Category Archives: Diversity

Did You Teach to Each?

In a recent article in the International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Kolb and Joy (2009) investigated whether there are cultural differences in learning styles. Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory (LSI) was tested on participants from seven nations. The inventory provides scores for two dimensions: (1) from abstract conceptualization to concrete experience and (2) from active experimentation to reflective observation.

The following cultural factors were found to impact learning styles. Collectivism, future orientation, and gender egalitarianism correlated with a preference for abstract conceptualization over concrete experience. The effect of culture was significant. The seven nations are situated on the scale as follows:


A preference for reflective observation over active experimentation was correlated with the cultural factors of uncertainty avoidance and assertiveness; the effect, however, was only marginal. Age and area of specialization had more impact.

The authors argue that, in the first years of higher education, before discipline-specific conditioning has taken root, culture-based differences may be especially pronounced, and that instructors should make sure to design learning situations that take into account cultural differences in learning styles.

How do you teach to each?


Joy, S., & Kolb, D. A. (2009). Are there cultural differences in learning style? International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 33(1), 69-85.

For descriptions of commonly cited cultural dimensions, see Hofstede and Trompenaars/Hampden-Turner.

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