Nursing students at a university - a study about learning style preferences

Nurse Educ Today. 2014 Dec;34(12):1443-9. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2014.04.001. Epub 2014 Apr 24.


Background: In most adult education, teachers use methods that assume all students learn in the same way. But knowledge of students' learning style preferences highlights the importance of adequate teaching and learning adaptation.

Objectives: The aim of the study was to describe and compare final year nursing students' learning style preferences in two campuses during three semesters. A further aim was to identify differences between learning style preferences and personal characteristics.

Design: A descriptive cross-sectional study using the Productivity Environmental Preference Survey (PEPS) questionnaire was conducted at a Swedish rural university. Three semester groups with 263 nursing students participated in 2012-2013.

Results: The majority of the students were 'flexible' in their learning style preferences and had none or few strong preferences. Students with strong preferences preferred high structure (75%) and an authority figure present (40%). About a third were highly auditory, tactile and/or kinesthetic while 8% were highly visual. Few significant differences were revealed between the groups of campuses and the groups of semesters or between learning style preferences and upper secondary school and care experience. There were no significant differences between learning style preferences and age and assistant nurse graduation. More women than men were highly motivated, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic and preferred structure and mobility.

Conclusions: The PEPS questionnaire provides nursing students with self-awareness regarding their strengths and shortcomings in learning and teachers with a valuable and practical basis for their selection of adapted individual and group teaching methods. The findings suggest the need for wide variation and interactive teaching approaches, conscious didactic actions between cooperating teachers and conscious learning strategies for nursing students.

Keywords: Campuses; Learning preferences; Nursing education; PEPS; Semesters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Education, Nursing / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Students, Nursing / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden
  • Teaching / methods
  • Universities
  • Young Adult