This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

An Examination of the Relationship between Cognitive Learning Style Preference and Nonverbal Immediacy Behaviors in Undergraduate Students




Teel, Jane

Type of Degree



Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


Identification of learning styles is a major consideration in classroom instruction. With the identification of students’ learning styles comes the potential to increase academic achievement through the focus on how students learn best. The focus of this study is cognitive learning style. Cognitive style includes the way one encodes/decodes, processes, stores, or retrieves information. In addition to learning styles, student communication through nonverbal immediacy behaviors is significant in the classroom setting. According to Cole (2000) generally nonverbal immediacy behaviors are derived at the subconscious level. If a relationship exists between cognitive learning styles and nonverbal immediacy behaviors, then the observable nonverbal immediacy behaviors could serve as a means of learning style identification. This study examined the relationship between undergraduate students’ nonverbal immediacy behaviors as measured by the Nonverbal Immediacy Scale-Self Report and cognitive learning style preferences - Concrete Sequential (CS), Abstract Sequential (AS), Abstract Random (AR), and Concrete Random (CR) - as measured by the Gregorc Style Delineator (GSD). The study was guided by the following research questions: (1) What is the relationship between gender and nonverbal immediacy and cognitive learning styles?; (2) What is the relationship between age and nonverbal immediacy and cognitive learning styles?; (3) What is the relationship between major/college and nonverbal immediacy and cognitive learning styles?; and (4) What is the relationship between participant’s level of nonverbal immediacy and their cognitive learning style preference? The data were analyzed using a multiple regression with stepwise procedure. Results from the analysis indicated a significant relationship between the NIS-S scores and AS. The interaction of NIS-S scores and age was a predictor of CS, AR, and CR. Gender predicted AS and AR at a statistically significant level. College was a predictor for CS. A significant relationship was found between AR and CR and the interaction between NIS-S scores and college. The findings of this study indicate that as teachers observe the level of students’ nonverbal immediacy in the classroom, nonverbal immediacy behaviors can aid in the identification of cognitive learning style. The inclusion of immediacy instruction in teacher education programs is recommended. Implications for future research are included.