Accommodating Learning Styles In Bridging Education Programs For Internationally Educated Professionals (IEPs)

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By: Lillie Lum
Org: York University
Date: 2009

There has been little research exploring the learning experiences of IEPs enrolled in professional bridging education programs. This research identified effective educational approaches and strategies which complement IEP learner styles and preferences and promote academic success and successful employment.

The major objective of the research was to determine if IEPs bring distinctive learning styles and preferences, developed prior to immigrating to Canada, to bridging education classrooms.


Bridging education programs were developed with a view to assisting IEPs in overcoming knowledge and skills gaps in order to facilitate access to professional employment. Although these programs have been operational for a number of years in Canada, they have been less successful than anticipated. According to recent Statistics Canada reports, skilled immigrants continue to experience major under or unemployment. Despite significant financial investment by government and program delivery by post-secondary institutions, many IEPs continue to experience a multitude of challenges within these programs.

This research focused on the identification and development of effective educational approaches and strategies based on an improved understanding of how learner styles and preferences may influence academic success and potential employment outcomes. The challenges, successes and barriers that IEP students experience as they make the transition to Canadian education and workplace expectations were explored. Questions concerning professional students’ learning styles and preferences within the context of bridging education were addressed.

Specific objectives included the:

  1. Identification of the benefits and challenges of bridging education programs.
  2. Identification of learning styles and preferences of IEP students.
  3. Identification of program development and teaching strategies in designing flexible learning in bridging education which facilitates workplace integration.
  4. Description of the implications for policy and practice changes within post-secondary institutions to promote more effective bridging education


There has been little research exploring the benefits of bridging education programs. Although each of the programs are profession specific, the approach to program planning and educational experiences of learners varies significantly. Some put more emphasis on knowledge upgrading or clinical education in preparation for licensing exams, while others emphasize communication and building social networks for IEPs. All of these components are needed in order for IEPs to be successful. These programs need to be systematically and regularly evaluated, approved and possibly accredited to ensure better academic success and improved employment outcomes.

This research demonstrated that learning experiences within bridging education programs need to be structured more effectively in order to have significant benefit for IEPs seeking to integrate into the Canadian labour market.

The authors propose that educators need to attend to the learning style preferences of IEPs by structuring effective learning experiences in order to accommodate different approaches to learning.

Findings are organized into the following categories and sub-categories:

  • Educational Issues
  • Learning Styles and Preferences
  • Implications for designing educational programs
  • Professional Issues
  • Professional Socialization
  • Language Proficiency
  • Financial Challenge

The authors also offer a number of policy implications, providing insights into how policies can be shaped to address IEP needs in obtaining licensure/accreditation and employment in their chosen profession.

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