BACKGROUND: The Kolb Learning Style Inventory (LSI) measures preference for each of four learning orientations: abstract conceptualization, concrete experience, active experimentation, and reflective observation. These orientations define four learning styles: convergence, divergence, assimilation, and accommodation. METHODS: To determine if learning style correlates with objective multiple-choice and clinical measures of performance, the learning styles of third-year medical students (n = 227) were evaluated using the LSI. Performance was assessed using the United States Medical Licensing Examination step 1 (USMLE 1), the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) multiple-choice surgical subject examination (MCQ), and NBME computer-based case simulations (CBX). RESULTS: The data showed a significant (P ≤0.05) relationship between learning style and performance on the USMLE 1. There was a significant (P ≤0.05) and direct correlation between an abstract orientation and performance on the USMLE I (r =0.33) and MCQ (r = 0.20). There was no relationship between learning style and clinical performance measured using the CBX. CONCLUSIONS: These data demonstrate that performance on objective measures of academic achievement is influenced by learning style, while application of that knowledge in the management of clinical situations may require additional skills beyond those measured.
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