Cognitive styles and learning strategies: Understanding style differences in learning and behaviour

March 2002 — Volume 5, Number 4

Cognitive styles and learning strategies: Understanding style differences in learning and behaviour


Richard Riding & Stephen Rayner, (1998)
London: David Fulton Publishers.
Pp. 217
ISBN 1-85346-480-5 (paper)
US $ 29.95

Riding and Rayner’s purpose in Cognitive styles and learning strategies is to describe individual differences based on two models. One model comprises four basic cognitive modes derived from the intersection of a wholist-analytic dimension and a verbaliser-imager dimension. Riding and Rayner claim that this model synthesizes the research and literature produced in the field of cognitive styles since the forties. They also argue that this model solves the problem researchers have faced when labeling cognitive styles phenomena. The second model also synthesizes a large body of literature on learning styles. As in the categorization of cognitive styles, Riding and Rayner propose a four-level model that groups students’ learning preferences into learning processes based on experiential learning, learning processes based on orientation to study, instructional preferences, and development of cognitive skills and learning strategies. These two models are supported by extensive research from diverse traditions in the fields of cognitive and learning styles.

Overall, Riding and Rayner describe the tenets of the theory of cognitive and learning styles in the first three chapters. They utilize the following five chapters to describe and assess diverse theories of individual differences, on the one hand; and to demonstrate the validity of their cognitive and style model, on the other hand.

Cognitive style and learning strategies is structured as an argument in which Riding and Rayner demonstrate the validity of their cognitive model. The book begins with a general description of the cognitive model (Introduction). The following chapter is devoted to providing a state of the art review of cognitive style theory. The authors describe and evaluate previous research work on cognitive style–field dependency/independency, impulsivity/reflectiveness, adaptors/innovators, abstract/concrete thinker, etc–and show how their tenets fit into their two-dimensional model. Chapter three revolves around the concept of learning styles. Overall, this section gives the reader a review of styles models based on learning process. The authors grouped them into three general domains: learning and meaning-oriented processes, instructional preferences, and finally cognitive skill development. Chapter four focuses on the nature and types of learning strategies as well as on the characteristics of a strategic learner.

Chapters five to eight examine the relationship between Riding and Rayner’s cognitive styles model and diverse factors of individual differentiation such as intelligence, ability, personality, and achievement. The authors also discuss the relationship between their model of cognitive style and gender, classroom behavior, occupational suitability, and individual roles. These sections serve to validate the authors’ model. Riding and his associate conclude their book by highlighting the importance of the theory of cognitive and learning styles for creating adequate instructional settings and by calling for further research that will enrich their two dimensional model. [-1-]

Riding and Rayner present the content of Cognitive styles and learning strategies following a systematic pattern. They begin each chapter with a review of the main points to be discussed. Then, they discuss the points thoroughly and finish by providing an evaluation of the material or by presenting empirical evidence that supports the points in question.

Cognitive styles and learning strategies is addressed for both teachers and educators interested in the field of individual differences. The book is appropriate for readers with or without knowledge on the fields of cognitive and learning styles and learning strategies. Those with some or abundant background in these areas will have access to a state of the art review in the theory of individual differences. Novice readers in the field of styles and learning strategies will benefit from a comprehensive view of most models in the field since 1948.

Finally, Cognitive styles and learning strategies is still a compulsory reading for both educational researchers and practitioners in the field of individual differences today although its publication dates back to 1998. One of the strengths of the book is that its content derives exclusively from research studies. Another important quality is that it provides a comprehensive view of the field as stated above. Thirdly, the book goes beyond the descriptive stance; that is, it is both analytical and interpretative. Fourth, Riding and Rayner’s book reads easily because of its organization and use of language. Lastly but not the least, Cognitive styles and learning strategies effectively supports and illustrates the cognitive and learning style models that the authors propose. In this sense, the book is an excellent and practical example of a written persuasive discourse. Because of all these reasons, Riding and Rayner’s Cognitive styles and learning strategies is a necessary reading for those interested in the theory of individual differences. In this sense, the book has become a classic in the field of cognitive and learning styles. One should not forget that classic works are timeless and Cognitive styles and learning strategies is one of them without doubt.

Grandfield Henry-Vega
University of Cincinnati
<ghenry2260@yahoo.com>

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