The diversity of first year students is increasing with new schemes promoting access to higher education courses. It is important to assess the learning styles of students in order to cater for their differing learning needs. The aim of this study was to profile first year nursing/midwifery students at two campuses of Australian Catholic University, to investigate their learning preferences and the effect demographic background has on these preferences. We designed a survey to collect demographic data and incorporated the VARK (visual, aural, read-write and kinaesthetic) questionnaire to investigate the students' preferred learning modes. The kinaesthetic score of our students was the highest (7.34 ± 2.67), significantly differing from the other three modes (p<0.001). Demographic factors such as gender and age group did not influence mean scores of each sensory modality. The predominant preference was quadmodal utilising all four learning styles. The distribution of students preferring to learn by unimodal, bimodal, trimodal and quadmodal styles varied between demographic groupings. The rural students had significantly higher visual and kinaesthetic scores compared to their metropolitan counterparts. Students attending the rural campus had higher visual and read-write scores. Visual and aural scores were significantly lower for students from non-English speaking backgrounds. These findings have significant teaching and research implications.
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