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Analysis report

Analysis Report


The aim of this research report is to investigate the effect of learning styles on academic performance in a university setting. By investigating active and passive learning styles, the report is able to establish a relationship between learning styles and academic results. Songra et al. (2013) found that learning styles was a good predictor of academic performance in a second language with individual differences in the styles playing a significant role. However, for specific forms of assessment where correlations were statistically significant, the relationship between learning styles and results were weak (Wilkinson et al. 2013). Moreover, Lynn (2011) showed that there were no significant differences in learning styles especially on the lecture component on academic performance. While Gokalp (2013) found statistically significant difference in results of subtests in learning styles and academic success, Bhatti and Bart (2013) argued that gender and learning styles influenced academic achievement with the latter being an assimilator. Although the framework for learning does not change with subjects, Rezaee et al. (2013) found that low, moderate and high achievers had common preference for a pattern in all the learning styles. The authors found that there was a significant relationship between learning styles and overall academic achievement. From the previous studies above, there is still a gap to investigate different learning styles and their effect on academic performance. While Lynn (2011) and Wilkinson et al. (2013) found no or weak significant relationship between learning styles and academic achievement, there is need to undertake a research study to confirm otherwise. This also indicates that there is room to build theory and deeper understanding of learning styles that suit different levels of learning. This research investigated the influence of learning styles on academic achievement at the university level.


The study used qualitative approach to determine the relationship between learning styles and academic performance. Qualitative approach uses interviews and focus groups to gather opinions, feelings and thoughts of respondents (Bernard, 2002). Although qualitative approach uses open ended questionnaires to obtain unlimited information from respondents, it poses difficulties in coding and analyzing information of all the respondents (Holstein & Gubrium, 2003). However, these approaches require adequate preparation and convening of the respondents at a suitable venue with minimal interference or disturbance. Qualitative data can be recorded in tapes or other storage equipment and can be retrieved in future when required (Silverman, 2001). Moreover, qualitative approaches allow for probing and deep insight into a certain field by observing the behavior of respondents. This shows that the method is suitable for investigating learning styles and their influence on academic performance of university students.

The study participants were both male and female students from the University of Canberra. The students were randomly sampled from various departments at different levels of study. They were recruited on voluntary basis and immediately taken through the qualitative data collection exercise. A total of 12 respondents were sampled and interviewed based on a set of interview schedule prepared earlier. The interview schedule constituted three sections; time spent on study, learning styles/effects and reasons, and problems/improvement. These sections were constructed to respond to the objectives of the study. A list of questions were then prepared under the three sections and discussed with the lecturer to establish their reliability. During the interview, questions were asked in progression beginning from the general to the specific. The responses were recorded for further analysis in a coding tree (Laforest, 2009). In the analysis part, transcripts were undertaken in a matrix format. It consisted of five parts; familiarizing with the data, generation of initial codes, searching for themes, review of the themes and production of the results. In this thematic analysis, coding and search for themes were the most critical steps. Generating codes involved discovering data ideas then coding. This was done in a systematic fashion throughout the dataset. Later, relevant data was collated to each data set. On search for themes, codes were collated into themes taking into account their discrepancies and similarities. A review was done to consider if the themes made any sense and if they fit the initially coded ideas.


Effective approaches to a study are necessary in development of knowledge and skills in a specific discipline. Various studies have shown that learning styles have significant correlation with academic achievement. This applies to both active and passive styles of learning. The study found that active and passive learning styles influenced academic performance of university students. The attributes related to passive learning were listening, watching and reading. On the other hand, study noted the attributes related to active learning as lecturing, building and argument and learning-by-doing. Passion of the study topic said that it is essential to develop enthusiasm for the course. Although concentration is very important, daily lives of people are affected by both active and passive lifestyles. Tutorials are important in problem-solving and interaction between the tutors and students.

I learned that qualitative research is critical in obtaining information about respondents’ perceptions and opinions on a given issue. I noted that I needed to learn more on Qualitative Data Analysis (QDA) to understand coding of qualitative research which proves difficult to many scholars. I found that despite respondents agreeing to participate in the interview, their views may not represent their reality. I realized that in future I may need to prepare questions with in consideration to reliability and validity of instruments. I also noted that the questions may need to be reorganized to alternate most demanding and easy ones. Although I obtained all the responses, I exceeded the data collection period by one week. This was due to wrong estimation of interview duration and affected my time management skills. In future, I have learned to estimate time and provide some limited time for the respondents to ask questions. I learned that by asking questions on learning styles, I was able to learn.


Bernard, H.R. (2002). Research methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and quantitative approaches, 3rd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Bhatti, R., & Bart, W.M. (2013). On the Effect of Learning Style on Scholastic Achievement. Current Issues in Education. 16(2): 1-6.

Gokalp, M. (2013). The Effect of Students’ Learning Styles to Their Academic Success. Creative Education. 4(2): 627-632.

Holstein, J.A. & Gubrium, J.F. (2003). Inside Interviewing: Qualitative interviewing and grounded theory analysis. Sage Publications.

Laforest, J. (2009). Guide to Organizing Semi-Structured Interviews with Key Informant: Charting a course to save living, Quebec: Government Quebec.

Lynn, W.D. (2011). A Comparison of Learning Styles and Academic Performance of Students Enrolled in Introductory Poultry Science Courses in Bachelors of Science and Associates of Applied Science Programs, North Carolina State University, Raleigh.

Razaee, A.A., Abidin, M.J., Abdullah, H.N. & Singh, K.K. (2011). Learning Styles and Overall Academic Achievement in a Specific Educational System. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science. 1(10): 143-149.

Silverman, D. (2001). Interpreting Qualitative Data: Methods for Analysing Talk, Text and Interaction. London: Sage.

Songra, A.C., Ali, G. & Talab, M.G. (2013). Learning styles and academic performance of students in English as a second-language class in Iran, Bulgarian Journal of Science and Education Policy (BJSEP). 7(2): 322-331.

Wilkinson, T., Bohan, M. & Stevenson, M. (2013). Does learning style influence academic performance in different forms of assessment? Journal of Anatomy. 224(3): 304-308.