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Title: Creating an effective learning environment in higher education
Author: Lawson, Romy
ISNI:       0000 0004 2687 235X
Awarding Body: Prifysgol Bangor University
Current Institution: Bangor University
Date of Award: 2009
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Higher Education (HE) has changed over the last 40 years, from providing higher level learning for the elite to a provision of education for the wider population. These changes must be accompanied by a consideration of how teaching can promote effective learning in HE with the changed population of students. The aim of this thesis is to examine factors that affect students' learning in HE, and consider how the teaching approaches of university lecturers can facilitate learning at a higher level. Biggs' (1999) 3P model is used as a starting point to examine the different aspects of teaching and learning. Student factors (for example, approaches to learning, concepts of ability, motivational orientation), the teaching context (for example, the type of assessment, the extent to which teaching is constructively aligned), and the training of lecturers in HE are all considered within the thesis. The work informs educationalists and policymakers who are concerned about effective teaching and learning in HE. Chapter One is a review of literature, looking at current issues within HE in the UK and exploring theories and models that inform teaching and learning. It provides the base for the current research examining the main concepts: constructive alignment (Biggs, 1999), practice and variation (Fazey and Marton, 2002), and the four conditions of learning (Bransford, Brown and Cocking, 2000). Chapter Two is a detailed description of the instruments and methods utilized in the studies, and an examination of the rationale, the procedure, and the scoring for each of the instruments. Chapters Three through Six report the studies for this thesis. Chapter Three discusses a study that examines the effect of a particular teaching approach, utilizing an oral examination final assessment, on students' approaches to learning and motivational orientation. By emphasising an assessment methodology that required a deep approach to learning, first year students were predominantly intrinsically motivated, and maintained their level of deep approach to learning throughout the module. Previous literature had found decreases in deep approaches to learning when assessment took place. Chapter Four investigated how students' concepts of ability (i. e. a fixed or incremental concept) affected other psychological variables associated with learning. Its findings support the work of Dweck and colleagues (1995; 1998; 1999), with relationships established between concepts of ability and motivational orientation with approaches to learning. A high incremental concept of ability score was significantly and positively related to intrinsic motivation and to a deep approach to learning. However, these relationships were not strong, and no relationship was found with concepts of ability and perceptions of competence, as was hypothesised. In Chapter Five, constructive alignment was examined in a variety of teaching settings. Of interest was the extent to which a strongly-aligned teaching approach that fosters deep approaches to learning had an impact on students' approaches to learning and motivation. Two studies are reported. Both consider how strongly the teaching methodology, assessment, and learning outcomes align, and how well these fostered a deep approach to learning. The first study, with modules classified as being strongly aligned and fostering deep approaches to learning, had students who scored significantly higher on deeper approaches to learning and intrinsic motivation than those in modules with low alignment that emphasised a surface approach. In the second study, changes over time in student factors, related to teaching approach and alignment, were recorded. In Chapter Six, two studies are reported. The first measured, across a course for teachers in HE, teachers' approaches to teaching and beliefs about learning teachers' subject areas. After a three-day induction, the participants significantly increased their scores for a personal epistemology that recognizes justification of knowledge, and a teaching approach that encourages conceptual change in a student-centred environment. The second part of this chapter investigated the impact these lecturers' perspectives had on their students' learning. Strong positive relationships were found between the teachers' and students' personal epistemologies, and also with the approach to teaching that fostered conceptual change. Students scored higher on a deep approach to learning when their teachers had a conceptual change approach. Chapter Seven presents the overall discussion of the most significant findings, and the implications of these findings for educational practitioners and policy-makers. Future research questions and issues that arise from the findings are also highlighted.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available