A Comparison of the MMPALT II and MMPALT III      Visual, Print, and Aural Subscales for a          College of Education Population

Kimberly R. Hall Edina L. Renfro-Michel Dr. Donna Browning Mississippi State University

A Comparison of the MMPALT II and MMPALT III      Visual, Print, and Aural Subscales for a          College of Education Population

Learning style theories consist of three basic broad categories: affective, cognitive, and physiological. Researchers who are concerned with affective aspects consider personality dimensions such as attention, emotion, and valuing (Dunn, 1990; Grasha & Riechmann, 1975; James & Blank, 1993; Kolb & Goldman, 1973). Other researchers are concerned with cognitive learning styles and consider the information processing habits of the learner related to perceiving, thinking, problem solving, and remembering (James & Blank, 1993; Jonnassen & Grabowski, 1993; Gregorc, 1982). Theorists who consider physiological learning styles are concerned with biologically based methods of response that are in reaction to physical environment, sex-related differences, and health (Keefe, 1987).

An instrument that measures the physiological aspects of learning style is the Multi-Modal Paired Associates Learning Test, or MMPALT (Cherry, 1981; French, 1975a, 1975b; Galbraith & James, 1986; Gilley, 1975; James & Blank, 1991). The purpose of this study is to examine possible differences in the scores of the print, visual and aural subtests for the MMPALT II and MMPALT III, as well as possible differences regarding demographic information and participant’s perceived learning modalities. MMPALTII

Many learning style instruments are self-report of preference and/or paper and pencil instruments. The MMPALT, however, uses a paired associates format to assess perceptual modality dominances and patterns. This assessment instrument is performance based and examines seven perceptual learning modalities: print, aural, visual, interactive, haptic, kinesthetic, and olfactory (Cherry, 1981; French, 1975; Galbraith & James, 1986; Gilley, 1975; James & Blank, 1991; Nix, 1983).

The MMPALT is based on the theory that each person has individual strengths and weaknesses in the sensory modalities that determine how he or she chooses to take in
information from the environment (French 1975a, 1975b). Using French’s material, Gilley (1975) developed the initial MMPALT, an instrument intended to test the individual’s perceptual learning styles. This instrument was revised and refined by Cherry (1981) and was referred to as the MMPALT-II. The MMPALT-II has since been revised again and the MMPALT-III has been developed.

This study will use the sections of the MMPALT-II and the MMPALT-III that can be group-administered: visual, print, and aural. This particular instrument was chosen for three reasons: (a) it is performance based; (b) it assess both perceptual modality skills that are usually reinforced in traditional schooling (print and aural), and others that are not usually reinforced in traditional schooling (visual, interactive, haptic, kinesthetic, and olfactory); and (c) it is associative in method.

A wide age range of individuals has been assessed using the MMPALT-II. The Gilley (1975) pilot study used third grade children. Cherry (1981) replicated these results with a large sample of adults of various ages. Schaiper (1983) assessed 53 college students from the areas of education and psychology. Probably the most prolific researchers who utilize this instrument are Waynne James, William Blank, and Michael Galbraith (Galbraith & James, 1986; James & Blank, 1991b, 1993; James & Galbraith, 1984, 1985, 1991a) who have worked with adults of many different ages and education levels. These researchers have completed many of the norming and reliability studies on the MMPALT-II. Tindell (1994) administered the MMPALT-II to adults in 5 colleges of a university to examine the relationships between perceptual learning style dominance to selection of a college major. Positive relationships were found between assessed modalities and strengths needed for success in that major as compared to those predicted by deans and department heads for 4 of 5 colleges investigated. The James norming study (James & Galbraith, 1991a) is the only study that included adults who had not finished high school. Sub test reliability was calculated during this study through test-retest procedures. The reliability for each of the subtests was: print r = 0.85; aural r = 0.80; interactive r = 0.65; visual r = 0.87; haptic r = 0.74; kinesthetic r = 0.67; and olfactory

r = 0.73. Many of the researchers who have completed studies attempting to correlate the MMPALT-II with paper and pencil self-report measures of leaming style have reported only weak relationships (Galbraith & James, 1986; James & Blank, 1991b, 1993; James & Galbraith, 1984, 1985, 1991a; Tindell, 1994).

Validity information (especially construct validity) is difficult to obtain for this instrument due to the complexity of the variables involved. Tests of perceptual learning styles that attempted correlational studies are minimal. Future possibilities may involve correlational studies of the MMPALT-II and assessment used by Lowenfeld (Lowenfeld’s Visual/Haptic Tests, Lowenfeld, 1982), and Kee & Davis (1979), as cited in Jonassen (1993). Criterion validity would seem to be indicated by the Tindell (1994) study where prediction of success in a college major may be possible by knowing the dominant perceptual learning style. Content validity for the short-term memory processing of paired associates seems to be supported by nearly all the previous studies cited. It is interesting to surmise whether this instrument primarily measures short term memory (James & Galbraith, 1991a) and as such contributes to measuring the initial stages of learning, or whether it may measure organizational processes related to learning. Much future research needs to be done in this area.


Due to the newness of the MMPALT-III, correlational studies have not been published indicating reliability and validity. Several changes were made in the MMPALT-III in the spring of 1995. The most notable difference is located in the visual subtest. Because of the possible interference of other modalities during the encoding of the visual subtest in MMPALT-II, the namable shapes (i.e., square, triangle) were replaced with abstract shapes. The print and aural modalities are similar in both versions,
with minimal changes to the nonsense words as these words became meaningful with cultural influences.

Learning Styles

As previously mentioned, for the purposes of this study, only the modalities of visual, print, and aural were tested. French (1975) observed that each modality was dominated by certain personal characteristics. Learners that operate primarily in the visual modality tend to gather knowledge through the use of pictures, graphs, and/or diagrams. Learning is often aided by the use of graphic stimulation, such as motion pictures, charts, and slides. Visual learners also tend to stare, are often quiet, and tend to drift away when extensive listening is required (ILSR, 2001).

Persons operating mainly from the print modality often take notes, can remember what’s been read, learn better after writing, and love to read (lLSR, 2001). French (1975) concluded that print learners benefit from reading assignments and reports as educational strategies.

Aural learners tend to remember ideas presented verbally, enjoy lectures, like to talk, and are great listeners (ILSR, 2001). French (1975) concluded that audiotapes and records enhance the learning process for individuals operating primarily from the aural modality.

This study will only use the sections of the MMPALT-II and the MMPALT-III that can be group-administered: visual, print, and aural. The primary purpose is to determine if scores on the subtests of the MMPALT-II and MMPALT-UI similar.



Participants consisted of 167 undergraduate and graduate students (96 were undergraduates and 71 were graduates, 41 were male and 126 were female) enrolled in a mid-size southern state university. Ninety-seven participants were considered traditional students (under age 25); 52 were African American, 107 Caucasian, and 8 participants identified with other races (i.e., Asian American, Latin American). Participants were enrolled in five different colleges, with the majority of students in the College of Education (116). Seventeen different majors were represented, with the majority being Secondary Education (26), Counselor Education (33), Educational/School Psychology (25), and General Psychology (29).


The MMPALT-ll and MMPALT-ill were administered to the participants. Both tests consisted of three subtests: visual, print and aural. The visual and print subtests each consisted of 10 encoding slides and 10 recall slides. The aural subtest consisted of an auditory cassette tape.

Design and Procedure

Testing occurred during one-hour administrations over the course of three weeks.

In each session, an overview of the purpose of the research and an explanation of the MMPALT were given. Participants were also told that frustration might occur as only three of the seven learning styles were being assessed. In order to reduce anxiety, researchers stated that the assessments were not intelligence based, but were merely an indication of the students’ preferred learning styles.

Students were alternately administered the second and third versions of the MMPALT, with 81 participants completing MMPALT-II first (49 undergraduates and 35 graduates) Subtests were administered in the following order: visual, print, and aural. Once students completed the first administration of the MMPALT, they then completed

the other version of the MMPALT. Immediately following both administrations, participants were requested to complete a demographic instrument.

A one-way analysis of variance was conducted on the subtest scores for the MMPALT-II and the MMPALT-III to determine if a significant difference in ‘scores occurred. Results indicated visual, F(l, 333) = 20.36, p< .001, and print, F(l, 333) = 27.42, p<.OOI (with an alpha level of .05) scores were statistically significantly different with regard to test version. Scores on :M:MPALT-III (visual M = 6.14, SD = 2.78, print M = 5.74, SD = 2.86) were lower than the scores on :M:MPALT-II (visual M = 7.49, SD = 2.67, print M = 7.32, SD = 2.65). Scores on the aural subtests were not statistically significantly different, F(1, 333) = .37, P = .543.


Due to the differences in the visual portion of the two versions of the MMPALT, scores were expected to be significantly different in the visual subtest but remain essentially the same in the print and aural subtests. However, results ofthis study indicate that not only visual scores, but also print scores were significantly different between the two versions. This finding was unexpected since minimum changes were made to the print section of the test. Perhaps future research could determine the reasons for this difference.

Limitations of this study should be considered when interpreting results. Students were all from one southern university. The order of the subtests was also not changed; therefore, an order effect may have occurred. Future studies need to collect data from students in various locations and change the order of the subtests during multiple administrations.

Learning styles playa significant role in the performance of college students.

Results from this study could be used by professors to enhance student learning and retention, especially as it relates to age, race, and major. Results indicate that students are unable to determine their learning styles without being tested; thus, questioning students on how they best learn may be an ineffective method for determining the best teaching style.


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