Approaches to learning in higher education : From student and context to outcome. A review of research
Faculty of Social Sciences. Instructional and Educational Sciences
Biennial Conference of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction XIII, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 25-29 August 2009
The concept of approaches to learning has been a firmly established concept in educational research literature for over some years now (Entwistle, 1991). An approach to learning describes the nature of the relationship between student, context and task (Biggs, Kember & Leung, 2001). Not only learning processess and strategies are embedded, the intention of the student also plays a crucial role (Biggs, 2001; Entwistle, 1991; Marton & Säljö, 1997). In general, three types of approaches are dinstinguished: surface, deep and achieving approach. The objective of this review is to combine the knowledge on the relationship of learning approaches with learning outcomes and presage factors in order to answer: Which approach is the most desirable to induce? and How can we steer students in this direction? Our primary search terms were learning approaches and approaches to learning. The databases Eric, Psycinfo, Web of Science and Francis were used for the search. A narrative analysis was done, based on the 64 retrieved articles. Our conclusion states that the deep approach is the most desirable approach to induce because of its positive relationship with qualitative learning outcomes and quantitative learning outcomes when an average mark or GPA is used as a measure. Based on the found literature we propose to have an acceptable workload. We also advise not to start too early with interventions to induce a deep approach, since age is positively related to a deep approach. Its also important to make students enthusiastic about certain teaching methods, preferences for small groups, discussion groups, etc. are positively related to the deep approach. Futhermore, teachers should try to avoid scaring students with failure because motivations for succes have a positive influence. Finally, try to make students aware of their academic self-concept, a high academic self-concept has a positive influence on a deep approach.