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What are Learning Styles?

Regardless of whom you ask, parents or teachers, each will tell you that children learn in different
ways. Although how humans learn is a complex subject, there is one basic assumption that is
undeniable--one size does not fit all! Everyone has learning strengths and preferences even though
people do not necessarily learn in the same ways. The importance of identifying learning style is that it
not only provides each person (child or adult) with his or her unique set of strengths, it provides
teachers with an organized approach for the application of individualized instruction in the classroom.
At the same time, parents are better prepared in assisting their children with homework. This includes
providing the right setting and various other aspects of learning environments related to improved
achievement, behaviors and attitudes toward learning. Because visual intelligence does not fully
develop until 2nd or 3rd grade (ages 7-8) and auditory intelligence does not fully develop until 5th or 6th
grade (ages 10-11), understanding a student's strengths is essential to rewarding learning experiences
both in the classroom and at home.

The Dunn & Dunn Model
Professor Rita Dunn (1929-2009) co-authored each assessment currently offered at
LearningStyles.net. The Dunn and Dunn Model dates back to the late 1960s after Drs. Rita and Kenneth
Dunn reviewed over 80 years of research on the subject of how children learn differently. The
assessments we offer replace those previously developed by the Dunns. While there are those who
continue to obfuscate the value of learning style, over 850 articles based on quantitative and
experiential research conclude just the opposite. Learning style DOES make a difference; just ask those
parents, teachers and students who have benefited through the understanding that one size does not fit
all! Respecting the diversity of differences means no one is left behind!

The following domains, also known as strands, and their elements as identified by our K-12
assessments include:

Environmental Domain: sound, light, temperature, seating design
Emotional Domain: motivation, task persistence, conformity, structure
Sociological Domain: alone, pairs, peers, team, with an adult, with variety
Physiological Domain: auditory, visual, tactual, kinesthetic, time of day, intake, mobility
Psychological Domain: analytic/global, impulsive/reflective

Our adult assessment, The Building Excellence (BE) Survey identifies the following:

Perceptual Domain: auditory, visual word, visual picture, tactual and/or kinesthetic, verbal
Psychological Domain: analytic/global, impulsive/reflective
Environmental Domain: sound, light, temperature, seating design
Physiological Domain: time of day, intake, mobility
Emotional Domain: motivation, task persistence, conformity, structure
Sociological Domain: alone, pairs, small group, large group, authority, variety



Learners tend to demonstrate patterns in the way they prefer to deal with new and difficult
information and ideas. The majority of us are most confident and successful when we approach difficult
tasks by using our strengths.

The Dunn and Dunn Learning Style Model indicates a range of variables proven to influence the
achievements of individual learners from kindergarten age to adulthood.

Each learner has his or her own unique combination of preferences. Some preferences may be strong, in
which case the learner will benefit significantly if the need is addressed when he or she is learning
challenging content.

Others preferences may be moderate worth addressing if learning isnt progressing smoothly.

For some variables, no preference may be indicated. The learners ability to engage with the work and to
achieve success may depend on extraneous factors or his/her level of interest in the subject - or it may
be that that particular variable has no real bearing on the learners ability to concentrate and study.




Rita and Kenneth Dunn were a husband and wife team who served in education and research since the
late 1960s when they began developing the Dunn and Dunn Learning Style Model. Together they have
authored more than 300 journal articles, books, and chapters in books (Koch, 2007, p.2). Their Dunn and
Dunn Learning Styles Model is the most widely used and researched learning styles model in the history
of education in North America (The European Learning Styles Information Network [ELSIN], n.d., n.p.).
Their individual profiles are as follows:
Dr. Rita Dunn
Rita Dunn was Professor of the Division of Administrative and Instructional
Leadership, and the Director of the Center for the Study of Learning and Teaching
Styles, at St. Johns University, New York.
She began her tenure in the faculty of St. Johns University in 1970. Over the years,
she accomplished the design of its Instructional Leadership Doctoral program (1972);
served as its Coordinator since 1979; became the first woman Professor in the School
of Education (1976); and, has served as Chair of the Division of Administrative and
Instructional Leadership (Dunn & Honigsfeld, 2009, p.181).
St. Johns University awarded Dunn with the St. Johns Universitys first Outstanding Faculty
Achievement Gold Medal, and its first Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching. During her tenure at
St. Johns, Dunn has mentored 157 doctoral students, some of which have won national and
international recognition for the quality of their research (Dunn & Honigsfeld, p.181).
Koch (2007) discloses that Dunn viewed herself as a change agent responsible for promoting and
enhancing school effectiveness (p.2). Koch continues that for over 40 years Dunn has been raising
awareness that students learn in different ways, and therefore teachers and professors must provide
multiple strategies to meet the learning styles of all learners. Dunn believes that teachers need to learn
how to maximize teaching instruction so students can become more efficient at learning (p.2).
Rita Dunn passed away on August 1, 2009, after a brief struggle with breast cancer. Susan Rundle (2009),
of www.learningstyles.net (the Dunn and Dunn website), writes the following about Rita Dunn:
Everyone who ever encountered Rita recognized that she possessed unusual talent and extraordinary
virtue. She demonstrated a deep and charming humanity to everyone she met from the humblest
student to the most exalted academic dignitary. She left everyone with the unforgettable imprint of her
endearing personality. Rita was a woman who possessed unusual intellectual abilities. Along with her
manifold personal qualities, she had a powerful analytical intelligence. Her devotion to education was
unparalleled (n.p.).
Dr. Kenneth Dunn
Kenneth Dunn is Professor and Coordinator of the Educational Leadership Program,
Department of Educational and Community Programs, at Queens College of the City
University of New York. He has authored/co-authored 150 published articles and
research papers, and 15 textbooks (Dunn & Griggs, 2000, p.266).
In 1987, he and his wife Rita were the first couple simultaneously elected to the
Hunter College of Fame. Before entering higher education in 1982, Dunn served as
Superintendent of several schools in prestigious New York and New Jersey districts.
Dunn has been a workshop leader and keynote speaker throughout the United States, Canada, Europe,
and Asia (Queens College of the City University of New York *Queens College+, 2008).
The Learning Style Model
The Dunn and Dunn Learning Styles Model is the outcome of research that was initiated by the New
York State Department of Education, and collaborative work with the National Association of Secondary
School Principals (ELSIN, n.d., n.p.). The model is designed and planned on the theory that individual
students learn best in different ways, and it draws upon cognitive style and brain lateralization. Dunn
and Dunn also developed a learning styles inventory to identify individual learning styles. The inventory
identifies five categories of stimuli sources: environmental, emotional, sociological, physiological, and
psychological, and 21 learning style elements that are identified across the five distinct categories
(Dunn, Dunn and Price, 1985).