Learning Style Preferences of Students Attending Traditional and Alternative Schools In South Carolina

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership and School Counseling

First Advisor

Sandra Gupton

Advisor Department

Educational Leadership and School Counseling


Addressing the vast needs of at-risk students has proven problematic for educators for decades. Research suggests that at-risk students have different learning style preferences when compared to students who are not at risk of academic failure. Subsequently, researchers believe if the learning style preferences of at-risk students were addressed they would reap greater benefits of formal education. The learning styles of at-risk students attending alternative schools were compared to students attending traditional schools in South Carolina using the Learning Style Inventory developed by Dunn, Dunn, and Price. One hundred students from one high, two middle, and two alternative schools participated in the study. The responses of these students on 13 of the 23 learning style areas from the inventory were analyzed and compared. The thirteen areas from the inventory used in this study included preferences for noise, motivation, persistent, responsibility, structure, alone/peer oriented, authority figure, auditory, visual, kinesthetic, intake, mobility, and parent motivated. The study indicated that at-risk students attending alternative school differed from students attending traditional schools in the areas of noise level, responsibility, structure, persistence, and mobility. Alternative school students preferred increased levels of noise in the learning environment when compared to traditional school students. Students attending traditional schools were more responsible, preferred structured learning environments, and indicated that they were more persistent when learning new or difficult information when compared to alternative school students. Finally, students attending alternative schools preferred more mobility in the learning environment as compared to students attending traditional schools. Traditional and alternative school students did not differ in the areas of motivation, kinesthetic, intake, auditory, visual, parent-figure motivated, authority figure present, and learning alone versus learning with peers. The researcher concluded the study by indicating how the research could have been improved and recommending suggestions for further research to include: replicating this study with an increased sample size; focusing on the role of gender in learning styles of these two groups; investigating the disproportionate number of African Americans attending alternative schools; analyzing the effects of different genres of music in alternative school classrooms; and several other topics to research related to this study.