In the European Higher Education Arena, ECTS points are used as the common currency for counting and exchanging study activities. ECTS points refer to learning outcomes and the workload associated with these. ‘Workload is an estimation of the time the individual typically needs to complete all learning activites’ (European Commission, 2015, p. 10) in class as well as outside. Often one ECTS point is set to correspond with a certain amount of study hours which also indicates that students are expected to spend a particular number of hours per week as full-time students.
The Eurostudent survey (Hauschildt, Gwosc, Netz, & Mishra, 2015) showed that in most of the countries bachelor students spent between 30 and 40 hours per week on taught studies and personal study time (figure 6.5). Depending on how many weeks that make up an academic year this may match the number of hours that equals 60 ECTS points, but according to a report issued by the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Research this is not the case in Denmark (Udvalg for Kvalitet og Relevans i de Videregående Uddannelser, 2014). Therefore, the time budget of Danish students was identified as a problem for the quality of Danish higher education and the government has named the number of study hours students spend per week a key figure in the national higher-education policy. Higher-education institutions are therefore expected to launch initiatives to increase the study intensity of their students. However, understanding why students allocate more or less time to their study efforts is important to prevent political, institutional and pedagogical initiatives to be detrimental to student learning and hence to quality, because the initiatives are founded in an insufficient or simple diagnosis of the reasons behind the workload students invest.
The objective of this paper is to more fundamentally explore what makes students spend their time the way they do.
A key theoretical concept underpinning the study is that of the implied student (Ulriksen, 2009) claiming that any higher-education teaching and learning context implies a particular study practice of the students in order to succeed. This study practice concerns how students engage in class (e.g., remaining passive, patient and attentive) and how they study outside class, but also what students find interesting or what they believe is the perspective of the study. These implied study practices and inclinations are implied through the teaching and learning activities as well as through the study structure.
Secondly, we conceive the students’ engagement with their studies as a process of negotiation where students try to make sense of what they mean through a continuous process of interpretations of what they meet and consequent and subsequently try to engage in a way that balance what they meet with what they expect (Holmegaard, Madsen, & Ulriksen, 2014). Hence, the students’ study practices develop in an encounter between form, content and culture of the study programme and the students’ expectations and experiences and the study repertoire they have developed.
Based on this, the purpose of the paper is to explore how students spend their time as students and what affects their time-budget practices. How does the students’ priorities emerge from the encounter between their experiences and expectations and the implied student of the programme? Hence, the study may not only inform institutional initiatives and national policies, but also contribute to a more fundamental understanding of how the curriculum design and the teaching and learning activities affect students’ way of studying.
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101. doi:10.1191/1478088706qp063oa European Commission. (2015). ECTS Users' Guide. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/repository/education/ects/users-guide/docs/ects-users-guide_en.pdf Hauschildt, K., Gwosc, C., Netz, N., & Mishra, S. (2015). Social and Economic Conditions of Student Life in Europe : Synopsis of Indicators. Eurostudent V 2012-2015 Retrieved from Bielefeld: http://www.eurostudent.eu/download_files/documents/EVSynopsisofIndicators.pdf Herrmann, K. J., Bager-Elsborg, A., Hansen, I. B., & Nielsen, R. B. (2015). Mere undervisning, større studieintensitet? En multilevelanalyse af 7.917 studerendes tidsforbrug. Dansk Universitetspædagogisk Tidsskrift, 10(18), 35-50. Holmegaard, H. T., Madsen, L. M., & Ulriksen, L. (2014). A journey of negotiation and belonging: understanding students’ transitions to science and engineering in higher education. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 9(3), 755-786. doi:10.1007/s11422-013-9542-3 Ruiz-Gallardo, J.-R., Castaño, S., Gómez-Alday, J. J., & Valdés, A. (2011). Assessing student workload in Problem Based Learning: Relationships among teaching method, student workload and achievement. A case study in Natural Sciences. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27(3), 619-627. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2010.11.001 Udvalg for Kvalitet og Relevans i de Videregående Uddannelser. (2014). Høje mål. Fremragende undervisning i videregående uddannelser. Retrieved from København: http://ufm.dk/uddannelse-og-institutioner/rad-naevn-og-udvalg/tidligere-rad-naevn-og-udvalg/kvalitetsudvalget/publikationer/samlet_rapport_web_01-2.pdf Ulriksen, L. (2009). The implied student. Studies in Higher Education, 34(5), 517-532. doi:10.1080/03075070802597135
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