Learning Styles and Academic Outcomes: A Longitudinal Study on the Impact of a Problem-Based Learning Curriculum

  • Ciara O’Toole
Part of the Innovation and Change in Professional Education book series (ICPE, volume 8)


Learning styles are the preferred ways individuals have for processing knowledge. Problem-based learning (PBL) might be perceived to suit the ‘active’ learner because of the brainstorming and group work involved. However, PBL is also intended for those who prefer to learn by researching the literature, those who seek to explore complex questions, and those who like to problem-solve and apply knowledge to practice. This study profiled the learning styles of 30 speech and language therapy students in an undergraduate PBL curriculum using the Learning Styles Questionnaire (Honey & Mumford, The learning styles Helper’s guide. Maidenhead: Peter Honey Publications Ltd., 2000) and measured their styles repeatedly over a three-year period. The results indicated that students entered the course with a range of learning styles, although in general were not characterized as active learners. Following three years of PBL-based education, the students became significantly more active, although as a group remained largely reflective. Learning styles had both negative and positive associations with academic outcomes in a variety of courses over the three years. The implications for PBL and education are discussed.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ciara O’Toole
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Speech and Hearing SciencesUniversity College CorkCorkIreland

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