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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


The Active Learning Site with VARK Learning Styles Inventory

 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 4 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Jan 20, 2002 by Teacher Education
Overview: The acronym VARK stands for Visual, Aural, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic sensory modalities that are used for learning. This site supports the scholarship of teaching by providing research-based resources designed to help faculty use active learning successfully in college and university classrooms. VARK is a short, simple inventory that has helped students to learn more effectively and faculty to become more sensitive to the diversity of teaching strategies necessary to reach all students. The site also contains additional materials for the teacher educator including summaries of related research.
Learning Goals: VARK is a short, simple inventory designed to help students learn more effectively and faculty to become more sensitive to the diversity of teaching strategies necessary to reach all students. The VARK questionnaire is not intended to 'box' respondents into a mindset that they have been 'diagnosed' or 'labeled'. Rather, it is designed to initiate discussion about and reflection upon learning preferences
Target Student Population: Any student including high school, community college, or university students.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Basic 8th grade reading level and some ability to think reflectively and metacognitively.
Type of Material: Resource/reference and a learning styles inventory
Technical Requirements: VARK inventory uses Java script.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: Information and explanations of learning preferences are reasoned and reasonable with the stated goal of helping both students and faculty understand the role and the limitations of learning style preferences.
A real strength of this site is the list of study strategies suggested to match each learning style preference plus the caveat that students should try these ?to see how you should: 1) take in information; 2) study information for maximum learning; 3) study for performing well on an examination,? as the strategies suggested sound reasonable to the learner.
Background information about the goals and the development of the VARK Inventory are also offered, including this explanation of the four categories: ?Many researchers had focused on visual, aural and kinesthetic characteristics, but Fleming subdivided the visual mode into iconic (symbolic) and text, creating four possibilities for preferences. A fifth category (multi-modals) was added when it was found that approximately 60% of respondents had multiple preferences.? The fact that the VARK Inventory is data-driven and has been revised based on user input gives it more validity than other learning style inventories found on the Internet.
Summaries of several research studies about effective instruction are a bonus for instructors who explore this site thoroughly.
Concerns: None, except the usual skepticism about the scientific validity of learning styles from members of other disciplines.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: This site would be a good starting point for discussions in diversity, learning styles, or study methods. Also students could be asked to explain why the different study methods are recommended for different approaches. An instructor would likely assign students to take the VARK Inventory and explore the site on their own before discussing the value and usefulness of learning style preferences in class. Tips provided for study and test-taking strategies for students, which are linked to their learning style preference make this site practical for students. The site also provides an explanation of how the VARK inventory is scored as well as suggestions and additional information that can be used in talking about the results with students. This provides useful information for instructors. An extensive list of related references and a link to contact the authors, Neil Fleming of New Zealand FlemingN@lincoln.ac.nz), and Charles Bonvell of the USA (bonwell@ix.netcom.com) are also provided. All of these features provide background information that make this site a potentially effective teaching tool for instructors working with high school and college-age students as well as with instructors in faculty development settings.
Unlike some other online learning style inventories, you do not have to submit any personal information before taking this inventory, and submitting information (job, level, field) is completely voluntary and not designed to gather information for any commercial purpose.
Concerns: None noted.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: VARK inventory allows user to select more than one response to the four choices presented in each question. Users can even skip a question and still get a score. Fourteen items in the VARK inventory makes it quick and easy for a user to complete without losing interest. The user interface is simple making it easy to navigate within the site without getting too far astray because of links that allow users to crisscross the site but not leave it.
The VARK interactive learning styles inventory provides immediate scoring based on a 14-item questionnaire, if you have Java script. Although copyrighted, VARK is free for use in student or faculty development as long as attribution is given. It may not be published in paper or electronic form without permission of the authors. Explanations of VARK scores are available that focus of effective study skills and test-taking strategies for learners with different learning preferences.
Concerns: The visual design of the site is somewhat distracting (the various colors of text in the first paragraph on the first screen in particular). This is not a severe problem.