North-Central Section - 39th Annual Meeting (May 19–20, 2005)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 9:20 AM


BHATTACHARYYA, Prajukti, Geography and Geology, Univ of Wisconsin - Whitewater, 328 Salisbury Hall, 800 Main St, Whitewater, WI 53190 and CZECK, Dyanna M., Geosciences, Univ of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, P.O. Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201,

Academic performance and graduation rates of collegiate athletes have been major topics of study in recent years. Various reasons have been proposed to account for the observed poor academic performance of student athletes. These reasons may include: a lack of adequate college-level preparation, athletes' lack of motivation to do well academically, and the amount of time spent by collegiate athletes on training. Here we present data that indicates that a disproportionate number of collegiate athletes possess learning style characteristics which are traditionally not accommodated in lecture based college courses. Since introductory science courses are often lecture based courses, we present collegiate athletes' learning style preference as another possible reason behind their lagging academic performance. Encouragingly, unlike some of the other reasons cited for poor performance of student athletes in college level science courses, it is relatively easier for individual instructors to effectively address their learning style preferences.

We designed a short questionnaire consisting of six multiple-choice questions to determine students' dominant learning styles. In our questionnaire, we attempted to encompass both synchronous (within the classroom) as well as asynchronous (outside the classroom) learning in an effort to effectively design not only in-class activities but also homework assignments and projects to facilitate learning by all end member learner groups. We distributed the questionnaire among 120 students enrolled in an introductory geology course, as well as among thirty eight student athletes (who represent the university in extramural athletic events) and coaches at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater campus. Analysis of the information thus obtained shows that the student athletes are disproportionately more likely to be hands-on, practical learners than non-athletes. Dominantly lecture based teaching strategies are least effective to reach students who learn best by physically manipulating objects. Here we suggest several in-class activities to complement commonly used teaching strategies in large lecture halls in order to facilitate learning for students who are hands-on learners.