This page describes the DUNN & DUNN Learning Styles Model and its Elements.


Since 1894 research into Learning Styles has produced several models to explain the observed facts. Some models are based on just a few key characteristics, others cover
a wide range of preferences. Some take an 'All or Nothing', 'On or Off', 'Yes or No'
approach to learning style preferences; others recognize a continuum of nuances
between these extremes. 

However, all researchers agree on the following definition:

Learning Style is the way in which an individual begins to concentrate on, process, use and retain new and difficult information.

This logically implies that teachers need to focus on the way individuals (rather than
groups) learn new and difficult material. Each individual has a unique way of achieving
this; different people have different strengths. When we tailor our teaching to the
individuals' strengths they learn more easily and quickly and are more likely to retain
the information.

Students who are taught in a manner that accommodates even some of
their individual learning style preferences
demonstrate statistically
higher grades and test scores.

To quote RITA DUNN (Educational Leadership Vol 48, Nr 2, October 1990): "If learning through your preference consistently produces significantly better test scores and
grades, then your preference IS your strength."

One fact can not be stressed enough: no Learning Style is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than any other. Learners with very different aptitude levels may have very similar learning style preferences, and vice versa.

The Model

The questionnaires on this website are designed to identify personal Learning Style according to the tried and tested DUNN & DUNN model.

Professors KEN & RITA DUNN (St John’s University, New York) started developing their
Model in 1970. They have continually developed and expanded it through extensive
field work and painstaking research.
 Peer-reviewed research papers and doctoral
based on the DUNN & DUNN model have been published at more than
120 universities, and counting. Unlike most others, this model has been validated
in a wide range of geographic, socioeconomic and ethnic settings.

Three questionnaires are available to assess individual Learning Style. Each of these consists of a series of statements for the learner to evaluate. The first and most basic questionnaire caters for learners in the 7…12 age group; it offers only three response options (Disagree/Uncertain/Agree). The second questionnaire, aimed at teenagers,
offers two additional options (Tend to Disagree/Tend to Agree) but is otherwise
identical to the first one. The third questionnaire is designed for tertiary students
and adults; it comprises a wholly different set of statements.

Processing the completed questionnaires yields each person’s individual set of preferences
for the various elements that constitute the Model. Preferences are represented on an
arbitrary scale from 20 to 80, normed against the age cohort in question.
Preferences in the range 40…60 suggest that the element in question is not a key
concern for that learner. For most students, roughly two-thirds of their preferences
fall into that 40…60 range, but this proportion can be anywhere from less than
one-third all the way up to 100%. 

A high proportion of middle ground preferences may indicate an ability to master new
and difficult material anytime, anyplace and irrespective of external factors as long as
the learner is interested in the material or is motivated to learn. Then again, it may be
due to a high proportion of uncertain or contradictory responses.

Ultimately, all models are subject to the GIGO Rule: Garbage In = Garbage Out.

The Elements

The 20-plus elements of the model are grouped into five strands:
environmental, emotional, sociological, physiological and psychological.

The environmental strand is about whether you like to have sound present while working or prefer silence, how much light works best for you, your temperature preference and the design element: whether you prefer to study while sitting on a straight-backed chair at a desk or rather on the floor with cushions, on a sofa or bed.

The emotional strand covers motivation, persistence, responsibility and structure: whether or not you prefer to have precise information on how to perform a task.

The sociological strand examines whether you prefer to learn alone, with a friend, or as
part of a group, with or without an adult or expert present or whether you prefer
variety in this respect.

The physiological strand covers mobility – many students need some form of muscle
activity while learning but others prefer to sit passively while absorbing new information;
intake – some of us need food and drink to keep our brain alert while others prefer not
to eat or drink at all while studying; optimal time of day for learning, and the four
perceptual modes. We all start life as kinesthetic learners: learning by doing.
Next we develop the ability to learn by tactile means: touching and manipulating objects.
Visual and auditory learning modes tend to become more prominent later in childhood
and adolescence. However, for some learners the visual/auditory modes may never
become predominant; for these learners the tactile/kinesthetic modes will remain the
best way to tackle new and difficult material.

The psychological strand in the model looks at different processing styles. Do you prefer to build up your knowledge piecemeal from facts and figures, or would you rather get the Big Picture first and slot in the detail afterwards? These two processing style preferences are known respectively as analytic and global. Most people can adopt either approach. But for some learners processing style can be a major concern. 

Traditional teaching methods have tended to cater for analytic rather than global learners. Learning Styles-aware teachers routinely start lectures by providing a
birds-eye overview of each new topic for the benefit of global learners. 

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