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Accommodating learning styles in international bridging education programs

Lillie Lum (Faculty of Health, York University, Toronto, Canada)
Pat Bradley (Department of Nursing, York University, Toronto, Canada)
Nikhat Rasheed (Connect: College of Ontario, Thunder Bay, Canada)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 4 October 2011




Bridging education programs have been developed to enhance the ability of internationally educated professionals (IEPs) to access professional employment in Canada. IEPs are professionals who received their original training outside of Canada. Bridging education programs consist of specialized courses, offered by higher education institutions, focusing on skill and knowledge upgrading in preparation for meeting professional licensure requirements. The purpose of this paper is to gain insight into the preferred learning styles of IEPs enrolled in nursing, pharmacy and teacher programs.Design/methodology – This survey research assessed the learning styles/preferences and degree of self‐directed readiness of IEPs enrolled in three different Ontario bridging education programs: pharmacists, nurses and teachers. These professions represent some of the largest regulated professions in Canada. Three professions were selected for this study because they have similar regulatory procedures for candidates seeking licensure. These programs were situated within higher education institutions. Adult immigrant students participated by completing Kolb's Learning Style Inventory and Guglielmino's Self‐Directedness Scale.


The most significant finding of this research is that all three professions were found in the divergent quadrant of the Kolb Learning Style Inventory. The learner with a divergent style of learning prefers observation rather than action and is able to view concrete situations from multiple perspectives. These learners value concrete experience and reflective observation, suggesting that they tend to consider a situation from differing perspectives. This finding suggests that being a recent adult immigrant has a stronger effect upon preferred style of learning in bridging education than profession‐specific factors. IEPs are also illustrated to be highly self‐directed learners.

Research limitations/implications

The generalizability of these results must be treated with caution due to the small sample size. Several factors influenced the results such as difficulties in accruing a larger and more representative sample.

Social implications

Currently, substantial funding is provided for bridging education in Canada. There is little research being conducted on the effectiveness of this type of higher education from the perspective of learning processes. More research is needed to enhance the ability of IEPs to succeed in these programs. Ultimately, it can improve new immigrant professionals' success in the labor market.


Research on bridging education is still in its infancy and there is little research evidence to guide the development of effective programs. Some research indicates that bridging education programs are useful for providing profession‐specific language training and orientation to the Canadian workplace. If the preferred learning styles of immigrant professionals can be identified, more effective courses for immigrant learners can be developed. Educators can create increased academic success and improved employment outcomes.



Lum, L., Bradley, P. and Rasheed, N. (2011), "Accommodating learning styles in international bridging education programs", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 147-168.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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