The nature and variability of tertiary students' learning approaches and test outcomes when learning from text.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Education
This study explored the nature of the learning approaches used by a group of tertiary students when learning from text and their associated written test outcomes. Ninety second year university students were studied in two separate situations and the findings from this study were used to predict the learning behaviour of a sub-group of 23 in a third situation. The method employed reflected a second order perspective, incorporating the Approaches to Studying Inventory (Ramsden, 1983) and written retrospective reports on learning behaviour. The combination of the learner's motive, focus and the degree of strategy elaboration emerged as the most effective means of describing students' learning approaches. Six distinct learning approaches were identified by considering each participant's reported learning behaviour in relation to these dimensions. An analysis of reported learning approaches using this classification scheme revealed considerable intra- and inter-situational variability in learning approach. However, some forms of stability within this variability were identified suggesting that a student's learning approach can exhibit both variability and consistency. Four distinctive learning outcomes were identified from the written test responses. These differed in focus, level of elaboration, degree of integration, extent of overview, evidence of rote learning and extent of personal synthesis. When each students' test outcome was compared to their reported learning approach to learning discrepancies were found which suggested that approach was not the sole determinant of learning outcome. When the data from the Approaches to Studying Inventory were compared with that from the retrospective reports made by students no consistent patterns emerged. This is consistent with the conclusion that learning approach is an individual, context specific response which is not able to be described using instruments which assume uniformity in approach. From the findings of this study a nascent theory of tertiary student learning behaviour when learning from text and an 'effective learner' profile were developed.