A Study of the Relationship Between Instructional Methods and Learning Styles in Learning Leadership Skills

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In the present dynamic and interwoven workplace, leaders have an important role in steering the organisations towards higher performance and yielding competitive edge. Besides being the backbone of an organisation, leaders support effective forward
  A STUDY OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INSTRUCTIONAL METHODS AND LEARNING STYLES IN LEARNING LEADERSHIP SKILLS Rizwana Khatun  Research Scholar, Aligarh Muslim University, India. Email: riznsab@yahoo.co.in Abstract  In the present dynamic and interwoven workplace, leaders have an important role in steering the organisations towards higher  performance and yielding competitive edge. Besides being the backbone of an organisation, leaders support effective forward momentum in organisations. At times when it is implicit that leadership is something that can be learnt or at least be improved by learning, leadership training is signicant. Leadership training is one of the most important training for building a strong workplace and organisational success. In order to excel at workplace, today managers are generally provided leadership skills, especially communication skills to manage the diversity in an organisation. A case study approach was adopted to explore the relationship between instructional methods and learning style on learning  performance in leadership skills training. Results of a 4 × 3 ANOVA revealed signicant main effects for instructional methods and learning  styles. However, the interaction effect was found to be insignicant. Implications of the ndings of the study have been discussed in detail. Keywords:  Leadership Skills, Training, Instructional Method, Learning Style Introduction Emerging from an industrial age, the people-centred new economy is witnessing dynamic changes in the backdrop of modern workplace. More than ever before, organisations today are placing great value in their people for gaining competitive advantage. With companies going global, the rapid growth of knowledge and the swift changes in technology, the key asset of any organisation is its people- the employees. This renewed interest of organisations towards their employees is aptly summarized in the words of Krohn (2000) that “people are the only assets with the creativity and adaptive power to sustain an organisation’s success in today’s dynamic business world”. In order to achieve a competitive edge, employees need to learn constantly (Alonderiene, 2009; Zuzeviciute and Tereseviciene, 2009) and faster (Kian and Sabbaghan, 2012) in their professional life. As such training of employees in critical skills is crucial to the success of any organisation. In order to cater to the demands of the changing times, leadership training that focuses on developing effective leaders to accomplish business goals is a vital necessity for any organisation for achieving competitive advantage (Collins, 2002). Leaders have the potential to create a climate of engaged workplace with more productive employees and fewer labour problems, thereby helping transform the entire organisation. With increasingly dynamic work environment and the emergence of disparate generations working together, corporate world over are realizing the importance of leadership skills to manage the dynamics of workplace. As leadership is strongly connected with the ability to motivate and inspire other people to achieve results, therefore studies indicate that organisations need to develop such skills in employees in key positions for communicating, motivating and inspiring others towards organisational success. As such today’s leaders need to provide mentoring and support to their group, develop empowered workforce engaged in trust-initiated roles (Allert and Chatterjee, 1997) and move  beyond the concept of “a genius with a thousand helpers” towards a real leveraged leader.With the increasing need for key professionals to learn leadership skills, there is a concurrent need to explore the  best approach to prepare them in acquiring these skills in an effective and efcient way. Literature suggests that the choice of training method has consequences on the degree of learning (Knight and Salter, 1985; Webster and Martocchio, 1993; Petrakova and Sadana, 2007). Moreover, the broad diversity of individual differences among potential trainees has a viable impact on learning (Chou, 2001; Salas and Kosarzycki, 2003) and should be considered while developing training programs (Sein, Bostrom and Olfman, 1987; Chou and Wang, 1999; Liu and Reed, 1994). Researchers have also found that an understanding of the Article can be accessed online at http://www.publishingindia.com  32  International Journal on Leadership Volume 1 Issue 2 October 2013 learning style distribution is essential to improve the quality of instructional strategy. Besides demographic differences, a prominent concept of individual differences is learning style.  Studies reveal that individuals differ in the way they approach a learning situation (Desmedt and Valcke, 2004; Reid, 2005; Burnett, 2005) with some learners preferring certain methods of learning more than others (Shell, 1991). Therefore, for effective learning to take place, it is critical to consider the learner’s characteristics in the design, development and delivery of a training programme (Buch and Bartley, 2002). Furthermore, several studies indicate that a correlation exists  between performance and the method of instruction matched to the preferred learning style (Benham, 2002; Terrell, 2002; Manochehr, 2006). With solid knowledge about the potential of leadership skills training and impacts of trainees’ different characteristics, trainers can adopt training methods most suitable for improved training outcomes. The present study explores several important training issues related to the acquisition of leadership skills. First, the relative effectiveness of the three instructional methods - blended learning, role-play and videos cum discussion with respect to learning performance is assessed. The effect of individual difference (learning style) on learning performance is considered next. The last objective is to use an inter-actionist psychology perspective to examine the impact of individual differences and training methods on learning performance. In short, this paper also intends to assess the feasibility of a contingency approach to training leadership skills.The remainder of this paper is structured as follows. Section 2 presents a review of literature along with the study hypotheses. Section 3 deals with the research model, the research methodology and the procedure followed in testing the hypotheses. The analysis and ndings of the data collected in the study is presented in section 4 and the conclusions drawn from the study in section 5. Finally in section 6, the implications of the ndings and recommendations for future research are discussed. Litr�tur Ri Wha s Leaeshp? As a concept, leadership has generated a proliferation of literature, especially in the eld of management and organisational science (Jones, 2005; Lyne de Ver, 2008). One of the prominent scholars of leadership, Barnard Bass (1990), has described leadership as a “universal phenomenon” which incorporates “the process of influencing the activities of an organized group in its efforts toward goal setting and goal achievement” (Stogdill, 1950). In the words of Davis (1942), leadership is “the principal dynamic force that motivates and coordinates the organisation in the accomplishment of its objectives”.In an organisational context, leadership can be referred to “the ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute towards the effectiveness and success of the organisations of which they are members” (House et al. , 2004). In this sense “leadership transforms followers, creates visions of the goals that may be attained, and articulates for the followers the ways to attain those goals” (Bass, 1990). In short, leadership is “the ability to handle men so as to achieve the most with the least friction and the greatest cooperation” (Munson, 1921).The contemporary interdependent and dynamic workplace  places great importance on leaders, as change agents these agents of change (Bass, 1990). They are considered to possess the potential to manage the fast breaking change with their leadership skills and help navigate their organisation towards a safer and more protable harbour. As for the majority of the workforce, the most relevant leadership comes from the rst-line supervisors, who have a direct contact with employees and can influence their day-to-day performance more than managers at other levels (Thompson, 2007). This has led the emergence of training in leadership skills, especially for managers. Tag  Leaeshp Sklls The current organisational scenario provides a work environment rich with development potential and has ushered in new expectations for leaders – from increased scope of responsibility to heavier workloads to making decisions in more ambiguous conditions (Orr and Sack, 2009). In order to succeed managers need to learn a set of leadership competencies to achieve ‘‘breakthrough’’ employee performance, leading to ‘‘breakthrough’’ results for the organisation (Trinka, 2005). Moreover, the process of becoming a better leader is fundamentally grounded in  personal transformation (Van Velsor and McCauley, 2004), which necessitates the role of organisation to support and encourage training in leadership skills.Leadership training focuses on enabling leaders to achieve  business goals through people by creating relationships, sharing experiences and supporting others (Howard, 2005). Studies indicate that learning is at the heart of leadership (Burgoyne, 1994; Antonacopoulou and Bento, 2003) as real leaders must be active and aggressive learners (Mclagan, 2002) as well as possess the ability to learn from their experiences and remain open to continuous learning (McCall, 1998). Leadership training is essentially oriented towards  personal growth (Conger, 1992) that focuses on improving a leader’s knowledge, skills, and attitudes (Bass, 1990).   A Study of the Relationship Between Instructional Methods and Learning Styles in Learning Leadership Skills 33 Researchers like Bass et al.  (1996) and Sogunro (1997) have found signicant improvement in the leadership behaviour of managers after attending a leadership training programme. Albert Einstein said, “I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn”. So leadership training can be used to develop competencies and instil condence in managers by providing a place where they may try things out, learn, watch reactions and interactions, develop theories as also test them (Orr and Sack, 2009).Van Ameijde, Nelson, Billsberry and Van Meurs (2009) hold the view that leadership is a shared influence process that ‘arises from the interactions of diverse individuals’. The development of leadership skills is important for leader’s to communicate the vision and overall strategy of the organisation to his followers. In addition to the conceptual skills, leaders need to develop strong interpersonal skills. Such skills range from communication and team work to conflict management and cultural sensitivity (Elmuti, Minnis and Abebe, 2005). Research has identied communication skills to be one of the most essential components for effective leadership with 43% of respondents considering communication skills as the most critical skill set, while 41% acknowledging that inappropriate use of communication is the primary mistake leaders make (Ken Blanchard Companies, 2006). Trinka (2005) suggests that leadership effectiveness can be improved by 50-60 percent, if focus is placed on leadership skills for ‘developing others’ and ‘communication’. In their study, Mabey and Thomson (2000) also report that the skills that will be most needed in this century by leaders will be the ‘softer’ skills - leadership, people management, team working and customer focus. Thus, the basic skills that have  been identied for effective leaders include interpersonal skills, building trust, motivating others and building strong relationships (Allert and Chatterjee, 1997; Astin and Astin, 2000; Crosbie, 2005; Martin, 2005; Thompson, 2007).In order to assess the improvement in the learning  performance of the trainees after the training, the following hypothesis (H1A 0 ) is suggested:H1A 0 : There is no signicant difference in the learning  performance of participants based on the pre-test and the  post-test scores. Tag Mehs Although studies have been conducted to investigate the efciency and effectiveness of the different training methods, results of the studies has been inconsistent as to which instructional method is “optimal” (Salehi et al. , 2009). In order to cater to the needs of the multi-generational workforce in today’s organisations, trainers need to adopt a method which is convenient and relevant for the learner, cost effective for the employer and motivational in helping the learner transfer skills and knowledge to the work environment (Sinniah, 2008). Given the abundance of delivery methods, both old and new, it is essential to compare the common traditional methods with the quickly evolving, new methods in order to determine their effectiveness and suitable use in a particular circumstance.Training in leadership skills may be conducted in a classroom, online, coaching/ mentoring or a blended approach. Effective training can help enhance leadership skills that people possess, help them unearth skills they didn’t even realize they had and enables one to see how they react under stress as also how they interact with others. Research in the eld of leadership development suggests that certain methods have stronger effects on particular learning outcomes than others (Miller, Umble, Frederick and Dinkin, 2007). Findings from published studies indicate that for leadership training, methods like seminars and discussions, intensive feedback and personal coaching, readings, challenging work assignments with coaching, mentoring, and action learning assignments (Young and Dixon, 1996; McCauley and Hughes-James, 1994; Conger and Benjamin, 1999; Rothwell and Kazanas, 1999; Vicere and Fulmer, 1998) may be used. Raelin and Coghlan (2006) suggest that for declarative as well as procedural knowledge for improving leadership skills, seminars may be an important method. While Raelin (2006) notes that action learning increases an understanding of group dynamics and promotes the development of interpersonal skills, which could also contribute to the development of partnerships. In addition, literature also suggests that using multiple methods increases learning for individual participants and, ultimately, outcomes for organisations (Miller et al. , 2007).At the same time, it is important to create a safe learning environment where individuals can try, fail and try again without great risk or fear. Moreover, the learning environment should incorporate active involvement as also mimic the stresses found in the real world. Crosbie (2005) states that achieving this balance is one of the greatest challenges of training and critical to its success. Today’s knowledge workers have evolved beyond the monotonous work environment into an autonomous scenario where at every level of the organisation one needs to work with and through people. Such flat organisations demand workers to be procient in soft skills (Brungardt, 2011) such as communication, interpersonal and teamwork skills. Dynamic organisations acknowledge that the most critical skill for leaders is communication skills which aids in motivating, inspiring and informing others (Facey, 2002). Moreover, the ability to communicate well is seminal for a skilled and effective leader.The present study is therefore, specifically oriented towards the development of communication skills in leaders, as it is most critical to the success of a leader’s role.For the present study three different training methods were adopted for comparison – blended learning, role-play and videos with discussion.  34  International Journal on Leadership Volume 1 Issue 2 October 2013 One of the most suitable methods for communications training is role- playing (Wagonhurst, 2002). It provides an excellent platform for the participating trainees to practice team interaction and develop empathy skills (Sanders, 2011). Blended learning approach helps promotes critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration (Pape, 2010). It also fosters social interaction (Osguthorpe and Graham, 2003) and provides learners with greater control over the pace of learning and time management (Chung and Davis, 1995). Thus, blended learning approach provides social interaction that human beings seek and enjoy, besides leveraging the convenience and accessibility of online components with traditional classroom instruction (Voci and Young, 2001). Videos along with discussion provides an active learning  platform as researcher like Mishra (2001) and Tooth (2000) assert that training videos are useful to illustrate practical and real life activities while group discussion aids in verbal interaction (Padilha, 2006). Given that certain training methods result in greater learning, this study intends to explore the viable differences in learning outcomes as a result of adopting different instructional approaches. The following hypothesis (H2A 0 ) is suggested:H2A 0 : There is no difference between the mean learning  performances of trainees in the two instructional groups. Leag Syles Educational psychologist are of the view that a one-size- ts-all approach does not exist in education (Melis and Monthienvichienchai, 2004; Felder and Brent, 2005) and individuals inclination towards a particular approach to learning situation has effect on their performance and achievement (Cassidy, 2004). Several researchers have found that an understanding of the learning style distribution is essential to improve the quality of instructional strategy. Therefore, for effective learning to take place, it is critical to consider the learner’s characteristics in the development, design and delivery of a training programme (Buch and Bartley, 2002). Learning styles should be considered by training managers (Bohlen and Ferratt, 1993) as it provides important information to the trainers (Buch and Bartley, 2002) about both individual learning, and learning as a group in the classroom and/or organisational environment. An Figure: 1. Kolb’s Learning Modes and Styles   Diverging (Feel and watch) Assimmilating (Think and watch) Converging (Think and do) Accommodating (Feel and do) Concrete experience Feeling Reflective observation Watching Active experimentation Doing Abstract conceptualization Thinking   A Study of the Relationship Between Instructional Methods and Learning Styles in Learning Leadership Skills 35 understanding of the learning styles of the learners facilitates the instructor or designer to develop a curriculum to address diverse needs of the learners (Pallapu, 2007) and aids them in the proper selection of techniques and methods of instruction (Alfonseca et al ., 2006) to suit the preferences of the different individuals. Kolb Learning Style Inventory (LSI) is one of the most influential and widely used instruments (Kolb, 1976, 1984) to measure an individual’s learning preference (Lu, Jia, Gong, and Clark, 2007; Wilson, 2012). His model of learning style has survived examination and criticism over the years and is used extensively to categorize the way learners take in and  process information (Liang, 2012). Figure 1 shows the schema of Kolb’s (1976) learning style, including diverger, assimilator, converger, and accomodator,  by using combinations of the learning modes. Kolb’s theory and his LSI was chosen for this study because his theoretical  perspective focuses on the interaction between the learner and the learning environment (Kolb and Kolb, 2005) which is similar to interest to this study as to whether students’ learning style influenced their performance with different training methods. Research in the domain of leadership development holds the view that individual learning style is a valid predictor of the success of such training programmes (Allinson and Hayes, 1988; Mainemelis, Boyatzis and Kolb, 2002, Van der Sluis and Poell 2002; Wyrick 2003). Moreover, Ugur, Akkoyunlu, and Kurbanoglu (2011) propose that “in order to enhance the quality of learning, [the] rst step should be [to] analyze their [adult learners’] learning styles”. This suggestion is important, due to the fact that “not every manager needs the same kind of leadership training content or methodology  because not every manager exercises the same learning style” (Belasen and Frank, 2008). So, the next hypothesis (H3A 0 ) relates to the effect of learning styles in learning  performance as:H3A 0 :  There is no difference between the mean learning  performances of trainees of different learning styles. Iea Effe f Tag Mehs a Leag Syles Saks, Haccoun and Belcourt (2010) contend that trainees with different learning styles are likely to prefer different training methods (e.g. lecture versus role-play) and will differ in terms of the training method that will maximize their learning. In the eld of research, the application of learning styles in education and learning is based on the concept of aptitude-treatment-interaction (ATI) research (Cronbach and Snow, 1977) which aims to design instruction to accommodate individual differences and to assess the feasibility of a contingency approach to training. In separate studies, Brown (2002) and Postle and Sturman (2000) suggest that learning style is central to student success of online programmes. While studies by Loomis (2000) and Dunn (2001) state that learning styles do affect learning; yet, some researchers found that there is statistically no signicant relationship between learning style and learning  performance (Zacharis, 2010 and Liang, 2012). H4A 0 :  There is no difference in the learning performance of trainees in the lecture, videos cum discussion and role-plays, based upon their individual learning style. R�rc Mtodoo This study was guided by the research model presented in Figure 2. The model includes two independent variables (training method and learning style) and one dependent variable (learning performance). Learning style and training method are each posited to directly impact learning  performance. Figure: 2. Conceptual Model of the Study   Instructional Methods Learning Styles Learning performance
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