Perceptual Learning Styles and Lessons in Psychometric Weakness

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Ian Isemonger, Kumamoto University



In this critical review, I argue that the usefulness of perceptual learning styles constructs within applied linguistics is very limited. Researchers within applied linguistics have neglected to engage with objections to these constructs which date back to the 1970s within general educational research. Problems of poor instrumentation are considerable and predictive power has not sufficiently been demonstrated. It is argued that these constructs present a special case for measurement because they are not easily operationalized through statements on self-report questionnaires. The review discusses implications for practitioners and research, and argues for greater editorial oversight in preventing poor instruments from entering the literature in the future. Some specific recommendations which may assist with such prevention are discussed. These include a more critical approach to the use of Cronbach’s alpha, the use of Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) as one powerful tool to demonstrate unidimensionality, and the avoidance of paraphrased items.