Does Personal Learning Style Predict the Ability to Learn Laparoscopic Surgery? A Pilot Study

J Laparoendosc Adv Surg Tech A. 2019 Jan;29(1):98-102. doi: 10.1089/lap.2018.0196. Epub 2018 Jul 27.


Purpose: Acquiring laparoscopic skills occurs at different rates among trainees. We conducted a pilot study to determine whether variation in laparoscopic skill acquisition was associated with subject's learning styles.

Materials and methods: Nineteen medical students performed 10 repetitions of the object transfer task over a period of 4 weeks using a validated laparoscopic simulator. The main exposure was participants' learning style categorized according to the Fleming VARK-learning style inventory. VARK (V = visual, A = aural, R = read/write, K = kinesthetic) is a validated learning style model that identifies four different learning styles. The main outcome measures that reflected laparoscopic skill acquisition were task completion time (<107 seconds) and total instrument distance (<2.03 m) obtained from SurgTrac® motion analysis software. To determine whether participants' laparoscopic proficiency was associated with learning style we used chi-square tests for categorical variables and t-tests for continuous variables.

Results: Nineteen participants completed the inventory, 37% (7) were classified as kinesthetic and/or visual style learners, while 63% (12) were considered multimodal or reading/writing style learners. Participants classified as visual/kinesthetic were ∼4 years older than participants classified as multimodal or reading/writing style learners. No gender differences were observed between the groups. Eighty-five percent (6) of participants with a kinesthetic and/or visual learning style reached the proficiency level for task completion time while only 17% (2) of participants with multimodal or read/write learning style performed the task in <107 seconds (χ2 = 8.7; P = .003). Regarding total instrument distance, 85% (6) of participants classified as kinesthetic and/or visual learners and 67% (8) of participants classified as multimodal or read/write learners performed the task in <2.03 m (P = .36).

Conclusions: This is the first study to investigate the correlation between trainees' VARK-learning style and their ability to acquire laparoscopic skills. This pilot study suggests that trainees' learning style may affect the ability to acquire laparoscopic skill proficiency. Larger studies are needed to confirm these preliminary observations.

Keywords: VARK; laparoscopic skills; learning style.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Audiovisual Aids
  • Clinical Competence
  • Female
  • Hearing
  • Humans
  • Kinesthesis
  • Laparoscopy / education*
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Reading
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Vision, Ocular
  • Writing
  • Young Adult