Journal of Indian Association of Public Health Dentistry

: 2015  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 163--168

Assessing learning preferences of dental students using visual, auditory, reading-writing, and kinesthetic questionnaire

Darshana Bennadi1, KR Kashinath2, JV Bharateesh1, Nandita Kshetrimayum3,  
1 Department of Public Health Dentistry, Sree Siddhartha Dental College and Hospital, Tumkur, Karnataka, India
2 Department of Prosthodontics, Sree Siddhartha Dental College and Hospital, Tumkur, Karnataka, India
3 Department of Public Health Dentistry, Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, Dental College, Lamphelpat, Imphal West, Manipur, India

Correspondence Address:
Darshana Bennadi
Department of Public Health Dentistry, Sree Siddhartha Dental College and Hospital, Agalkote, Tumkur - 572 107, Karnataka


Introduction: Educators of the health care profession (teachers) are committed in preparing future health care providers, but are facing many challenges in transmitting their ever expanding knowledge to the students. This study was done to focus on different learning styles among dental students. Aim: To assess different learning preferences among dental students. Materials and Methods: This is a descriptive cross-sectional questionnaire study using visual, auditory, reading-writing, and kinesthetic questionnaire among dental students. Results: Majority 75.8% of the students preferred multimodal learning style. Multimodal learning was common among clinical students. No statistical significant difference of learning styles in relation to gender (P > 0.05). Conclusion: In the present study, majority of students preferred multimodal learning preference. Knowledge about the learning style preference of different profession can help to enhance the teaching method for the students.

How to cite this article:
Bennadi D, Kashinath K R, Bharateesh J V, Kshetrimayum N. Assessing learning preferences of dental students using visual, auditory, reading-writing, and kinesthetic questionnaire.J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent 2015;13:163-168

How to cite this URL:
Bennadi D, Kashinath K R, Bharateesh J V, Kshetrimayum N. Assessing learning preferences of dental students using visual, auditory, reading-writing, and kinesthetic questionnaire. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Jun 6 ];13:163-168
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Learning and memory are the two sides of a coin, without learning, memory cannot be consolidated. Keefe stated learning style as - the composite of cognitive, affective and physiological domains, which are influenced by environmental factors that serve as the most powerful leverage, available to educators to analyze, motivate, and assist students. It is the foundation of a truly modern approach to education. [1]

Student learning is very important for designing course study. Recognizing student learning styles, educators are able to build a better framework for more efficient and desirable teaching methods. The undergraduate dental education has to meet the changing demands of the dental practice in the 21 st century. Although the complexities of the dental care increased dramatically over the last century, the method of teaching medicine has hardly changed. Recently, there is a widespread interest in the evaluation of the learning technique since its adoption. [2]

The student's performance not only depends on their skill, intellectual abilities, knowledge, talent etc., but also on learning skill. Students learn in diverse ways. One teaching method does not work for every student or the most of the students.

Most of the students feel difficult as they enter medical/dental professions because of the drastic increase in the volume of content. Level of preparedness as well as learning styles to gain the knowledge will vary in terms of age, experience, culture and ethnicity. This diversity represents a challenge for instructors to meet the educational needs of all students. [3] At present, education trend have changed from pedagogy to andragogy, that is, from a teacher-centered to a student-centered learning. [2]

Generally teaching faculty, confronted by low test grades, unresponsive or hostile classes, poor attendance and dropouts, knew something is not working; they may become overly critical of our students (making things even worse) or begin to wonder if they are in the right profession. Most seriously, society loses potentially excellent doctors if it happens! [1]

One of the studies [4] alerted researchers that it is important for educators to recognize the student's different learning styles and improve their teaching method depending on the other learning preference modalities. Multiple paradigms of learning styles exist with no widespread acceptance for any one theory.

Medical educators can no longer view their students simply as repositories of information. [5] They must consider how the information they are transmitting is best absorbed, how to encourage active learning, how to best involve students in the learning process. [6]

Among the ever-growing number of tools used to determine learning preferences, one instrument that has been used widely in the health professions is called the visual, auditory, reading-writing, and kinesthetic (VARK) instrument, [7] which is an acronym for: Visual (V), auditory (A), reading-writing (R), and kinesthetic (K). VARK defines the preference in learning style in terms of the sensory modality in which a student prefers to take in new information. Visual learners prefer the use of symbolic devices such as diagrams, graphs, flow charts and models that represent printed information. Auditory learners prefer "heard" information and thus, learn better through discussions, lectures, tutorials and talking through the material with themselves or others. Read-write learners prefer printed words and texts as a means of acquiring new information; they thus prefer textbooks, lecture notes, handouts, lists and glossaries. Kinesthetic learning employs a combination of sensory functions; such learners have to feel or live the experience to learn; they prefer simulations of real practices and experiences, lessons that emphasize on performing an activity, field trips, exhibits, samples, photographs, case studies, "real-life examples," role-plays, and applications to help them understand principles and advanced concepts.

Many studies have been done to understand the learning preferences of nonclinical medical students. Hence, the present study has been undertaken among dental students to assess their learning preferences and compare between clinical and preclinical dental student's preferences of learning styles.


This study was an anonymous, questionnaire-based survey. Permission through E-mail was obtained for using the VARK questionnaire, from its developers. Permission was obtained from the Neil Fleming Copyright Version 7.1 which is being held by Neil D. Fleming, Christchurch, New Zealand. [8] The ethical clearance was obtained from the Institution Ethical Committee. The study population comprised of dental students of the private dental college, Tumkur, India. Prior to the data collection, the questions were pretested among a group of 20 students (pilot study) in order to ensure the level of validity and degree of reliability (Cronbach's alpha = 0.76).

Consenting participants anonymously completed the questionnaire. Students were requested to remain in the class at the end of a lecture to participate in the survey on a voluntary basis. No attempt was made to follow-up with students who were absent on the day of the survey. A briefing was given about the nature of the study and the procedure of completing the questionnaire was explained. The VARK-questionnaire contained 16 multiple choice-questions with four possibilities to select an answer. The students were asked to respond to each item according to the response format provided in the questionnaire without discussion with each other. Furthermore, the investigator was always available during the completion of the questionnaire and the participants were encouraged to approach the investigator whenever they needed clarification of any point. More than one answer to each question was allowed for the identification of the polymodal modes of learning. Collected data was subjected for analysis using SPSS Software version of 16. [SPSS, Inc., Chicago, IL, USA]. Descriptive statistics, Chi-square test was used. P < 0.05 was considered as statistically significant.


Total sample was 120 students with 40% (n = 48) male and 60% (n = 72) female students. The majority of students were in the youngest age group (18-21 years). [Table 1] shows the distribution of students according to year of studying.{Table 1}

The vast majority 75.8% (n = 91/120) of the students selected more than one learning preference or have "multimodal" preferences. The number of multimodal preferences varied like Bimodal, Trimodal, and Quadmodal selected all four VARK learning preferences). The remaining 24.2% (n = 29/120) of the students selected a single or "unimodal" learning preference, with the most popular being the visual and kinesthetic type of learning in unimodal whereas in multimodal style of learning Trimodal (kinesthetic, aurial, visual [KAV]) followed by bimodal (aurial kinesthetic [AK]) [Table 2] and [Figure 1]. Learning preferences in relation to gender was not statistically significant. Statistical significant difference was observed in learning preferences between preclinical and clinical students (P > 0.05). The study showed that clinical students (86% [n = 43/50]) were more interested in multimodal type of learning.{Figure 1}{Table 2}


Learning preferences helps to make learning easier and enjoyable. In present study, 29 students (24.2%) preferred unimodal learning, among them seven students (5.8%) preferred the visual type. These students preferred information in the form of graphs, charts, and flow diagrams whereas kinesthetic type was preferred by nine students (7.5%) who used multiple senses, learn conceptual and abstract material provided it arrives with suitable analogies, real-life examples, or metaphors.

Most of the students preferred multimodal learning (75.8%). Among them, 39.5% preferred bimodal, 52.7% preferred Trimodal and 12.08% preferred quad modal learning preferences. In bimodal, AK and Trimodal KAV was common. This was in agreement with other studies. [1],[2],[4],[9],[10]

As the students reach the higher grades, most of them preferred multimodal type of learning. It might be because, dentistry is an art and sciences, and it involves not only theory but also clinical work, which requires aurial, demonstrations, visual and kinesthetic type of learning. Hence multimodal type of learning makes the student to master the knowledge in dentistry. To achieve meaningful learning, these students must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences and knowledge, and apply it to their daily lives. [11]

New information can be better grasped with the preferred method of their own learning style. So the teacher has to understand their student learning style and adapt to that method of teaching. Teaching will be successful if there is active participation of the students. Active learning creates an interactive classroom for all students and provides significant practical and theoretical advantages over passive learning. Active learning can be enhanced through usage of audiovisual aids, group discussions, "1 min paper," Individual presentations, live demonstrations etc., in routine teaching method. Active learning makes the students to learn new aspect in their own way. [12] When teaching methods and learning styles matches, then the teacher can reach out many students. So, the teacher should know their student's learning preference and accordingly they should teach instead of using old method.

Practically it is difficult to cover up the whole portion within stipulated time of teaching with preferred learning methods. In that case, we can at least promote students aware of their preferences and guide them. There is substantial evidence on the existence of the modality-specific strengths and weaknesses (for example, in the visual, auditory, or the kinesthetic processing) in people with various types of learning difficulties. [13] Furthermore, a person's preference as to whether the tasks or activities are presented to appeal to the auditory, visual, tactile or the kinesthetic senses (modality preference) is an important consideration for the educators. [14]

The VARK philosophy encourages a belief that everyone can learn if their preferences are addressed. In addition, VARK encourages teachers to respect differences and reject negative judgments about learners. VARK promotes the idea that students are able to learn in different ways, providing that the methods of teaching are appropriate to the students' preferences. The approach encourages learners and teachers to believe that it does not matter how people learn as long as they do learn. [15] As instructors, we need to assess and understand as to how to reach out to all the students, by understanding as to how to present information in multiple modes. We can help the students more effectively, both in and out of the classroom, if we are aware of their learning styles and if we can assist them in determining their preferences.

Limitation of the study

Study was done on Small sample.


Longitudinal studies can be carried out to determine if there is any change in the learning styles of the students with the time, or even more relevantly, after implementation of the proposed curricular reforms in India. It would also be worthwhile to study the association between learning styles of students and other factors like performance and attendance.


The majority 75.8% (n = 91/120) of the students selected more than one learning preference or have "multimodal" preferences. Majority 86% (n = 43/50) of clinical students preferred the multimodal type of learning.

Knowledge about the learning style preferences of different profession can help to enhance the teaching method for the students. It is the responsibility of the instructors and the students to be aware of the students' learning style preferences, to improve their learning.

"In considering learning and how to improve student learning, one needs to understand the ways in which an individual learns." [16]



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