Linking learning, teaching and assessment styles for anatomy students at a South African University of Technology.
South African higher education institutions are being increasingly plagued by high attrition rates (especially in first year) and low graduation rates. The students entering the higher education institutions have diversified considerably in terms of race, level of maturity and level of preparedness for the higher education system. This change in student characteristics has led higher education institutions to urgently investigate strategies to enhance the teaching and learning environment, so that these students can be empowered to transcend their backgrounds and achieve their potential. One such strategy identified by the Council of Higher Education is the matching of teaching styles to students' learning styles to improve the performance of the students and ultimately the retention rates of the institution.This study aimed to explore the learning styles of the first year anatomy students at a South African University of Technology, to ascertain any association between gender and these learning styles and to investigate the impact of matching teaching and assessment styles to student learning styles. The VARK learning style questionnaire was used to determine the students? learning styles. The VARK learning styles are based on four sensory modalities that a student may use to receive, process and transmit information. Sixty seven students completed the VARK questionnaire, the majority of whom favoured a combination of learning styles. The most commonly exhibited unimodal (single) learning style was the kinaesthetic mode, while both genders recorded a multimodal learning preference. No significant relationship was found between the performance of students whose learning styles were matched to the teaching and assessment styles and those where the learning styles were mismatched with the teaching and learning styles.This study served to highlight the diversity (in terms of learning styles) present among the first year anatomy students. The study advocates a teaching and assessment strategy that is balanced and is considerate of multiple learning styles rather than attempting to match the teaching and assessment strategy to the learning styles of the students.