22 SES 06 A, Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education
Higher education (HE) is undergoing major changes worldwide. One example is the aim of shifting higher education systems from mass to universal participation in OECD member countries (Gale & Parker, 2012). With this aim not only more but also different (“non-traditional”) students enter HE and their academic study expectation may differ from traditional students’ expectations.
Another example is the Bologna-reform, which might have been the most significant change in European academia. As part of the reform, in Germany “Diplom”- and “Magister”-study programmes with an average duration of four to five years were restructured into Bachelor- and Master-programmes lasting three respective two years, among other changes. The changes led to complaints about the new ways students approach their studies, such as bulimic learning or a greater interest in grades than in study-content or in qualification than in education. As a consequence, the Humboldtian ideal of “Bildung” is regarded under threat.
The two examples of change in HE may be very different in their directions and goals, but they have one thing in common: Due to the changes today’s students meet teachers who studied under different conditions, e.g. a different higher education system or in different socio-economic circumstances. Today’s students and yesterday’s students (teachers) certainly always differed, but the degree of difference may have increased with the changes HE is currently undergoing. Among other consequences these differences are likely to influence students' study goals and what they perceive as successful ways of studying. Within the framework of a larger research project on successful studying in the first year of HE, we became interested in today’s students' conceptions of successful studying and their potential distinction from teachers' conceptions.
We decided to label our object of research conceptions of successful studying (CoSS) to indicate the affinity to concepts such as conceptions of learning (e.g. Vermunt & Vermetten, 2004) or conceptions of successful teaching (e.g. Borko, Lalik, & Tomchin, 1987). In general, conceptions are described as specific meanings, attached to phenomena, which mediate our responses to situations involving those phenomena (Kember, 1997). That is, they inform our actions. They can be conscious or unconscious and inferred from what a person says or does (Rokeach, 1968). Conceptions of learning turned out to be context-sensitive, that is, related to subject area, age and gender (Vermunt & Vermetten, 2004). Students’ conceptions influence how students approach learning situations in HE and make teacher activities only partly influential on learning and its outcomes (Virtanen & Lindblom-Ylänne, 2010).
CoSS are meant to comprise study goals but also ways of studying considered as successful. Success should not only be understood in terms of formal criteria, such as grades or completion, but also in terms of personal criteria, such as well-being (Robbins et al., 2004).
With our research on CoSS we want to contribute to the improvement of the HE learning situation in the sense of high quality learning outcomes and the building up of academic scholarship. If teachers were aware of students’ CoSS and how they differ from their own, this could enhance their understanding of the learner and contribute to a more student-centred teaching. For students an increased awareness regarding their CoSS may help them to regulate their study-objectives more compellingly. Moreover, institutional reforms and support programmes, which are in line with actual student objectives and related needs, can be developed.
1) Which CoSS do students and teachers describe?
2) Do students’ and teachers’ CoSS differ and in which ways?
Concerning both questions, we were interested in the potential influence of context, for example, academic discipline, gender, study progress (students) or status (teachers).
Borko, H., Lalik, R., & Tomchin, E. (1987). Student teachers’ understandings of successful and unsuccessful teaching. Teaching and Teacher Education, 3(2), 77–90. doi:10.1016/0742-051X(87)90009-6 Denzin, N. K. (1970). The Research Act: A Theoretical Introduction to Sociological Methods. Transaction Publishers. Gale, T., & Parker, S. (2012). Navigating change: a typology of student transition in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 1–20. doi:10.1080/03075079.2012.721351 Kember, D. (1997). A reconceptualisation of the research into university academics’ conceptions of teaching. Learning and instruction, 7(3), 255–275. Kuckartz, U. (2012). Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Methoden, Praxis, Computerunterstützung. Weinheim: Juventa. [Qualitative content analysis. Methods, practice, computer support] Robbins, S. B., Lauver, K., Le, H., Davis, D., Langley, R., & Carlstrom, A. (2004). Do psychosocial and study skill factors predict college outcomes? A meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin, 130(2), 261–288. Rokeach, M. (1968). Beliefs, attitudes, and values: a theory of organization and change. Jossey-Bass Inc Pub. Schreier, M. (2012). Qualitative content analysis in practice. London: SAGE. Vermunt, J. D., & Vermetten, Y. J. (2004). Patterns in student learning: Relationships between learning strategies, conceptions of learning, and learning orientations. Educational Psychology Review, 16(4), 359–384. Virtanen, V., & Lindblom-Ylänne, S. (2010). University students’ and teachers’ conceptions of teaching and learning in the biosciences. Instructional Science, 38(4), 355–370. doi:10.1007/s11251-008-9088-z
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