In an influential report, Coffield et al (2004) argued that the field of learning styles was dogged by increasing ‘theoretical incoherence and conceptual confusion’. Sadler-Smith (1996, 2001), Curry (1999) and Rayner (2007) echoed these criticisms and Curry (1999) commented that the learning styles literature was plagued with a plethora of published papers, many of which contained methodological and experimental design flaws. With these criticisms in mind, the question as to how HRD practitioners identified and selected a learning style questionnaire (lsq) to use in their professional practice was considered relevant. This study used a triangulated research strategy to identify and explain factors that influenced these choices and had Bhaskars’ Bases of Action model (1998) as an organising framework. The research demonstrated that from a wide range of lsqs available, that nearly 80% of HRD practitioners preferred to use one of only three of the most popular lsqs available. None of these fully met the quality criteria in Coffield et al (2004), namely demonstrating acceptable internal consistency, testretest reliability, construct validity and predictive validity. Factors driving practitioner choice were identified through the research as including: lsq brand strength, experience based habits gained through using an lsq, economic and cognitive ‘lock-in’ associated with an lsq, practitioner’s view of their own state of professional ‘mastery’ and their beliefs about how results are best delivered. Further insights included that the Myers Briggs Type Indicator was the most popular lsq and that there was only a limited knowledge of learning theories held by many practitioners. This research adds further to the debate about applied practitioners and their engagement with theory, research and evidence based practices. It offers a more dynamic model about practitioner decision making about, and engagement with, theory and research in support of their professional practice, than currently exists
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