A study of the cognitive styles and learning preferences of Fire Service officers
This research examines the relationship between Cognitive Style and Learning Styles of senior officers in the Fire Service and their preferences for different training delivery methods. Data has been gathered from students attending courses at the Fire Service College, in particular those attending the Divisional Command Course (DCC), which is a personal and professional development course for officers aspiring to a senior role in the Fire Service. Three data gathering instruments were used in the research, the Cognitive Styles Analysis (CSA) (Riding, 1991), the Learning Styles Questionnaire (LSQ) (Honey & Mumford, 1982), and a questionnaire specifically designed to gather students’ preference ratings across a range of 14 training delivery methods. The research examines the psychological and educational derivations of models that underpin the CSA and LSQ instruments in order to help clarify the construct systems used to describe both cognitive and learning style; and to examine their relationships with other psychological constructs. Further exploration of the relationships between cognitive and learning styles attempts to answer the question as to whether they have similar attributes and also whether the instruments have any practical predictive utility in predicting suitable delivery methodologies for training. The data findings suggest that the officer students formed a homogeneous group with regard to cognitive style on the ‘wholist–analytic’ dimension, the tendency for bias towards the analytic end of the scale, but were evenly distributed on the ‘verbaliser–imager’ dimension. The sample exhibited a more normal distribution of type with regard to learning style (using the LSQ), although there was a tendency for them to be more ‘reflector’ orientated than a standardized group in the general population. The sample group showed preferences for certain delivery methods that encouraged interactive participation in the learning process but these did not appear to show any significant correlation with either cognitive style or learning style.