An experimental investigation of the relationships between perceptual modality preferences of middle school students and their academic achievement

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Virginia Tech


Individual differences in perceptual and cognitive abilities affect school achievement. More specifically, students who cannot selectively attend to modality information processing will not become high achievers. Efforts to improve academic achievement have failed partly because all students have been expected to use the same approach for learning, and little has been done to match learning programs to the perceptual modality preferences of individuals.

The primary purpose of this study was to determine whether the visual, auditory, tactual and kinesthetic scores (based on the LSI) of students in grades six, seven, and eight from four middle schools were significantly related to academic achievement in Mathematical Concepts and Reading Comprehension, based on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) scores. The secondary purpose was to determine whether there were relationships among grade, gender, schools and perceptual modality preferences. Students in grades six, seven and eight in four middle schools were selected by section class at all three grade levels. Although the sampling method is by group instead of by individual, there was no reason to believe that such an approach to population sampling would significantly affect the results of this study, as all the class groups were already fully heterogenized. The Learning Style Inventory (LSI) (Dunn, Dunn & Price, 1987) was administered to them to identify their visual, auditory, tactual and kinesthetic modality preferences. These data were analyzed for their relationship to modality matched achievement scores for each student. Multivariate Analysis of Variance was utilized to determine the relationships between perceptual modality strengths by gender, grade, school, and academic achievement.

In general, achievement and learning modality were not related. Although this finding differs from earlier research findings using the LSI model, it does not necessarily contradict them, basically because this study was more correlational than experimental, whereas the previous studies in this area were fully experimental and almost always achieved significance with the administration of intervening treatments. Visualization was moderately related to reading comprehension and reference source utilization. There were no relationships among gender.