The influence of learning styles, enrolment status and gender on academic performance of optometry undergraduates

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Purpose: This cross-sectional study was designed to determine whether the academic performance of optometry undergraduates is influenced by enrolment status, learning style or gender. Methods: Three hundred and sixty undergraduates in all 3 years of the optometry degree course at Aston University during 2008–2009 were asked for their informed consent to participate in this study. Enrolment status was known from admissions records. An Index of Learning Styles ( determined learning style preference with respect to four different learning style axes; active-reflective, sensing-intuitive, visual-verbal and sequential-global. The influence of these factors on academic performance was investigated. Results: Two hundred and seventy students agreed to take part (75% of the cohort). 63% of the sample was female. There were 213 home non-graduates (entrants from the UK or European Union without a bachelor’s degree or higher), 14 home graduates (entrants from the UK or European Union with a bachelor’s degree or higher), 28 international non-graduates (entrants from outside the UK or European Union without a bachelor’s degree or higher) and 15 international graduates (entrants from outside the UK or European Union with a bachelor’s degree or higher). The majority of students were balanced learners (between 48% and 64% across four learning style axes). Any preferences were towards active, sensing, visual and sequential learning styles. Of the factors investigated in this study, learning styles were influenced by gender; females expressed a disproportionate preference for the reflective and visual learning styles. Academic performance was influenced by enrolment status; international graduates (95% confidence limits: 64–72%) outperformed all other student groups (home non graduates, 60–62%; international non graduates, 55–63%) apart from home graduates (57–69%). Conclusion: Our research has shown that the majority of optometry students have balanced learning styles and, from the factors studied, academic performance is only influenced by enrolment status. Although learning style questionnaires offer suggestions on how to improve learning efficacy, our findings indicate that current teaching methods do not need to be altered to suit varying learning style preferences as balanced learning styles can easily adapt to any teaching style (Learning Styles and Pedagogy in Post-16 Learning: A Systematic and Critical Review. London, UK: Learning and Skills Research Centre, 2004).


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-78
Number of pages10
JournalOphthalmic and Physiological Optics
Issue number1
Early online date4 Nov 2010
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011


  • professional education, educational measurement, educational status, England, female, humans, learning, male, optometry, sex characteristics, students, teaching, academic performance, graduate, learning styles, international, undergraduate optometrists

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