Felder design model

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The Felder design model is an instructional design model based on learning style consideration. While some learning style people argue that pedagogical designs (in particular electronic learning environments) should accommodate different learning paths, Felder (in the context of class teaching) argues that it is sufficient to incorporate a variety of teaching modes.

Note: This "Felder design model" is not something that is being "sold" by Felder, but a construct we (DSchneider 16:55, 24 August 2006 (MEST)) have reconstructed from various recommendations by Felder.

See also: teaching style (its alter ego in classroom teaching).

The Felder-Silverman model

According to Felder (1996, 1993, this model classifies students along the following dimensions:

  1. What type of information does the student preferentially perceive :
    • sensing learners (concrete, practical, oriented toward facts and procedures) or
    • intuitive learners (conceptual, innovative, oriented toward theories and meanings);
  2. Through which modality is sensory information most effectively perceived:
    • visual learners (prefer visual representations of presented material--pictures, diagrams, flow charts) or
    • verbal learners (prefer written and spoken explanations);
  3. With which organization of information is the student most comfortable ?
    • inductive learners (prefer presentations that proceed from the specific to the general) or
    • deductive learners (prefer presentations that go from the general to the specific);
  4. How does the student prefer to process information ?
    • active learners (learn by trying things out, working with others) or
    • reflective learners (learn by thinking things through, working alone);
  5. How does the student progress toward understanding ?
    • sequential learners (linear, orderly, learn in small incremental steps) or
    • global learners (holistic, systems thinkers, learn in large leaps).

Note: See the learning style article from which this is copied.

Instructional design considerations

According to Felder (1993) “Students whose learning styles fall in any of the given categories have the potential to be excellent scientists. The observant and methodical sensors, for example, make good experimentalists, and the insightful and imaginative intuitors make good theoreticians. Active learners are adept at administration and team-oriented project work; reflective learners do well at individual research and design. Sequential learners are often good analysts, skilled at solving convergent (single-answer) problems; global learners are often good synthesizers, able to draw material from several disciplines to solve problems that could not have been solved with conventional single-discipline approaches. Unfortunately---in part because teachers tend to favor their own learning styles, in part because they instinctively teach the way they were taught in most college classes---the teaching style in most lecture courses tilts heavily toward the small percentage of college students who are at once intuitive, verbal, deductive, reflective and sequential.”

“Major transformations in teaching style are not necessary to achieve the desired balance. Of the ten defined learning style categories, five (intuitive, verbal, deductive, reflective, and sequential) are adequately covered by the traditional lecture-based teaching approach, and there is considerable overlap in teaching methods that address the style dimensions short-changed by the traditional method (sensing, visual, inductive, active, and global). The systematic use of a small number of additional teaching methods in a class may therefore be sufficient to meet the needs of all of the students” (Feldman, 1993)

Here is summary of Feldmans (1993, 1996) recommendations (copy/paste with minor modifcations. Please read the originals for details - in particular if you are interested in engineering education):

  1. Teach theoretical material by first presenting phenomena and problems that relate to the theory
    • Motivation is increased through prior presentation of phenomena that the theory will help explain and of problems that the theory will be used to solve (sensing, inductive, global).
  2. Balance conceptual information (intuitive) with concrete information (sensing).
    • Have both descriptions of physical phenomena, results from real and simulated experiments, demonstrations, and problem-solving algorithms (sensing)---with conceptual information---theories, mathematical models, and material that emphasizes fundamental understanding (intuitive)---in all courses.
  3. Make extensive use of sketches, plots, schematics, vector diagrams, computer graphics, and physical demonstrations (visual) in addition to oral and written explanations and derivations (verbal) in lectures and readings.
    • E.g on the visual side, show flow charts of the reaction and transport processes that occur in particle accelerators, test tubes, and biological cells before presenting the relevant theories, and sketch or demonstrate the experiments used to validate the theories.
  4. To illustrate abstract concepts or problem-solving algorithms, use at least some numerical examples (sensing) to supplement the usual algebraic examples (intuitive).
  5. Use physical analogies and demonstrations to illustrate the magnitudes of calculated quantities (sensing, global).
  6. Occasionally give some experimental observations before presenting the general principle, and have the students (preferably working in groups) see how far they can get toward inferring the latter (inductive).
    • Give some experimental observations before presenting the general principles and have the students (preferably working in groups) see how far they can get toward inferring the latter (inductive).
  7. Provide class time for students to think about the material being presented (reflective) and for active student participation (active).
    • Occasionally pause during a lecture to allow time for thinking and formulating questions. Assign "one-minute papers" close to the end of a lecture period, having students write on index cards the most important point made in the lecture and the single most pressing unanswered question. Assign brief group problem-solving exercises in class in which the students working in groups of three or four at their seats spend one or several minutes tackling any of a wide variety of questions and problems.
  8. Encourage or mandate cooperation on homework (every style category).
  9. Demonstrate the logical flow of individual course topics ( sequential), but also point out connections between the current material and other relevant material in the same course, in other courses in the same discipline, in other disciplines, and in everyday experience ( global).


  • Felder, R.M. (1996). "Matters of Styles". ASEE Prism, 6(4), 18-23. HTML
  • Felder, R.M. and L.K. Silverman. "Learning Styles and Teaching Styles in Engineering Education." Engr. Education, 78 (7), 674-681 (1988).PDF Preprint
  • Felder, R.M. (1993). "Reaching the Second Tier: Learning and Teaching Styles in College Science Education," J. Coll. Sci. Teaching, 23(5), 286--290 (1993). HTML
  • Felder, R.M. and Barbara A. Solomon, Learning Styles And Strategies, webpage HTML retrieved 14:35, 24 August 2006 (MEST).
  • R.M. Felder and J.E. Spurlin, "Applications, Reliability, and Validity of the Index of Learning Styles," Intl. Journal of Engineering Education, 21(1), 103-112 (2005). A validation study of the Index of Learning Styles. PDF Reprint
  • R.M. Felder and R. Brent, "Understanding Student Differences." J. Engr. Education, 94(1), 57-72 (2005). An exploration of differences in student learning styles, approaches to learning (deep, surface, and strategic), and levels of intellectual development. PDF