Do learning styles influence students' understanding of concepts and academic performance in chemistry?
Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences
Institute of Education, Debre Berhan University, Ethiopia; Institute for Science and Technology Education, University of South Africa, P.O. Box 392, UNISA 0003, Pretoria, South Africa; Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
Learning styles and instruction have been reported to affect students' academic performance and achievement in science. These reports, however, are too generalized for application to chemistry education specifically. The reports did not take into consideration the combined effects of the nature of chemistry and students learning styles on chemistry instructions and subsequently on students' academic performance. This study was conducted on 167 grade 11 natural science students in two preparatory schools in Ethiopia. It was designed to predict the extent of variation in academic performance in some fundamental chemistry concepts in the topics: Atomic structure & periodic table, and chemical bonding and structure from variations in Felder-Silverman's learning styles. Data were collected through Amharic version of Felder-Soloman's Index of Learning Style (ILS) questionnaire and chemistry tests. The data showed that 1.2% variation in academic performance in the fundamental concepts in chemistry was linked to the variations in Felder-Silverman's learning styles, and this variation was not statistically significant at α=0.05. This implies that the role of learning styles on academic performance on the fundamental concepts considered in this study was not statistically significant. Hence, from this study it is possible to conclude that the influence of learning styles on academic performance is less likely to be the same across fundamental concepts in chemistry.