Instructional methods and cognitive and learning styles in web-based learning: Report of two randomised trials

David A. Cook, Mark H. Gelula, Denise M. Dupras, Alan Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Context: Adapting web-based (WB) instruction to learners' individual differences may enhance learning. Objectives: This study aimed to investigate aptitude-treatment interactions between learning and cognitive styles and WB instructional methods. Methods: We carried out a factorial, randomised, controlled, crossover, post-test-only trial involving 89 internal medicine residents, family practice residents and medical students at 2 US medical schools. Parallel versions of a WB course in complementary medicine used either active or reflective questions and different end-of-module review activities ('create and study a summary table' or 'study an instructor-created table'). Participants were matched or mismatched to question type based on active or reflective learning style. Participants used each review activity for 1 course module (crossover design). Outcome measurements included the Index of Learning Styles, the Cognitive Styles Analysis test, knowledge post-test, course rating and preference. Results: Post-test scores were similar for matched (mean ± standard error of the mean 77.4 ± 1.7) and mismatched (76.9 ± 1.7) learners (95% confidence interval [CI] for difference - 4.3 to 5.2l, P = 0.84), as were course ratings (P = 0.16). Post-test scores did not differ between active-type questions (77.1 ± 2.1) and reflective-type questions (77.2 ± 1.4; P = 0.97). Post-test scores correlated with course ratings (r = 0.45). There was no difference in post-test subscores for modules completed using the 'construct table' format (78.1 ± 1.4) or the 'table provided' format (76.1 ± 1.4; CI - 1.1 to 5.0, P = 0.21), and wholist and analytic styles had no interaction (P = 0.75) or main effect (P = 0.18). There was no association between activity preference and wholist or analytic scores (P = 0.37). Conclusions: Cognitive and learning styles had no apparent influence on learning outcomes. There were no differences in outcome between these instructional methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)897-905
Number of pages9
JournalMedical education
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2007


  • *cognition
  • *education, distance
  • *internet
  • Clinical competence/*standards
  • Crossover studies
  • Education, medical/*methods
  • Learning
  • Multicentre study [publication type]
  • Randomised controlled trial [publication type]

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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