Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Counseling and Human Development

Degree Program

Counseling and Personnel Services, PhD

Committee Chair

Valentine, Jeff

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Snyder, Kate

Committee Member

Snyder, Kate

Committee Member

Adelson, Jill

Committee Member

Alagaraja, Meera

Author's Keywords

conceptual change; learning styles; essentialism; teachers


In this dissertation I added to the literature surrounding the myth that teachers should cater to students’ learning styles to improve learning outcomes. I operated from the “hot” paradigm for conceptual change, through the use of the Cognitive Reconstruction of Knowledge Model (CRKM) as the theoretical framework to examine teachers’ conceptual change about learning styles. More specifically, I considered teachers’ existing conceptions as related to their essentialist beliefs, as well as how their motivation and the content of the message contribute to conceptual change. I also responded to the literature on teacher perceptions of researchers by examining the use of teachers themselves as the source of the message prompting conceptual change. I used a mixed methods approach, conducting both a multiple regression and a qualitative coding analysis. I measured teachers’ conceptual change about learning styles after randomly assigning those who endorsed learning styles to receive a conceptual change text (refutation vs, expository) from a source (teacher vs. researcher), and after measuring their level of essentialist beliefs. I included level of essentialism, source type and text type in a model, along with a control for grade level. The model did not significantly predict teachers’ conceptual change about learning styles F(5,112) = 1.26, p = .28, R2= .01. I uncovered ten major themes about teachers’ experiences with conceptual change about learning styles. Some primary findings were that few participants reported strong conceptual change, with little differences across experimental groups. Participants reported a preference for their own experiences, and were skeptical and critical of research. Teachers who did not endorse learning styles consistently reported that an exposure to and understanding of empirical evidence was instrumental in their conceptual change. This study adds to the literature on conceptual change and debunking learning styles. The primary limitations include a small sample size and a need for additional scale development, content, and construct validity. I discuss theoretical implications, as well as implications for educational practices. Finally, I discuss potential avenues for future research in conceptual change about learning styles.