Gender differences in learning style preferences among undergraduate physiology students

Adv Physiol Educ. 2007 Jun;31(2):153-7. doi: 10.1152/advan.00060.2006.


Students have individual learning style preferences including visual (V; learning from graphs, charts, and flow diagrams), auditory (A; learning from speech), read-write (R; learning from reading and writing), and kinesthetic (K; learning from touch, hearing, smell, taste, and sight). These preferences can be assessed using the VARK questionnaire. We administered the VARK questionnaire to undergraduate physiology majors enrolled in a capstone physiology laboratory at Michigan State University; 48 of the 86 students (55.8%) who returned the completed questionnaire voluntarily offered gender information. The responses were tallied and assessed for gender difference in learning style preference; 54.2% of females and only 12.5% of males preferred a single mode of information presentation. Among the female students, 4.2% of the students preferred V, 0% of the students preferred A, 16.7% of the students preferred printed words (R), and 33.3% of the students preferred using all their senses (K). In contrast, male students were evenly distributed in preference, with 4.2% of the students preferring A, R, or K, respectively, while 0% of the students preferred V. Furthermore, 45.8% of female and 87.5% of male respondents preferred multiple modes [female: 2 modes (12.5%), 3 modes (12.5%), and 4 modes (20.8%); males: 2 modes (16.7%), 3 modes (12.5%), and 4 modes (58.3%)] of presentation. In summary, a majority of male students preferred multimodal instruction, specifically, four modes (VARK), whereas a majority of female students preferred single-mode instruction with a preference toward K. Thus, male and female students have significantly different learning styles. It is the responsibility of the instructor to address this diversity of learning styles and develop appropriate learning approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knowledge
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Physiology / education*
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Universities