Learning Style Dimensions: Field Independence vs Field Dependence

learning style dimensions

In attempting to answer the above question on learning style dimensions: field independence and field dependence, we will first and foremost look at the meaning of learning, what learning style is all about. So as to give us a clearer view, when we look at one of the dimensions of learning style i.e field independent and field dependent.


Learning can be defined as the acquisition of new ideas, skills, values, knowledge and experience, which enables an individual to modify or change or alter his/her actions (Ajibola, 2012).

Also, that learning is a conscious change of an individual’s behaviour as a result of experience.
This can be the formal or informal way of learning.

One keyword that cut across these definitions of learning is that learning takes place as a result of exposure and experience that brought about change in behaviour. This change can either be permanent or relatively permanent..

LEARNING STYLE: (Keefe: 1979 in Wyss: 2002)

Views learning style as the way we learn things in general and the particular approach we adopt when dealing with problems.

It is said to depend on a somewhat mysterious link between personality and cognition, this link is referred to as cognitive style. When it is related to education it is referred to as learning style.
The personality and cognitive traits are seen as how learners perceive, interact with and respond to the learning environment.

Learning style can, therefore, be seen as the different ways or means in which we react in tackling when we are faced with a problem. It is a means by which we adapt to solve our problems.

The different approaches of learning styles are:

  1. Impulsive vs Reflective
  2. Convergent vs Divergent
  3. Field independent vs field dependence

For the purpose of this assignment, we will only take a look at the third (3rd) dimension of learning style i.e The field independent vs field dependent.


Being one of the well-researched as in learning styles i.e field independence and field dependence. Are refers to how people perceive and memorize information.

The field here means a context or surroundings. This is to say that some people or learners are more and some less, influenced by the context when performing the skill or learning.


Field independence hinges on the perceptional skill of “seeing the forest for the trees”. That is to say, a person who can easily recognize the hidden castle or human face in a poster and a child who can spot the monkeys camouflaged within the trees and leaves of an exotic forest in colouring books.

This is an ability to distinguish one thing from another.

I have said earlier that a field is surrounding and that some learners are more, and some less influenced by this context.

In the case of field independence, nothing seems to influence the learner. In this case, the field is perceptional or abstract.

In a nut shell, a field independence learner is one who is truly independence as regards to learning. This is because the learner does things alone and more or less believes in him/her self. [SELF MOTIVATION].

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While we look at field independence as an ability to learn or perform some certain skills without the influence of its environment.

Field dependence is an opposite of these assertions above. Field dependence is the tendency to be “dependent” on the total field, so that the parts embedded within the field are not easily perceived, through that total field is perceived most clearly as a unified whole (Brown 1994).


  1. Field independence rely on internal frame of reference in processing information. It is self motivational. While field dependence relies on the external frame of reference in processing information.
  2. Field independence learners perceive a field in terms of its component part; parts that are distinguish from its background. While field dependence perceives field as a whole. Parts are joined together with the background.
  3. Field independence learner has a sense of separate identity i.e self motivator. While field dependence learner view is by an external factor.


Cognitive tunnel vision limits learners with a strong field independence tendency and prevent from seeing the big picture.

While they get “stuck” on an unfamiliar word or ambiguous grammar structure, their field dependence counterparts will have already understood the gist of a written or spoken word, without trying to understand the meaning of every word.

In this way, the field dependence learner has the advantage of overlooking problems in order to see the general configuration of a problem or idea.


While field dependence is not much interested in various vocabularies and grammatical structures instead tries to look at the general idea, the field independence seems to be more grounded in vocabularies and grammatical structure in our educational setting (Formal).

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1. Rudiments of the instructional system. By Ajileye Mosunmola Ajibola (Mrs). Second edition (2012)

2. The weekly column. Article 102, June 2002. By Robert Wyss.

3. Learning styles. By Stephen Bostock January 1998.

4. Educational Psychology, Fourth Edition, Edited by Charles E.Skinner.

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