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A cross-cultural study of verbal-spatial preferences for learning

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  • The successful educator must be cognizant of and accommodate individual learner needs. The mediation of learning between the educator and learner is at the very root of successful teaching and learning. Recognizing and acknowledging that educators have preferred methods of operation (teaching style preferences) and students have preferred methods of operation (learning style preferences) should change practical efforts that seek to facilitate learning outcomes. Educational literature on situational constraints and educational preferences is well-documented, but until recently, little attention has been given to learner differences. The primary purpose of this study was to discover if verbal and spatial preferences for learning significantly differed among Asian and American undergraduate students. A secondary purpose was to determine if there was any significant difference across cultures in gender preferences for verbal and spatial learning cues. Two hundred eighty-six undergraduate students from Kook-mm, Tokyo International, and Willamette Universities volunteered for this study. The subjects were administered the Engel Selection Skills Evaluation to index verbal-spatial preferences for learning. A MANOVA design was used to examine each research question at the .05 level of significance. Given cell size disparity, analyses of variance were conducted with equal cell sizes using both relative and absolute scores. Both of the analyses of variance confirmed a significant preference for verbal cues across the three cultures. Results indicated that Japanese students had the strongest preference for verbal cues followed by the American and South Korean students respectively. But, both analyses of variance failed to reveal any significant gender preferences. This study implies that there are cultural differences in verbal-spatial modalities for learning that could be of real interest to students of cognitive processing. Further, the study suggests that a fruitful avenue of research comes from expanding our knowledge in the study of cross-cultural preferences for certain perceptual modalities.
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