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Describing the on-line graduate science student: An examination of learning style, learning strategy, and motivation

, Temple University, United States

Temple University . Awarded


Research in science education has presented investigations and findings related to the significance of particular learning variables. For example, the factors of learning style, learning strategy and motivational orientation have been shown to have considerable impact upon learning in a traditional classroom setting. Although these data have been somewhat generous for the face-to-face learning situation, this does not appear to be the case for distance education, particularly the Internet-based environment. The purpose of this study was to describe the on-line graduate science student, regarding the variables of learning style, learning strategy and motivational orientation. It was believed that by understanding the characteristics of adult science learners and by identifying their learning needs, Web course designers and science educators could create on-line learning programs that best utilized students' strengths in learning science.

A case study method using a questionnaire, inventories, telephone interviews and documents was applied to nine graduate science students who participated for ten weeks in an asynchronous, exclusively Internet mediated graduate science course at a large, Northeastern university. Within-case and cross-case analysis indicated that these learners displayed several categories of learning styles as well as learning strategies. The students also demonstrated high levels of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and this, together with varying strategy use, may have compensated for any mismatch between their preferred learning styles and their learning environment. Recommendations include replicating this study in other online graduate science courses, administration of learning style and learning strategy inventories to perspective online graduate science students, incorporation of synchronous communication into on-line science courses, and implementation of appropriate technology that supports visual and kinesthetic learners.

Although the study was limited to nine participants, the implications of the findings are clear. Most adult science students experience learning in an on-line environment. Those who are independent, highly motivated learners and utilize a variety of learning strategies can adapt their learning style to the situational aspects of the learning environment. This further indicates that Internet-based graduate science education institutions should become aware of different learning styles and strategies, and be prepared to address this variety when developing and delivering such programming.


Spevak, A.J. Describing the on-line graduate science student: An examination of learning style, learning strategy, and motivation. Ph.D. thesis, Temple University. Retrieved April 24, 2019 from .

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