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August 5, 2013

Dotterer Wins National Award for Research on Learning Styles

Gary Dotterer

Dr. Gary Dotterer

Gary Dotterer, director of Rogers State University's Center for Teaching and Learning, has won a national award for his research on virtual learning environments.

The University Council for Workforce and Human Resource Education named Dotterer's paper, which calls into question popular assumptions about learning styles, Outstanding Dissertation of 2012. 

"I'm honored to have even been considered," Dotterer said. "If you look at the schools that make up the council, they are leaders in the field." 

Much has been made in the popular media of learning styles and the implications they bear for the field of education.  Certain people learn best visually, others aurally or through touch, according to a simplified version of the theory.

Dotterer wanted to find out whether that is actually true. To find out, he set up an experiment using the American Heart Association's CPR training curriculum. The students were given a test to find out which learning style they preferred and then exposed to CPR training that catered to one of three learning styles. 

According to Dotterer's findings, neither the format of the lesson nor the learning styles of the students had an impact on their ability to absorb the information. Students whose lessons corresponded to their preferred learning style performed no better than those whose lessons did not. 

Dotterer said that we shouldn't abandon the notion that learning styles play a role in how we internalize information, but the evidence shows we may be over emphasizing its importance. 

He suspects that students' interests are more responsible for learning outcomes than learning styles. Dotterer said that a future study might aim to find out if that's true empirically.

Dotterer took over as head of the Teaching and Learning Center in July. The center works with faculty members to foster a culture of excellence in teaching and research.