Identifying Adult Language Learning Styles in English Proficiency Courses

  • Soran Karim Salim Language Centre / Salahaddin University-Erbil
Keywords: adults, graduate, visual, aural, read/write, touch


Traditionally, English classes tend to focus on grammar, vocabulary, reading, writing, speaking or listening skills. However, there is little space to talk about the students’ preferred learning styles. This paper focuses on learners’ learning styles favourites and their possible effect on the teaching and learning as well as design and selection of the text books for adults. A group of about 45 adult students, taking a course called 'English Proficiency Course' at the Language Centre/ Salahaddin University, participated in this study. The students, later, might need English language certificate for their educational studies such as MA, MSc, PhD in various areas. The participants were asked to select the styles from the VARK questionnaire. Then the data was collected before it is been analysed. The outcomes of which were analysed into some of the major Learning Styles such as 'visual, audio, read/write and kneithetic/tactile' preferences. The results indicated that the most dominant style is Aural (14.72%) and Visual (13.71%), followed by Read/Write (13.24%). The least preferred style by adults was Kinesthetic which is (10.97%) only. Based on the available research results, it is proposed that the teaching styles need to be matched to students’ learning style and that the materials which are taught. Moreover, curriculum designers should design teaching books that suits students’ learning preferences. The pedagogical implications of these findings are discussed, and the suggestions for future research.


Abu-Assali, M.J. (2005) The learning styles of female students in a UAE secondary school.
Unpublished (MA) Thesis. Sheffield: The University of Sheffield.
Afitska, O. (2012) Personal Communication. Sheffield: The University of Sheffield.

Castro, O. and Peck, V. (2005) Learning styles and foreign language learning difficulties.
Foreign Language Annals, 38(3), 401-409.
Coffield, F. et al. (2004) Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning: A systematic and
critical review. London: Learning and Skills Research Centre. Pdf retrieved from
Cohen A.D. and Weaver, S.J. (2005) Styles and strategies-based instruction: A teachers’
guide. Revised version of CARLA (Working Paper Series #7. University of
Minnesota: Centre for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition.
Dörnyei, Z. (2005) The psychology of the language learner: Individual differences in second
language acquisition. Mahwah, New Jersey; London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Ehrman, M. and Oxford, R. (1990) Adult language learning styles and strategies in an
intensive training setting. The Modern Language Journal, 74(3), 311-327.
Ehrman, M.E. et al. (2003) A brief overview of individual differences in second language learning. System, 31(3), 313-330.
Flowerdew, J. and Shehadeh, A. (2008) Learning styles and performance in second language
tasks. TESOL Quarterly, 42(4), 665-674.
Ford, N., and Chen, S.Y. (2001) Matching/mismatching revisited: An empirical study of learning and teaching styles. British Journal of Educational Technology, 32(1), 5-22.
Hawk, T. and Shah, A. (2007) Using learning style instruments to enhance student learning. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 5(1), 1-19.
Hedge, T. (2000) Teaching and learning in the language classroom. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Hayes, J. and Allinson, C.W. (1996) The implications of learning styles for training and
development: A discussion of the matching hypothesis. British Journal of
Management, 7(1), 63-73.
Kara, S. (2009). Learning styles and teaching styles: A case study in foreign language classroom. State of the art. Conference of the International Journal of Arts and Sciences, 1(20), 77-82.
Kozhevnikova, E. (2014) Exposing students to authentic materials as a way to increase
students’ language proficiency and cultural awareness. Procedia - Social and
Behavioral Sciences, 116. 4462 – 4466.
Mortimore, T. (2003) Dylexia and learning style: A practitioner’s handbook. London and
Philadelphia: Whurr.
Oxford, R.L. (2001) Language learning styles and strategies. In: Celce-Murcia, M. (ed.),
Teaching English as a second or foreign language (3rd ed.). Boston; London: Heinle & Heinle, pp.359-366.
Pashler, H. et al. (2009) Learning styles: Concepts and evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9(3), 105-119.
Pask, B.G. (1976) Styles and strategies of learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(2), 128-148.
Peacock, M. (2001) Match or mismatch? Learning styles and teaching styles in EFL.
International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 11(1), 1-20.
Pritchard, A. (2008) Ways of learning: Learning theories and learning styles in the classroom
. London: David Fulton.
Reid, G. (2005) Learning style and inclusion. London: Paul Chapman.
Reid, J.M. (1987) The learning style preferences of ESL students. TESOL Quarterly, 21(1),
Sadler-Smith, E. (2001). A reply to Reynolds’s critique of learning style. Management Learning, 32(3), 291-304.
Sahragard, R., Mallahi, O. (2014) Relationship between Iranian EFL Learners’ Language
Learning Styles, Writing Proficiency and Self-assessment, Procedia - Social and
Behavioral Sciences 98. 1611-1620.
Scott, C. (2010) The enduring appeal of ‘learning styles’. Australian Journal of Education, 54(1), 5-17.
Snow, R.E, Carno, L., Jackson III, D. (1996) Individual differences in affective and cognitive
functions. In: Berliner, D.C., and Calfee, R.C. (eds.), Handbook of educational
psychology. New York, London: Macmillan Library Reference USA; Prentice Hall International, pp.243-310.
Spolsky, B. (1989) Conditions for second language learning. Oxford: Oxford University
Valeo, A. (2000) An investigation into the learning styles of engineers studying English as a
second language. Unpublished (MA) dissertation. Sheffield: The University of
Van Zwanenberg, N. Wilkinson, L.J, and Anderson, A. (2000) Felder and Silverman’s index
of learning styles and Honey and Mumford’s learning styles questionnaire: How do
they compare and do they predict academic performance? Educational Psychology,
20(3), 365-380.
Williamson, M. and Watson, R. (2006) Learning styles research: Understanding how
teaching should be impacted by the way learners learn. Part II: Understanding how
learners prefer to receive information. Christian Education Journal, 3(2), 343-361.
Zhou, M. (2011) Learning styles and teaching styles in college English teaching. International Education Studies, 4(1), 73-78.
How to Cite
Salim S. Identifying Adult Language Learning Styles in English Proficiency Courses. JAHS [Internet]. 20Apr.2020 [cited 13Aug.2020];24(2):292 -302. Available from: