The impact of teachers' approaches to teaching and students' learning styles on students' approaches to learning in college online biology courses
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With the rapid growth of online courses in higher education institutions, research on quality of learning for online courses is needed. However, there is a notable lack of research in the cited literature providing evidence that online distance education promotes the quality of independent learning to which it aspires. Previous studies focused on academic outcomes and technology applications which do not monitor students’ learning processes, such as their approaches to learning. Understanding students’ learning processes and factors influencing quality of learning will provide valuable information for instructors and institutions in providing quality online courses and programs. The purpose of this study was to identify and investigate college biology teachers’ approaches to teaching and students’ learning styles, and to examine the impact of approaches to teaching and learning styles on students’ approaches to learning via online instruction. Data collection included eighty-seven participants from five online biology courses at a community college in the southern area of Texas. Data analysis showed the following results. First, there were significant differences in approaches to learning among students with different learning styles. Second, there was a significant difference in students’ approaches to learning between classes using different approaches to teaching. Three, the impact of learning styles on students’ approaches to learning was not influenced by instructors’ approaches to teaching. Two conclusions were obtained from the results. First, individuals with the ability to perceive information abstractly might be more likely to adopt deep approaches to learning than those preferring to perceive information through concrete experience in online learning environments. Second, Teaching Approach Inventory might not be suitable to measure approaches to teaching for online biology courses due to online instructional design and technology limitations. Based on the findings and conclusions of this study, implications for distance education and future research are described.