Daniel Tight at the University of Minnesota has announced the completion of his dissertation, “The Role of Perceptual Learning Style Preferences and Instructional Method in the Acquisition of L2 Spanish Vocabulary,” on Linguist List. The abstract details a study which measured the effectiveness of preferred learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) in 128 intermediate-level L2 college Spanish students. Each of the students’ first language was English. Students studied 36 vocabulary words: 12 in their preferred learning style, 12 in a less-preferred style, and 12 in mixed modality instruction. An additional 12 non-studied words were used as a control. The results showed that individual learning style preference bears minimal relevance to L2 vocabulary acquisition, particularly when compared to mixed modality instruction.
Results of a repeated-measures ANOVA indicated that subjects performed equally well on the vocabulary posttests, regardless of learning style preference. Overall, mixed-modality instruction was more beneficial than instruction in a more-preferred modality, which in turn stimulated greater learning than instruction in a less-preferred modality. Such differences were statistically significant on the 1-week and 1-month posttests. Further analysis revealed, however, that differences between the more- and less-preferred modalities were primarily an artifact of the large number of visual learners, combined with an overall effectiveness of visual instruction for all subjects, rather than a product of style matching in general.
Although these style preferences have for years allowed students to individualize learning experiences, it appears the most effective method is to combine visual, kinesthetic, and auditory media. At least, for L2 concrete noun acquisition. Sounds like a great way to keep Broca, Wernicke, and your occipital lobe busy before a Spanish midterm.