Do Music and Science Students Have the Same Learning Styles?

Mark Ivey, Nicole Lee


Students learn in many ways: by seeing and hearing, reflecting and acting, memorizing and visualizing. Learning style surveys are used to measure one’s preference for these different styles of learning. Although many learning style surveys exist, the Felder Index of Learning Styles (ILS) is commonly given to college-aged science and engineering students. A number of published studies have found that science and engineering students are predominantly visual learners who prefer facts and step-by-step instructions. To date, the Felder ILS has not been used to assess students that are seen as creative, such as music majors. To determine whether science and music majors have the same learning styles, the Felder ILS was administered to 98 science students and 192 music students at Capital University. Biology students were also more likely to prefer a sequential mode of learning than their music counterparts χ² (2) = 12.72, p < 0.01 since 45% of biology majors expressed a strong/moderate preference for sequential learning and only 24% of music students expressed a similar strong/moderate preference. No significant difference χ² (2) = 0.21, p < 0.90, n.s., was noted when biology and music students were compared for an active vs. reflective preference. Lastly, biology majors showed significantly higher preference for the sensing mode of learning when compared to the music students χ² (2) = 43.09, p < 0.01 since 59% of first year biology students showed a strong/moderate preference for sensing mode of learning compared to only 22% of music students. The visual, factual and step-by-step nature of science students contrasts with the preferences of music students, who are driven by abstract thinking and less by facts and sequences. The contrasting learning styles of music and science majors may be useful knowledge for college science professors as they design science courses for non-science majors.


Learning Styles; Biology; Music

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