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Högskolestudenters lärande: Ett lärstrategiskt perspektiv på studier i psykologi
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0773-9687
2017 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
Learning in higher education : Approaches to learning among psychology students (English)
Abstract [en]

University students’ approaches to learning influence academic achievement and qualities in learning outcomes. Approaches to learning develop in a process where student factors interact with factors of the learning context. Students’ subjective perceptions of their learning environment seem to be crucial.

This thesis draws on an established research stand in aiming to contribute to a deeper understanding of how students adapt their approaches to learning to perceived contextual factors in a specific learning context. In three studies, conceptions for development and variation of approaches to learning among psychology students at a Swedish university are examined.

Study I examined how approaches to learning vary with expected and final course grades, and student abilities to predict academic achievement (N = 189). Overall, students had low self-assessment skills, with students adopting surface approach to learning having the poorest skills. Students adopting a strategic approach to learning achieved high grades, while students adopting a surface approach to learning had poorer performances. Students adopting a deep approach to learning expected high grades but the exam did not favour a deep approach.

Study II aimed at describing similarities in factors that psychology students themselves, despite them adopting different approaches to learning, considered influenced their studying activities. A selective student sample described their studying activities in repeated interviews (N = 11, N = 7). The development of approaches to learning was described as a negotiation where different aspects of learning were related to each other. The students described a common set of reference points: 1) previous studying activities, 2) course recommendations, 3) learning outcomes, 4) assessment demands, and 5) estimated effort. Despite great variation in students’ tendencies to adapt approaches to learning, the adaption process resulted in a gradual homogenization of studying activities.

Study III examined whether minor variations in parallel learning contexts would give rise to differences in students’ regulation of approaches to learning and whether tendencies to vary differed between students with different approaches to learning (N = 195). All approaches to learning varied between learning contexts, but the strategic approach to learning varied less than surface and deep approaches. Students with a low surface, a high deep or a high strategic approach to learning varied most, while students with a high surface, a low deep or a low strategic approach to learning were more stable.

The results show that approaches to learning among psychology students seem to develop in a process of negotiation where different aspects of learning are interrelated. For strategic reasons, examinations seem to drive students towards a surface approach to learning. Students’ shared interpretations of factors of the learning context seem to result in a gradual homogenisation of studying activities, despite different students showing different tendencies to adapt their approaches to learning to a specific learning context. A strategic approach seems optimal for academic achievement. In summary, this thesis shows how fine-grained studies can contribute to a deeper understanding of the context specific development of students’ approaches to learning.

Abstract [sv]

Högskolestudenters lärstrategier inverkar på deras akademiska prestation och utvecklandet av olika kvaliteter i lärandet. Lärstrategier formas i en process där personfaktorer hos studenterna samspelar med lärkontextuella faktorer. Studenternas subjektiva föreställningar om lärmiljön tycks vara av avgörande betydelse.

Avhandlingens syfte är att utifrån en etablerad forskningstradition bidra till en djupare förståelse av hur studenter anpassar sina lärstrategier till sina föreställningar om lärmiljön i en avgränsad lärkontext. I tre delstudier utforskas förutsättningar för lärstrategiers utveckling och variation hos psykologistudenter på ett svenskt universitet.

I studie I undersöktes hur lärstrategier varierar med förväntningar på examinationsresultat, akademisk prestation och förmåga att predicera tentamensresultat (N = 189). Psykologistudenterna hade generellt svårt att göra en korrekt prediktion av sitt tentamensresultat. Det var allra svårast för studenter med ytinriktad lärstrategi. I enlighet med studenternas egna förväntningar uppnådde strategiskt inriktade studenter högre betyg, medan studenter med ytinriktad lärstrategi presterade sämre. Djupinriktade studenter förväntade sig att prestera väl men tentamen tycktes inte gynna en djupinriktad lärstrategi.

Studie II avsåg kartlägga vilka faktorer psykologistudenterna själva ansåg påverkade deras sätt att ta sig an sina studier, med målet att presentera likheter hos studenter som anammar olika lärstrategier. Ett urval av studenter beskrev sina studieaktiviteter i upprepade intervjuer (N = 11, N = 7). Formandet av lärstrategier beskrevs som en slags förhandling där olika aspekter av lärandet relaterades till varandra. Studenterna lyfte fram fem referenspunkter: 1) deras upplevelse av tidigare studieerfarenheter, 2) kursrekommendationer, 3) lärande, 4) examinationskrav, och 5) uppskattad arbetsinsats. Trots stor variation i studenternas benägenhet att anpassa sina lärstrategier till lärmiljön ledde anpassningsprocessen till en successiv homogenisering av studieaktiviteter.

Studie III undersökte om även mindre variationer i parallella lärmiljöer kunde ge upphov till skillnader i studenters reglering av lärstrategier och om tendenser att variera skiljde sig mellan studenter med olika lärstrategier (N = 195). Samtliga lärstrategier visade sig variera mellan lärkontexter, men strategiskt inriktad lärstrategi varierade i mindre grad än ytinriktad och djupinriktad lärstrategi. Studenter med låg ytinriktad, hög djupinriktad eller hög strategiskt inriktad lärstrategi uppvisade störst variation, medan studenter med hög ytinriktad, låg djupinriktad eller låg strategiskt inriktad lärstrategi var mer stabila.

Resultaten visar att psykologistudenters lärstrategier verkar utvecklas i en process där de relaterar olika aspekter av lärandet till varandra i en slags förhandling. Av strategiska skäl driver examinationer studenterna mot en ytinriktad lärstrategi. En gemensam tolkning av faktorer i lärmiljön tycks resultera i att studenters studieaktiviteter successivt homogeniseras, trots att olika studenter visar olika benägenhet att anpassa sina lärstrategier till en specifik lärkontext. En strategiskt inriktad lärstrategi förefaller optimal för akademisk prestation. Sammanfattningsvis visar avhandlingen på hur kontextnära studier kan bidra till en förståelse av lärstrategiers utveckling.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Psykologiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet , 2017. , 87 p.
Keyword [en]
approaches to learning, psychology, higher education, student perspective
Keyword [sv]
lärstrategier, psykologi, högre utbildning, studentperspektiv
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-145455ISBN: 978-91-7649-891-0 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7649-892-7 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-145455DiVA: diva2:1129788
Public defence
2017-09-22, David Magnussonsalen (U31), Frescati Hagväg 8, Stockholm, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

Avhandlingen är finansierad av Samhällsvetenskapliga fakulteten vid Stockholms universitet. Professor Petra Lindfors beviljades medel till en doktorandtjänst inom ramen för en strategisk ämnesdidaktisk satsning.

Vid disputationen var studie I och studie II inskickade till tidskrift men ännu inte publicerade.

Available from: 2017-08-30 Created: 2017-08-07 Last updated: 2017-08-21Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. First-semester students' capacity to predict academic achievement as related to approaches to learning
Open this publication in new window or tab >>First-semester students' capacity to predict academic achievement as related to approaches to learning
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

While expecting high grades is important for achieving high grades, previous research suggests that students’ ways of approaching their studies relate to academic outcomes. Focusing on first-semester students being new to a discipline, this study investigated how approaches to learning and expectations were related to expected and final academic outcomes within an educational setting. Before a written examination, psychology students (N = 189) completed the 52-item version of ASSIST and estimated course grades. Later, final grades were added. Results showed that 18 per cent of the students provided perfect ratings of their final grades while most underestimated their grades. A surface approach was associated with expecting lower grades while the strategic and deep approaches were associated with expecting better grades. Both surface and high strategic approaches were associated with better final grades while there was no statistically significant association for the deep approach. Taken together, students being new to a discipline have difficulties estimating their grades. Overall students reporting either a surface or strategic approach achieved the grades they expected. For the deep approach, there was no such association. To conclude, the variations between approaches probably relate to the discipline being new and to the examination favoring a strategic approach.

Keyword
higher education, academic achievement, psychology, study approaches
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-145450 (URN)
Available from: 2017-08-07 Created: 2017-08-07 Last updated: 2017-08-10Bibliographically approved
2. Targeting efficient studying ­­– first-semester psychology students’ experiences
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Targeting efficient studying ­­– first-semester psychology students’ experiences
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Background: Previous research indicates that critical student features, such as approaches to learning and decisions of how to organise studying activities, develops in bi-directional interactions between personal and learning environmental factors. However, attempts to influence students’ studying activities in certain directions by manipulating the learning environment often prove unsuccessful. A deeper analysis of the student perspective is needed, since students’ subjective perceptions of the learning environment to a great extent will influence their individual ways of going about studying and learning.  In particular, we need to clarify which aspects steer students’ towards focusing on certain studying activities in a particular course context.

Purpose: This study aimed at elaborating the student perspective of the process of selection of studying activities by searching for similarities in references to factors perceived as guiding this process among students representing very different combinations of approaches to learning.

Sample, design and methods: Students’ approaches to learning were evaluated with the Approaches and Study Skills Inventory for Students (ASSIST) in two successive psychology introductory courses (N=261). A random (N=5) and a purposive (N=6) student sample was then selected and interviewed. Seven of the students also took part in follow-up interviews six months later. The qualitative analysis aimed at mapping and extracting similarities in students’ perceptions of and dealing with the selection of studying activities.

Results: Despite great differences in students’ approaches to learning and reported actual studying activities, all students interviewed referred to a common set of reference points perceived as guiding their ways of studying, i.e. their perception of 1) previous studying experiences, 2) course recommendations, 3) learning outcomes, 4) assessment demands, and 5) time and effort spent on studying.

Conclusions: Students’ selections of studying activities are suggested to be seen as a process of negotiation based on input from certain reference points. In the course context under study the targeting process resulted in a general homogenization of studying activities and permitted students to feel they were studying efficiently. Although possible generalization of the results remains to be investigated, it is suggested that understanding students’ perceptions of reference points and general understanding of the targeting process could contribute to a better grasp of how student factors, course contexts, and students’ perceptions of these, interact.

Keyword
approaches to learning, studying activities, student perspective, psychology student, target understanding
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-145452 (URN)
Available from: 2017-08-07 Created: 2017-08-07 Last updated: 2017-08-10Bibliographically approved
3. Students' adoption of course-specific approaches to learning in two parallel courses
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Students' adoption of course-specific approaches to learning in two parallel courses
2016 (English)In: European Journal of Psychology of Education, ISSN 0256-2928, E-ISSN 1878-5174, Vol. 31, no 2, 209-223 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Research on students' adoption of course-specific approaches to learning in parallel courses is limited and inconsistent. This study investigated second-semester psychology students' levels of deep, surface and strategic approaches in two courses running in parallel within a real-life university setting. The results showed significant differences in course-specific adoption regardless of approach. However, the strategic approach seemed more stable. Sub-groups of students exhibited substantial variation: more than half of the students adopted similar approaches in both courses while large minorities showed great variability. Students scoring low on the surface approach, high on the deep approach or high on the strategic approach to learning were flexible in adopting different parallel approaches. However, students scoring high on the surface approach, low on the deep approach or low on the strategic approach seemed stable across contexts. This suggests that even smaller variations in teaching and learning environments can influence students' approaches to learning.

Keyword
Approaches to learning, Student variation, Swedish psychology students, Higher education
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-129915 (URN)10.1007/s10212-015-0256-7 (DOI)000372279000007 ()
Available from: 2016-05-03 Created: 2016-05-03 Last updated: 2017-08-10Bibliographically approved

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