Learning styles vary among general surgery residents: analysis of 12 years of data.
PURPOSE: Understanding the learning styles of individuals may assist in the tailoring of an educational program to optimize learning. General surgery faculty and residents have been characterized previously as having a tendency toward particular learning styles. We seek to understand better the learning styles of general surgery residents and differences that may exist within the population. METHODS: The Kolb Learning Style Inventory was administered yearly to general surgery residents at the University of Cincinnati from 1994 to 2006. This tool allows characterization of learning styles into 4 groups: converging, accommodating, assimilating, and diverging. The converging learning style involves education by actively solving problems. The accommodating learning style uses emotion and interpersonal relationships. The assimilating learning style learns by abstract logic. The diverging learning style learns best by observation. Chi-square analysis and analysis of variance were performed to determine significance. RESULTS: Surveys from 1994 to 2006 (91 residents, 325 responses) were analyzed. The prevalent learning style was converging (185, 57%), followed by assimilating (58, 18%), accommodating (44, 14%), and diverging (38, 12%). At the PGY 1 and 2 levels, male and female residents differed in learning style, with the accommodating learning style being relatively more frequent in women and assimilating learning style more frequent in men (Table 1, p < or = 0.001, chi-square test). Interestingly, learning style did not seem to change with advancing PGY level within the program, which suggests that individual learning styles may be constant throughout residency training. If a resident's learning style changed, it tended to be to converging. In addition, no relation exists between learning style and participation in dedicated basic science training or performance on the ABSIT/SBSE. CONCLUSIONS: Our data suggests that learning style differs between male and female general surgery residents but not with PGY level or ABSIT/SBSE performance. A greater understanding of individual learning styles may allow more refinement and tailoring of surgical programs.