Trends in Learning Styles of "At Risk" Students

Coleman, Margaret, and Judy Kwapis-Jaeger

The lock-step nature of a dental hygiene curriculum does not allow much flexibility for the "at risk" student. Educators have struggled to develop programs to identify these individuals early and to retain them. The purpose of this study was to assess if differences existed in the learning styles between students deemed “at risk”, as defined by students placed on a modified curriculum in order to complete the program and those students enrolled in the program who graduated in the stipulated time. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was administered over a ten year period (1998-2008) to students (n=316) during the first semester of class. Ten students were placed on a modified curriculum for academic reasons and/or personal reasons during that time frame. The MBTI data was analyzed using frequency distribution and chi square analysis. Personality types were identified and strength of individual preferences were reported. Respondents who were placed on modified schedules were proportionally represented in the same common occurring personality types as the larger group. Further analysis revealed strong to moderate preference scores in at least two of the four functions which may affect adaptation to least preferred learning styles. Teaching modalities must be addressed to meet the needs of the "at risk" student. Strategies which facilitate learning may include the modified curriculum itself, monitoring, peer learning style mentoring, aggressive counseling and advising, and other techniques to make these students educationally successful.