Scholar
  32. Yan, L., Kember, D. 2004Avoider and engager approaches by out-of-class groups: the group equivalent to individual learning approachesLearning and Instruction142749Google Scholar
  33. Zeegers, P. 2001Approaches to learning in science: A longitudinal studyBritish Journal of Educational Psychology71115132Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IVLOS – Institute of EducationUtrecht University UtrechtThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations