Background and Purpose
Scholars and practitioners
all over the world in the field of second language learning are seeking to
investigate teaching methods or strategies that may enhance learner
achievement. Learners’ individual differences are among the many factors that
might have direct influence on language acquisition. Individual differences
refer to characteristics unique to each individual (Dornyei, 2005). Multiple
intelligences and learning styles are considered as factors of individual
differences (Ellis, 1985). Cohen and Dornyei (2002) have pointed out that
researchers both in educational psychology and second language acquisition
(SLA) field have observed that various learners approach learning in a
different manner, and the concept of ‘learning styles’ has been used to refer
to these differences. Reid (1995) has claimed that one major category of
learning styles relevant to the field of foreign language learning is sensory/
perceptual learning styles which have to do with the physical environment in
which we learn and involve using our senses in order to perceive data. Reid
(1995) classifies learning styles into auditory (prefer listening to learn),
visual (prefer seeing things to learn), tactile (prefer hands-on work),
kinesthetic (prefer whole-body movement), group (like to work in group), and
individual (like to work individually).
of the Problem
According to Brown (2001), ‘intelligence’ was once viewed strictly
as the ability to perform linguistic and logical-mathematical problem solving.
Traditional Intelligence Quotient (IQ) tests, based on a test called
Stanford-Binet, are founded on the idea that intelligence is a single,
unchanged capacity. However, traditional IQ tests, while still given to most
school children, are increasingly being challenged by the Multiple Intelligence
(MI) theory. MI is based on the work of Howard Gardner (1983) and refers to a
learner-centered philosophy that characterizes human intelligence as having
multiple dimensions such as linguistic, spatial, and musical dimensions that
must be acknowledged and developed in education (Richards & Rodgers, 2001).
It is accepted that there is a profound distinction between these
two ever more popular concepts (i.e., learning styles & multiple
intelligences), which have been put forward in order to explain the individual
differences. Multiple intelligences must be understood more as the ‘output’
function of information intake, knowledge, skills and talent which can be in
the mathematical, musical, linguistic form, and so forth; whereas, learning
styles can be seen as explaining information ‘input’ capabilities of human
beings. This ability cannot be described as ‘intelligence’ but as ‘idiosyncratic
personal style’ because to say someone who learns/reads /works better in dim
light with music in the background while chewing or fiddling with something is
more/less intelligent than someone who concentrates better in bright light and
silence, sitting still and eating/drinking only before or after a learning
session, is inappropriate. Students with similar intelligence factors in the MI
framework can have vastly different learning styles, based on their personal
biological makeup and their individual conditioning (Prashnig, 2005).
Gardner (1993) has stated that ”each intelligence may require its
own specific educational theory” (p. 48). Accordingly, Denig (2004) has
proposed that a synthesis of multiple intelligences with learning styles will
be helpful in discerning the ‘specific educational theory’ required by each
intelligence. To be successful in educating the diverse population of learners,
teachers need to know about both concepts, and should assess their students’
learning styles as soon as possible to help them develop their different
intelligence factors in a way which is conducive to their individual learning
styles. When these important aspects are understood and acted upon, learning
becomes more enjoyable for students who struggle in traditional classrooms
(Finley, 1999). Therefore, the present study set out to investigate the
dominant perceptual learning styles and intelligences which were preferred by
Iranian studying English as a foreign language (EFL), and further examined the
relationship between each of the perceptual learning styles and intelligence
Q1. What type(s) of perceptual learning style(s) is/are
mostly preferred by Iranian EFL learners?
Q2. What type(s) of intelligence(s) is/are mostly
exhibited by Iranian EFL learners?
Q3. Is there any relationship between scores of each of
the perceptual learning styles and those of each of the multiple intelligences
among Iranian EFL learners?
Significance of the Study
In Iran these two variables are not taken into account
considerably, and they are introduced to the learners only with a slight
explanation in their course books. Not only Iranian students but also teachers
who teach in lower levels of education seem to have little knowledge on these
issues. Giving students a paper and pencil test is not helpful in their
understanding. Students should be guided and conducted in the ways in which
they are strong so that they better use their intelligences and optimal
learning will be achieved. By teaching students based on their intelligences
and styles, they will be motivated toward learning and optimal learning will be
achieved on the part of learners. Of course, there have been some
investigations done on MIs and LSs with other variables, but it seems that
their findings have not still received as much attention as they should.
However, it is hoped that the findings of the present study will be able to
pave the way for teachers, curriculum developers/designers and all those who
are involved in education to take the obtained results into consideration.
Review of the Related Literature
2.1. Multiple Intelligence Model
Gardner (1993) developed a model of natural human talents that is
called “Multiple Intelligence model”. This model is considered as one
kind of learning style models that have been presented in general education and
then have been used in language instruction. Gardner asserted that this theory
is not limited to culture and discarded the concept of intelligence emphasized
in traditional models (Richards & Rodgers, 2001). Multiple intelligence
theory (MIT) was proposed by Gardner in a book called Frames of Mind in
1983 against the traditional view of intelligence as a fix concept (Baum,
Viens, & Slatin, 2005). He severely challenged the validity of intelligence
quotient (IQ) scores and emphasized that intelligence is the ability of
“problem solving” and “fashioning products” in a concrete
situation (cited in Armstrong, 1993). It was a driving new concept claiming the
existence of at least seven different intelligences: verbal/linguistic,
logical/mathematical, musical/rhythmic, visual/spatial, bodily/kinesthetic,
interpersonal, and intrapersonal (Baum, Viens, & Slatin, 2005).
Naturalistic and existential intelligences were also added later on. The
description of the types of multiple intelligences is given by Moran,
Kornhaber, and Gardner (2006: 25) below:
Intelligence: the ability to understand and use spoken and written
Intelligence: the ability to understand and use logic and numerical symbols and
Intelligence: the ability to understand and use such concepts as rhythm, pitch,
melody, and harmony.
Intelligence: the ability to orient and manipulate three-dimensional space.
5) Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence: the ability to coordinate
6) Interpersonal Intelligence: the ability to understand and
interact well with other people.
7) Intrapersonal Intelligence: the ability to understand and use
one’s thoughts, feelings, preferences, and interests.
8) Naturalistic Intelligence: the ability to distinguish and
categorize objects or phenomena in nature.
10) Existential Intelligence: the ability to contemplate phenomena
or questions beyond sensory data, such as the infinite and infinitesimal.
Every learner has each of the intelligences. That is, the
conditions should be provided for students with all types of intelligences as
such they would be able to enhance the intelligence types in which they are
weak (Moran, Kornhaber, & Gardner, 2006).
In addition to MI as a factor of individual differences, LSs are
also correlated with language acquisition. These two factors have sometimes
been confused with one another. Yet they are quite different concepts, and the
psychological construct of MIT is fundamentally different from that of LSs.
Intelligence refers to our psychobiological potential in which certain kinds of
information are processed in certain kinds of ways. This is a kind of capacity
that exists in each person, and each intelligence type can be used in different
domains, but LSs refer to the way individuals perceive information (Krechevsky
& Seidel, 1998). Because of their psychological and biological differences,
different students learn in many different ways. Some learners are likely to
learn in groups; others prefer to learn alone and at home; some learners are
likely to experience something and learn it, others may learn it randomly; some
learners think carefully and logically in decision making, while others use
their feelings for deciding; visually-oriented learners learn best through
watching graphs, pictures, and charts; Auditory-oriented learners learn by
listening to lectures and reading, etc. (Ismail, Raja Hussain & Jamaluddin,
2010). These different ways in which an individual acquires, retains, and
retrieves information are called the individual’s learning style (Felder &
Henriques, 1995). In other words, LSs can be described as the means of
perceiving, processing, storing, and recalling attempts in the learning process
(James & Gardner, 1995). In order to find the correlation between LS
preferences and biographical variables, Willing (1988, cited in Shirani
Bidabadi and Yamat, 2010b) investigated a group of 517 learners from more than
30 ethnic groups to explore the possible learning style differences among adult
immigrant ESL learners in Australia. The study was based on a questionnaire
which asked students about their preferences for specific ways of learning.
Based on Their answers, the students were placed into one of the four
categories of learning styles: concrete learners (preferences for perceiving
and processing information, performing practical tasks), analytical learners
(preferences for analyzing and performing activities independently, enjoying
grammatical exercises), communicative learners (tendency toward a social
learning approach such as listening to native speakers, talking to friends in
English and watching television in English), and authority-oriented learners
(like their teacher to explain everything to them, tend to have their own
textbooks, and write everything in a notebook).
2.2. The Seven Perceptual Learning Styles
Visual learners like to
observe people and situations. A visual
learner often has to see something, not just hear it, to learn. Slides, pictures, demonstrations, graphs,
tables, and overhead transparencies are useful ways of helping these people
learn best. Research indicates that most
people in their twenties and over the age of fifty use this perceptual style as
their primary way of learning material.
Interactive Learners learn best when verbalizing their thoughts and feelings. Small-group discussions, lively question-and-answer
sessions, and debates are techniques that engage this type of learner. People over the age of fifty ranked this
style of learning as second in terms of preference, and younger learners ranked
it as third. Programs which place an
emphasis on small-group learning are very successful.
Haptic Learners learn best
through their sense of touch. They need
to feel objects or to touch as many things as possible to learn something about
them. By touching an object, these
people often are able to form a visual image of it. “Hands on” experience is essential for them
to learn. People who combine haptic and
visual elements of perception learn best through demonstrations that are
followed by hands-on practice.
Aural Learners learn best by
listening. In fact, unless they combine
this way of taking in information with an interactive mode, these learners
often are annoyed by interruptions to a lecture. In general, aural learners like to listen
carefully, rarely speak out during a lecture, and easily remember what they
hear. People who listen to audiotapes of
popular speakers or books are probably aural learners.
Kinesthetic Learners need to move
in order to learn. You might find such
people fidgeting, knitting, doodling, or wood carving during a lecture. Instead of distracting them, movement
actually helps this type of person to concentrate. When they speak, kinesthetically oriented
people often use hand motions to describe what they are saying. This kind of learner would probably volunteer
to take part in a role-playing activity because it involves movement.
Print-oriented Learners often learn
best by reading and writing. Reading
books, magazines, or journal articles helps these learners to easily retain
information. When print types attend a
lecture, you often find them jotting down notes. Being able to see and record
what they hear helps them focus and learn better.
Olfactory Learners use their
sense of smell or taste to learn. These
are the people who associate what they learn with particular smells or
tastes. They might walk into a room and
smell an odor that immediately reminds them of a past learning experience. Recent research on the brain indicates that
smell originates in the most primitive part of the brain and is, therefore, a
powerful reminder of people or past events.
2.3. Related Works
Seifoori and Zarei (2011) aimed to investigate the relationship
between the perceptual learning styles and the multiple intelligence types of
Iranian English major sophomores at Islamic Azad University-Tabriz Branch, to
explore the type(s) of perceptual learning style(s) which is/are mostly
preferred by Iranian EFL sophomores, and to examine the type(s) of
intelligence(s) that is/are mostly exhibited by Iranian EFL sophomores.
Ninety-four subjects participated in the study (34 males and 76 females). The
data analysis revealed that there are some significant relationships between
learning styles of Iranian EFL learners and their intelligence types, and the
findings also showed that the mostly preferred learning style was kinesthetic,
followed by auditory, visual, tactile, group, and individual learning style.
Likewise, the analysis revealed that spatial intelligence was the leading
intelligence among the students who participated in the study. The least frequently
used intelligence was attributed to the musical intelligence.
Hashemi (2009) investigated the relationship between MI and reading
comprehension. To meet this end, she selected 122 Iranian undergraduate EFL
students from Islamic Azad University of Roudehen. They were asked to take part
in an IELTS test and fill out McKenzie’s MI questionnaire. The findings showed,
by calculating a standardized multiple regression analysis, that kinesthetic
and verbal intelligences made the greatest contribution to predict reading
ability scores. The descriptive statistics also revealed that the group was
strong in the kinesthetic intelligence and was weak in naturalistic
To determine the relationship between listening strategies employed
by Iranian EFL freshman university students and their LS preferences, Shirani
Bidabadi and Yamat (2010b) carried out a study at a university in south of
Esfahan. The subjects were 92 females majoring in Teaching English as a Foreign
Language course. To identify the students’ listening strategies and their LS
preferences, the researchers distributed a Listening Strategy Questionnaire
adapted from Vandergrift (1997) with 23 items and a Learning Style
Questionnaire adapted from Willing (1988) with 24 items among the subjects. The
findings showed that there was a moderate significant positive relationship
between listening strategies employed by freshman university students and their
learning styles, and that these Iranian EFL freshmen employed meta-cognitive
listening strategies the most and socio-affective listening strategies the
least. In terms of learning style preferences they considered themselves as
In order to identify the students’ learning styles preferences and
their implications on teaching and learning as well as the designs of the text
books, Shirani Bidabadi and Yamat (2010a) collected the data from a group of 92
Iranian university students who were randomly selected. The data were gathered
through a Learning Style Questionnaire. The results revealed that there was no
statistically significant difference between the mean scores of male and female
students’ learning style preferences. An implication of this study was that the
teaching style should be matched to students’ learning style and that the
materials should also suit students’ learning preferences.
In order to discover the interrelationship between listening
comprehension strategy use and listening proficiency levels, and learners’
learning styles, Liu (2008) selected a sample of 101 EFL Taiwanese university
students with two structured pencil and paper questionnaires of listening
strategy use (O’Malley, Chamot, Stewner-Manzanares, Kupper, & Russo, 1985;
Vandergrift 1997) and learning style (Willing 1988; Nunan 1996). After gathering
the data, the findings indicated that both listening strategy and learning
styles could be a predictor for listening ability since there were
statistically significant relationships among these variables. The results
showed that the majority of Taiwanese university students in this sample
considered themselves authority-oriented learners rather than communicators.
Hayashi and Cherry (2004) conducted a study to identify learning
style preferences of Japanese students of English. They distributed a learning
style questionnaire, taken from Willing (1988), among a group of 63 Japanese
university students (16 males and 47 females). The obtained findings indicated
that the Japanese students did not show tendency to use one learning style.
That is, they favor some methods of authority-oriented and communicative
learning styles simultaneously. The students also showed a dislike for some
analytical style methods.
Shuzhen (2005) sought to figure out the effects of listening
comprehension strategy uses on learning proficiency of five-year junior college
students. To do so, the researcher used a revised questionnaire based on
O’Malley and Chamot (1990) to collect the data from 74 subjects (12 males and
62 females). The descriptive statistics illustrated that the differences among
the employment of three listening comprehension strategy categories were small.
That is, the mean scores of socio-affective, metacognitive, and cognitive
strategies were 3.41, 3.37, and 3.32 respectively. The outcome of t-test
revealed that females employed greater use of metacognitive strategies than
males. The general listening comprehension strategy use was almost the same,
but the learning proficiency of females was superior to those of males. The
study also showed that the effective learners adopted more listening
comprehension strategies than ineffective learners and subjects with living
abroad experience employed greater use of cognitive and social-affective
An initial total of 110 Iranian English as a foreign language (EFL)
learners, all studying English as a foreign language in a language institute in
Tehran in the fall of 2017 participated in this study. The population was both
male and female (34 males and 76 females) and within the age range of 19 to 30.
By means of an English language proficiency pre-test, 94 (27 males and 67
females) of the whole population of 110 were selected for the purpose of the
study. The whole data were collected over a span of 7 weeks.
To handle this study, the researcher used four different
1) PET: a 60 item Preliminary English Test
(PET, 2009), which provided a practical way of ensuring that the learners were
homogeneous in English language proficiency.
2) PLSPQ: the revised version of a perceptual
learning style preference questionnaire (PLSPQ), adapted from Reid (1995), and
developed particularly for learners of foreign language.
3) interview: the researcher conducted semi-structured interviews with 24
subjects chosen randomly from 94 students who had completed the PLSPQ.
4) MI inventory: a multiple
intelligences (MI) inventory prepared by Christison (1996) with the Cronbach
alpha reliability coefficient of 0.93 was applied in the study.
The participants were supposed to choose the correct answer from among
the four choices of PET. Every correct answer received one point and the
maximum possible score was equal to 60. After the present researchers
administered the test among 110 students and obtained the results, the students
whose scores were within two Standard Deviations (SDs) minus and two SDs plus
the mean were selected and the rest were excluded.
on the results of a pilot study with 30 students, four items (items 2, 6, 7,
& 9) were deleted from the original 30-item PLSPQ to increase the
Cronbach’s alpha and the total reliability of the questionnaire. After deleting
the items, 26 statements for six learning style preferences (i.e., visual,
auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, group learning, & individual learning) were
remained. Subjects were expected to indicate how much they agreed with each
item on a scale from 1 to 5 when they learned English. Each number noted
certain measurement such as: (5) strongly agree, (4) agree, (3) undecided, (2)
disagree, and (1) strongly disagree. The questionnaire was scored by assigning
points to each Likert