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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 222-225

Which mode of learning do dental students prefer? A cross-sectional study in Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Department of Public Health Dentistry, Priyadarshini Dental College and Hospital, Thiruvallur, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Web Publication13-Dec-2016

Correspondence Address:
Kazi Safika
Priyadarshini Dental College and Hospital, No. 1, VGR Garden, VGR Nagar, Pandur, Thiruvallur - 631 203, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0976-433X.195628

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Aim: This study was conducted to determine the learning preferences of dental students and to compare it between preclinical and clinical dental students in Chennai. Introduction: Educators of health-care profession are responsible for the quality of future health-care providers, but they may face a greater challenge in transmission of their knowledge to the students. This study was conducted to match the teaching and learning methods to make the learning easier. Materials and Methods: A descriptive, cross-sectional study was conducted in January 2016 among 310 dental students in Chennai to determine their preferences of learning styles using Visual, Aural, Read-write, and Kinesthetic questionnaire. Results: Majority of the students (86%) preferred multimodal learning style. Auditory and kinesthetic methods were most preferred unimodal learning style among preclinical and clinical students, respectively. Auditory and kinesthetic methods were dominant even in bimodal and trimodal preference of learning style. Conclusion: As the majority of the dental students preferred multimodal learning style, a variety of teaching methods should be included in the curriculum according to the students' preferences.

Keywords: Dental students, learning style, Visual, Aural, Read-write, and Kinesthetic

How to cite this article:
Safika K, Sivashankari R, Ganesh R. Which mode of learning do dental students prefer? A cross-sectional study in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. SRM J Res Dent Sci 2016;7:222-5

How to cite this URL:
Safika K, Sivashankari R, Ganesh R. Which mode of learning do dental students prefer? A cross-sectional study in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. SRM J Res Dent Sci [serial online] 2016 [cited 2023 Mar 31];7:222-5. Available from:

  Introduction Top

Learning is the act of a person who gains knowledge or skill.

Keefe (1979) defined learning style as the "composite of characteristic cognitive, affective, and psychological factors that serve as relatively stable indicators of how a learner perceives, interacts with, and responds to the learning environment." [1]

Acknowledgment of student's individual learning style can play a vital role in the learning process. At present, education trend has been changed from pedagogy to andragogy, that is, from a teacher-centered to student-centered learning. [2] Knowledge of learning preferences of students can help educators to develop better teaching style and it helps students to be aware of their own learning style and to get involved better in the act of learning. Efficient transfer of information from the teacher to the student can be complicated by mismatches between teaching strategy and students' learning style. [3]

Professor Neil Fleming's Visual, Aural, Read-write, and Kinesthetic (VARK) model is commonly used assessment method. [4] Learners are unimodal if single sensory modality is preferred, or they are multimodal if more than one sensory modes are preferred. Multimodal learners are bimodal, trimodal, or quadrimodal if they prefer two, three, or four sensory modes, respectively. [5]

The aim of the study was to understand the learning preferences of dental students in Chennai using VARK questionnaire.

  Materials and Methods Top

A descriptive, cross-sectional study was conducted to determine the preferences of learning style by dental students in Chennai. Out of the 29 dental colleges in Chennai, four dental colleges were selected at random.

The study was approved by the Institutional Review Board and the permission to conduct the study was obtained from the Institutional Ethical Committee of Priyadarshini Dental College and Hospital.

The estimated sample size was 304, which was determined by "G" power statistical software based on 80% power with an alpha error of 0.05%.

The VARK questionnaire (version 7.2), developed by Professor Neil D. Fleming, was used to identify the students' learning style. It contained 16 multiple-choice questions with four possibilities to select an answer.

Prior approval from the principal of the respected dental colleges was obtained for data collection. Students were requested to remain in class at the end of a lecture to participate in the survey on a voluntary basis. They were instructed briefly about the purpose of study and about selecting two or more options for identifying the preferences for multiple learning styles. They were also instructed to provide the answers within 10 min and consultations were not permitted. Questionnaire was distributed among students. After the given time, the questionnaire was collected for evaluation.

The collected data were entered in the Microsoft Excel sheets. The data were analyzed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences software version 21 (IBM, NewYork, United States) and the descriptive statistics such as number and percentage were calculated for the collected data.

  Results Top

This study was conducted among 310 dental students.

Out of the 310 students, 121 (39%) students were males and 189 (61%) were females. The distribution of students according to year and learning preferences is shown, respectively, in [Table 1] and [Table 2].
Table 1: Distribution of students according to year of studying

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Table 2: Distribution of students according to their learning preferences

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[Figure 1] shows the distribution of multimodal learning preferences.
Figure 1: Preferences of multimodal learning style

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[Figure 2] shows the distribution of different unimodal styles.
Figure 2: Preferences of unimodal learning style

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[Figure 3] shows the prevalence of learning style among dental students. The most preferred bimodal style is auditory-kinesthetic (AK) and the most preferred trimodal style is auditory-reading and writing-kinesthetic, which is shown in [Figure 4] and [Figure 5], subsequently.
Figure 3: Preferences of unimodal learning style

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Figure 4: Preferences of bimodal learning style

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Figure 5: Preferences of trimodal and quadrimodal learning style

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  Discussion Top

Learning preferences differ among each individual. According to Dunn et al., "Learning style is a biologically and developmentally imposed set of personal characteristics that make the same teaching method effective for some and ineffective for others." [6]

VARK questionnaire was being used for this study, which is one of the many tools to determine the learning preferences, developed by Professor Neil Fleming. [7] He described four sensory modalities: Visual (V), auditory (A), reading-writing (R) and kinesthetic (K). Visual learners usually like graphs, brochures, charts, highlighters, design, pictures, etc., Auditory learners prefer discussions, seminars, lectures, debates, conversation, etc., They have preference for information that is heard or spoken. Reading-writing learners prefer textbooks, essay, taking notes, bibliography, manuals, web pages, readings, and printed hand-outs. They like information as words. Kinesthetic learners prefer examples, laboratories, hands-on approaches. They like learning through practice and experience. Individuals who do not have strong preference for any of above-mentioned modes are called multimodal. They possess mixtures of preferences of learning styles. [7]

As the dental students have excessive volume to grasp in shorter duration along with practical work, it is important for them to be aware of their particular learning style. It allows them to choose the convenient path of learning without wasting their valuable time in dilemma of how to retain the knowledge in mind for longer duration.

Mismatches exist between common learning styles of dental students and traditional teaching styles of professors. As a consequence, students become bored and inattentive in class, do poorly on tests, get discouraged about the course, the curriculum, and themselves, and in some cases change to other curricula or drop out of school. [8] Reiff and Keefe state that faculty awareness of learning styles can help reduce the students' frustration and improve teaching delivery methods. [9],[10],[11]

Various studies have been performed in different regions of India, i.e., Nagpur, Manipur, which was being focused on finding out the most preferred learning style of dental students in respected area. This study was performed for dental students in Chennai not only to find out their most preferred learning style but also to compare the difference between preclinical and clinical students, if there is any.

Bennadi et al. [2] in their study which was conducted among dental students in Manipur showed that the vast majority of the students (75.8%) selected multimodal learning preferences. The same is the case in our study which shows that the majority of the students (86%) had multimodal preferences of learning, i.e., they preferred to acquire and understand information using more than one sensory modality. It might be because dentistry is an art and science and it involves not only theory but also practical work, which requires auditory, visual, reading-writing, and kinesthetic type of learning. Hence, multimodal type of learning helps 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 the past experiences and knowledge, and apply it to their daily lives. [12]

Kahar et al.[5] in their study which was conducted among dental students in Nagpur showed that the majority of the students (47.22%) preferred kinesthetic type of unimodal learning style, while in our study, it shows that majority of students (28%) selected auditory method of learning.

In the same study conducted by Bennadi et al. [2] and Kahar et al., [5] it was showed that AK was the most preferred bimodal style (30%). Even in our study, AK was the most preferred bimodal style (27.5%).

In our study, while comparing the preference of unimodal learning style among preclinical and clinical students, it was seen that they had chosen the different styles of learning. The most of the preclinical students (30.9%) preferred auditory method of learning. It may be because auditory method is the most commonly used and traditional method of teaching in schools, which may be followed by students even in preclinical years of dentistry. For these students, interactive sessions such as discussions and quiz should be arranged at the end of the class; moreover, they should be indulged in various activities such as yoga and meditations for gaining better concentration in lectures. Whereas, kinesthetic method of learning was followed by the most of the clinical students (28.3%), which may be because clinical students are more exposed to practical works than preclinical students. For these students, various hands-on courses should be arranged frequently in college for better understanding of clinical techniques.

We recommend following things based on our present study: The educator should be aware of learning style of students by carrying out this study and should match teaching style according to students' preference so that he/she can assist students to build confidence by improving their academic performance. Further study should be carried out in different places all over India to know those students' learning preferences and implementation of most preferred method of learning in dental curriculum.

  Conclusion Top

Educator should interact with the students about learning style in classes. If educator gets acknowledged of his students' learning preferences before the starting of term and match the teaching style, he/she can make the learning easier and interesting. Same way, if the student gets acknowledged with his/her own learning style, he/she can adapt to that style alone and grasp the knowledge better without getting confused.

Students have to be reassured to find their academic difficulties which are not always being due to personal inadequacies. Explaining the struggling learners how they learn most efficiently may be an important step in helping them reshape their learning experiences so that they can be successful in their learning process.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Shenoy N, Shenoy KA, Ratnakar UP. The perceptual preferences in learning among dental students in clinical subjects. J Clin Diagn Res 2013;7:1683-5.  Back to cited text no. 1
Bennadi D, Kashinath KR, Bharateesh JV, Kshetrimayum N. Assessing learning references of dental students using visual, auditory, reading-writing and kinesthetic questionnaire. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent 2015;13:163-8.  Back to cited text no. 2
  Medknow Journal  
Asiry MA. Learning styles of dental students. Saudi J Dent Res 2016;7:13-7.  Back to cited text no. 3
Saran R, Kumar S, Pentapati KC. Assessment of learning preferences among dental students using visual, aural, read-write, kinesthetic questionnaire: An institutional experience. J Dent Res Rev 2015;2:10-2.  Back to cited text no. 4
  Medknow Journal  
Kahar A, Deshmuk S, Joshi J. Evaluation of learning styles of dental students: A preliminary investigation. J Educ Technol Health Sci 2014;1:34-8.  Back to cited text no. 5
Dunn R, Beaudry JS, Klavas A. Survey of research on learning styles. Educ Leadersh 1989;46:50-8.  Back to cited text no. 6
VARK Questionnaire. Available from: [Last accessed on 2016 Apr 19].  Back to cited text no. 7
Prabha V. Learning styles among the first year dental students. Int J Health Sci Res 2013;3:22-8.  Back to cited text no. 8
Keefe JW. Learning style: Theory and Practice. Reston, VA: National Association of Secondary School Principals; 1987.  Back to cited text no. 9
Reiff JC. Learning Styles. What Research Says to the Teacher Series. Childhood Educ 1992;69:96E.  Back to cited text no. 10
Keefe JW. Profiling and Utilizing Learning Style. Reston, VA: National Association of Secondary School Principals; 1998.  Back to cited text no. 11
Lujan HL, DiCarlo SE. First-year medical students prefer multiple learning styles. Adv Physiol Educ 2006;30:13-6.  Back to cited text no. 12


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5]

  [Table 1], [Table 2]

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