Faculty of Medical Sciences, The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Bridgetown, Barbados, West Indies


Introduction: Educators need to be aware of different learningstyles to effectively tailor instructional strategies and methodsto cater to the students’ learning needs and support a conductivelearning environment. The VARK [an acronym for visual (V),aural (A), read/write (R) and kinesthetic (K)] instrument isa useful model to assess learning styles. The aim of this studywas to use the VARK questionnaire to determine the learningstyles of pre-clinical medical students in order to compare theperceived and assessed learning style preferences, assess genderdifferences in learning style preferences, and determine whetherany relationships exists between awareness of learning styles andacademic grades, age, gender and learning modality.Methods: The VARK questionnaire was administered to preclinicalstudents taking a variety of courses in the first three yearsof the undergraduate MB BS degree programme at the Faculty ofMedical Sciences, The University of the West Indies, Cave HillCampus, Barbados in 2014.Results: The majority of the students were multimodal learnerswith no differences observed between males (59.5%) and females(60.0%), with tetramodal being the most common. Read/write(33.8%) followed by kinesthetic (32.5%) were the most commonlearning style preferences. The sensory modality preference forfemales was read/write (34.2%) and for males it was kinesthetic(40.5%). Significant differences were observed between theperceived and assessed learning style preferences with amajority of visual and read/write learners correctly matchingtheir perceived to their actual learning styles. Awareness oflearning styles was associated with learning modality but notwith academic performance, age or gender. Overall, 60.7% ofhigh achievers used multimodal learning compared to 56.9%low achievers.Conclusion: The findings from this study indicated that theVARK tool was useful in gathering information about differentlearning styles, and might assist educators in designing blendedteaching strategies to cater to the students’ needs as well as helpthe students in becoming aware of their learning style preferencesto enhance learning.Keywords: Education; Learning; Teaching; Medical students