Author Lim, Li Lian
Title A cognitive profile of junior college students.
Institute Thesis (M.Ed.) National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University
Year 2000
Supervisor Yeap, Lay Leng
Call no. BF311 Lim
 
Summary
The quest for "Academic Excellence", the teachers' calling to serve as effective teachers in this noble profession, the need to prepare our students to meet the challenges of the 21st Century and the recent findings which show that learning styles (and in particular, cognitive styles) are related to academic achievement are some reasons why this study is undertaken.

This study intends to discover the cognitive profile of junior college students.  Hence, the sample in this study consisted of seventeen to eighteen-year-old junior college students and a total of 300 subjects were drawn from each of the Arts, Commerce and Science faculties.  However, only the responses of 258 subjects could be used eventually.  In addition, this study looked at the general academic achievement as measured by the aggregate score obtained at the General Certificate of Education 'O' level Cambridge Examination.  The students were placed into three achievement groups according to their aggregate score.  Furthermore, the relationship between cognitive style and gender was also explored.  The instruments for determining the learning styles and the brain dominance, namely Kolb's Learning Style Inventory (1985) and McCarthy's Hemispheric Mode Indicator (1998) were utilised.

The primary objective of this study is to determine the cognitive profile of junior college students.  Specifically, this study hopes to find out :

1) the type of learning styles practised by : (i) high, average and low achievers, (ii) students from the different faculties (Arts, Commerce, Science), and (iii) males and females ;

2) if brain dominance or hemispheric preferences is related to : (i) achievement, (ii) faculty, and (iii) gender ;

3) the relationship between learning styles and hemispheric preference.

Data were analysed using descriptive statistics and one-way analyses of variance by employing the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) program.

The results indicated that :

1) There is no significant difference in the mean scores of the learning modes in the perception dimension and in the processing dimension among the high, average and low achievers.  However, the mean scores do suggest that the high achievers are more abstract and reflective than the average and low achievers.  In addition, although the low achievers are the least abstract and the least reflective of the three groups, they are still more abstract and reflective than concrete and active respectively.

2) There is no significant difference in the percentage of Divergers, Assimilators, Convergers and Accommodators among the three achievement groups.  However, there are more Assimilators amongst the high and average achievers.  In contrast, the low achievers are mainly Divergers but there is notably an almost equal number of Assimilators too in that group.

3) There is no significant difference in the hemispheric preference amongst the three achievement groups.  However, there are more right brain dominant students among the low achievers compared to the average and high achievers.  In addition, the high achievers are more whole brain in their hemisphericity than the low achievers.

4) There is a significant difference in the mean scores of the learning modes in the perception dimension and in the processing dimension among the Arts, Commerce and Science students.  The Arts students are significantly more concrete than the Science and Commerce students.  Whilst there is no significant difference in the Abstract Conceptualization learning mode, the mean scores show that the Science students are more abstract than the Commerce students who are in turn more abstract than the Arts students.  An unexpected finding is that the Science and Commerce students are found to be significantly more active than the Arts students.  Finally, although the Arts students are more reflective than the Science and Commerce students, the former group is not significantly more reflective than the latter group of students.

5) There is no significant difference in the learning styles among the three faculties.  However, a closer examination of the data show that the Arts students tend to be Divergers whereas Science and Commerce students are Assimilators.

6) There is a very significant difference in the hemispheric preferences amongst the three faculties.  The Arts students are found to be predominantly right brain dominant whereas the Commerce and Science students are predominantly left brain dominant.

7) There is no significant difference in the mean scores of the learning modes in the perception dimension and in the processing dimension between the male and female students.  However, the mean scores show that the males are more abstract and more reflective than the females.  Nonetheless, the females are more abstract than concrete and they are equally active and reflective.

8) There is no significant difference in the percentage of the four learning styles between the male and female students.  Nonetheless, a closer look at the data show that majority of the boys and girls are predominantly Assimilators.  In addition, there are more Convergers in the male group whereas there are more Accommodators in the female group.

9) There is a significant difference in the percentage of the three types of hemispheric preferences between male and female students.  The males are clearly more left brain dominant while the females are clearly more right brain dominant.  In addition, more females than males have a tendency towards whole brain functioning.

10) There is a significant relationship between learning style and hemispheric preference.  For all the three variables, namely academic achievement, faculty and gender, the Assimilator learning style is associated with left brain functioning while the Diverger learning style is associated with right brain functioning.  On the whole too, the Converger and Accommodator learning styles are respectively associated with left and right brain functioning.

In short, it is the brain functioning domain that distinguishes the achievement groups, the faculties, and the gender.

The most important implication is that junior college students are not all alike in their cognitive style and therefore, teachers must adjust their teaching styles to match the students' learning styles so that the academic performance of these students can be enhanced.