A cross-cultural comparison of student learning patterns in higher education

Kosala N. Marambe, Jan D. Vermunt, Henny P.A. Boshuizen

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77 Citations (Scopus)
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The aim of this study was to compare student learning patterns in higher education across different cultures. A meta-analysis was performed on three large-scale studies that had used the same research instrument: the Inventory of learning Styles (ILS). The studies were conducted in the two Asian countries Sri Lanka and Indonesia and the European country The Netherlands. Students reported use of learning strategies, metacognitive strategies, conceptions of learning and learning orientations were compared in two ways: by analyses of variance of students' mean scale scores on ILS scales, as well as by comparing the factor structures of the ILS-scales between the three studies. Results showed most differences in student learning patterns between Asian and European students. However, many differences were identified between students from the two Asian countries as well. The Asian learner turned out to be a myth. Moreover, Sri Lankan students made the least use of memorising strategies of all groups. That Asian learners would have a propensity for rote learning turned out to be a myth as well. Some patterns of learning turned out to be universal and occurred in all groups, other patterns were found only among the Asian or the European students. The findings are discussed in terms of learning environment and culture as explanatory factors. Practical implications for student mobility in an international context are derived.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-316
Number of pages18
JournalHigher Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cross-cultural research
  • Learning patterns
  • Learning strategies
  • Metacognition
  • Student learning
  • Student mobility


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