I do like a list! And this paper was full of them!
Firstly was the three approaches to studying:
- A deep approach based on understanding the subject
- A surface approach based on memorizing pertinent facts
- A strategic approach based on getting good grades
In fairness to the author it was explicitly stated that most students will employ all three approaches at some point in their learning which made a lot of sense as I really could identify with all three! The tension between approach one and three is most interesting - a genuinely engaged learner will really want a broad, deep and satisfying engagement with the subject - to really 'get it' and make the connections necessary to put their new knowledge to work somehow. However - the genuinely engaged learner may also be busy and overburdened and pragmatic enough to know that reading a fourth journal article about a particular subject is unlikely to make any difference to their final grade and therefore lay it aside for striking out into a new curriculum area which may appear on the exam. Tempting as it may be to dismiss approach two - lets be honest - we've all done it!
The next list, how students perceive (define?) learning, began as a five pointer but a sixth was added later:
- Learning as the increase in knowledge
- Learning as memorizing
- Learning as the acquisition of facts or procedures
- Learning as the abstraction of meaning
- Learning as an interpretative process aimed at the understanding of reality
- A conscious process, fueled by personal interests and directed at obtaining harmony and happiness or changing society
Students who reported their learning as being points 1 - 3 were reported as being more 'surface approach' learners whereas the deep learners were more likely to define learning as points 4 - 5. The sixth point was added later and include a more specific purpose to learning. Again - I am pretty sure I could have defined learning in any of these six ways depending on who asked, when and about what. My gut feeling is that this is less about dividing students into groups (the point 2 definers) and more about students defining individual learning experiences. The article also suggests that learners move from points 1 - 6 (presumably in a somewhat linear fashion) as they progress on their learning journeys.
The final list is a five point list of the approaches employed by teachers to their educating.
- Teaching as imparting information
- Teaching as transmitting structured knowledge
- Teaching as an interaction between the teacher and the student
- Teaching as facilitating understanding on the part of the student
- Teaching as bringing about conceptual change and intellectual development in the student
Unlike the other lists - it seems that this one is more fixed. The researchers were 'surprised' that a move towards the bottom end of the list did not seem to be measurable as teachers became more experienced. There is some discussion about how the subject matter a person teaches may necessarily result in a somewhat different approach and also that teachers give the students what they expect and want from their studies.
We are discussing this paper in our Tutorial later this week; and there will be a forum about it (which I haven't looked at yet as I wanted to read the paper, and jot down my initial reflections before I read what other people had thought.)