“Intellectual styles,” an umbrella term for all style constructs, with or without the root word “styles,” refers to people’s preferred ways of processing information and dealing with tasks (Zhang & Sternberg, 2005). Different scholars have their own preferred style terms, both in their writings and in the talks they deliver, including “cognitive style,” “learning style,” “thinking style,” “mind style,” “mode of thinking,” or “teaching style.” However, many contemporary styles researchers agree that “style” constructs are encompassed by the term “intellectual styles,” which was initially proposed by Zhang and Sternberg (2005) in their “a Threefold Model of Intellectual Styles.”

Learning style is also sometimes synonymous with cognitive style (Pask, 1976; Entwistle, 1981) while others disagree stating that learning style is a preferred strategy, thereby implying that a person’s learning style can change, while cognitive style is an immutable characteristic of personality

Sternberg and Zhang (2001) took a position that both acknowledged the commonalities among all styles and recognized the unique characteristics that each style possessed. Specifically, while acknowledging that all styles share a key feature in that they are different from abilities, . An ability refers to what one can do, whereas a style refers to how one prefers to use one’s abilities. Using government as a metaphor, Sternberg argued that just as there are many ways of governing a society, people have many ways of managing or governing their activities, and they do so in a style with which they feel comfortable.

Sternberg and Zhang articulated the differences among learning styles, thinking styles, and cognitive styles by stating how each of the style constructs could be used:

“Learning styles might be used to characterize how one prefers to learn about (particular material/information); … (a learning style may be defined as a habitual pattern or a preferred way of acquiring knowledge or doing something )

Thinking styles might be used to characterize how one prefers to think about material as one is learning or after one already knows it; …( Your thinking style is your characteristic way of processing information. It’s the way you acquire your knowledge, organize your thoughts, form your views and opinions, apply your values, solve problems, make decisions, plan, and express yourself to others.)

Cognitive styles might be used to characterize ways of cognizing the information” (Sternberg & Zhang, 2001, p. vii).( According to Sharma “cognitive style refers to the characteristic way in which an individual organises his environment and accordingly acts on it. These are intrinsic information-processing patterns that represent a person’s typical mode of perceiving, thinking, remembering and problem-solving.”)

The term ‘styles’ has been used to convey the marked differences in preference shown by people as they carry out task.

The term ‘strategy’ has been used to convey preference which are more task related whereas the term ‘approaches’ has been used to convey “processes” and “pre-dispositions” to adopt particular processes.

Learning styles operate without individual awareness and imply a higher degree of stability. On the other hand, learning strategy implies operations followed to minimize error during decision-making process and involves a conscious choice of alternatives and is dependent on the task or context.

Learning approach refers to (a) the processes adopted during learning, which directly determine the outcomes of learning and (b) the predispositions or orientations to adopt particular processes.

Learning orientation Orientation describes distinctive set of values, motivesand attitudes relating to a learning process, which can be used to explain a students consequent behavior.

Enwistle uses the term orientations to describe general approach to learning. Each orientation in learning is composed of approaches, learning styles,and different forms of motivation.

In short, the relationship between these concepts can be ordered as follows:

Learning Ability Learning Style Learning Strategy Learning Approach Learning orientation
Gordon Pask’s work stands rather outside the mainstream of the psychology of education, but is immediately recognised by many learners and teachers in adult education as being very significant

His most accessible work, however, is based on the recognition of two different kinds of learning style: “serialist” and “holist”

  • When confronted with an unfamiliar area, serialists tackle the subject step by step, building from the known to the unknown with the simplest possible connections between the items of knowledge.
  • Holists, on the other hand, seek an overall framework and then explore areas within it in a more less haphazard way, until they have filled in the whole.
  • Build up their knowledge sequentially 
  • May lose sight of the broader picture 
  • Are impatient with “jumping around” 
  • May be more comfortable with inherently “linear” subjects
  • Pick up bits and pieces within a broad framework 
  • May leave gaps, or repeat themselves 
  • May make mistakes about the connections between things 
  • May over-generalise 
  • May be more comfortable with “topic” based learning
Learning style in which learners are equally comfortable with either holistic or serialistic styles. Thet use each style as appropriate.

Learning strategies are “the special thoughts or behaviors that individuals use to help them comprehend, learn, or retain new information”

3 Types
  • Metacognitive Strategies
  • Cognitive Strategies
  • Social/Affective Strategies
Metacognitive Strategies
Metacognition is characterized by matching thinking and problem solving strategies to particular learning situations, clarifying purposes for learning, monitoring one’s own comprehension through self-questioning, and taking corrective active if understanding fails.

– The process of purposefully monitoring our thinking. Metacognitive Strategies are those which help students:

  • Match thinking and problem solving strategies to particular learning situations.
  • Clarify purposes for learning.
  • Monitor one’s own comprehension through self-questioning.
  • Take corrective action if understanding fails.
Strategies identified by Chamot and O’Malley that fall under metacognition include:

  • advanced organizers
  • organizational planning
  • monitoring comprehension
  • monitoring production
  • self-assessment
Cognitive Strategies
These are directly related to learning tasks and are used by learners when they mentally and/or physically manipulate material to be learned, or when they apply a specific technique to a learning task.

– The act or process of knowing, perceiving, recognizing, conceiving, judging, reasoning or imagining.

Cognitive Strategies are those which help students:

  • Organize information.
  • Mentally and/or physically manipulate materials.
  • Apply specific techniques to a learning task.
Strategies identified by Chamot and O’Malley that fall under cognition include:

  •  previewing a story prior to reading
  • establishing a purpose for reading
  • consciously making connections between personal experiences and what is happening in a story
  • taking notes during a lecture
  • using thinking maps
  • completing a graphic organizer
Social/Affective Strategies
The social and affective influences on learning.It involes interaction with other persons to assist learning or using effective control to assist a learning task. Example: Learning can be enhanced when people interact with each other to clarify a confusing point or when they participate in a group discussion or cooperative learning group to solve a problem

– Personal interaction, group discussion, cooperative learning.

Social/Affective Strategies are those which help students:

  • Participate in discussions.
  • Engage in cooperative learning groups.
  • Interact with others to facilitate learning.
Deep approach
—Seeking meaning

  • ♦Intention – to understand ideas for yourself
  • ♦Relating ideas to previous knowledge and experience
  • ♦Looking for patterns and underlying principles
  • ♦Checking evidence and relating it to conclusions
  • ♦Examining logic and argument cautiously and critically
  • ♦Being aware of understanding developing while learning
  • ♦Becoming actively interested in the course content
  • ♦Interacting vigorously and critically on content
  • ♦Relating ideas to previous knowledge/experience
  • ♦Using organizing principles to integrate ideas
  • ♦Relating evidence to conclusions
  • ♦Examining the logic of the argument
Surface approach
– Reproducing

  • ✻ Intention simply to reproduce parts of the content
  • ✻ Treating the course as unrelated bits of knowledge
  • ✻ Memorising facts and carrying out procedures routinely
  • ✻ Finding difficulty in making sense of new ideas presented
  • ✻ Seeing little value or meaning in either courses or tasks set
  • ✻ Studying without reflecting on either purpose or strategy
  • ✻ Feeling undue pressure and worry about work
  • ✻ Accepting ideas and information passively
  • ✻ Concentrating only on assessment requirements
  • ✻ Not reflecting on purpose or strategies in learning
  • ✻ Memorizing facts and procedures routinely
  • ✻ Failing to recognize guiding principles or patterns
Strategic approach
– Reflective organising

  • ❉ Intention – to achieve the highest possible grades
  • ❉ Putting consistent effort into studying
  • ❉ Managing time and effort effectively
  • ❉ Finding the right conditions and materials for studying
  • ❉ Monitoring the effectiveness of ways of studying
  • ❉ Being alert to assessment requirements and criteria
  • ❉ Gearing work to the perceived preferences of lecturers
  • ❉ Intention—to do well in the course and/or achieve personal goals
  • ❉ Self-regulation of studying
  • ❉ Organising studying thoughtfully
  • ❉ Managing time and effort effectively
  • ❉ Forcing oneself to concentrate on work
  • ❉ Awareness of learning in its context
  • ❉ Being alert to assessment requirements and criteria
  • ❉ Monitoring the effectiveness of ways of studying
  • ❉ Feeling responsibility to self, or others, for trying hard consistently
Four Study Orientations, each of which is composed of approaches and learning styles as well as different forms of motivation (Entwistle, 1988).

Meaning Orientation includes:
  • * Deep Approach (DEEPAPRH): active learning, questioning.
  • * Relating ideas (RELATIID): recognizing connections between ideas
  • * Use of evidence (USEVIDNC): basing conclusions on evidence.
  • * Intrinsic Motivation (INTRNSIC): interest shown in learning for its own sake.
  • * Comprehension Learning (CMPLEARN): willingness to organize the subject matter and think in an independent way

Reproducing Orientation includes:
  • ❁ Surface Approach (SURFACEA): learning by rote.
  • ❁ Syllabus Boundness (SYLBOUND): dependence on definitions set by teacher for academic work.
  • ❁ Fear of Failure (FEARFAIL): pessimism and anxiety regarding the outcome of academic work.
  • ❁ Extrinsic Motivation (EXTRNSIC): interest in courses for the qualifications.
  • ❁ Operation Learning (OPRLEARN): emphasis on facts and logical analysis.
  • ❁ Improvidence (IMPROVID): pathology of focusing on details.
Achieving Orientation includes:
  • ✿ Strategic Approach (STRATEGC): awareness of the implications of academic demands imposed by the professor.
  • ✿ Achievement Motivation (ACHIEVMT): competitiveness and self confidence.
Non-academic Orientation includes:
  • ❅ Disorganised Study Methods (DISORGSM): inability to work regularly and efficiently.
  • ❅ Negative Attitudes (NEGATIVE): lack of interest and effort.
  • ❅ Globetrotting (GLOBTROT): pathology of jumping to conclusions without carrying out the relevant justifications.
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