An alienation-based framework for student experience in higher education: new interpretations of past observations in student learning theory
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This article orients a recently proposed alienation-based framework for student learning theory (SLT) to the empirical basis of the approaches to learning perspective. The proposed framework makes new macro-level interpretations of an established micro-level theory, across three levels of interpretation: (1) a context-free psychological state (alienation), (2) a context-bound psychological state (student alienation), and (3) sociological processes from which these psychological states arise. Evidence for the viability of this macro–micro framework is, however, lacking, as is a clear path to seeking such evidence due to the framework’s complexity. The dichotomy of state and process implied by the framework reflects a recognised ‘dual interpretation’ of alienation, by which micro-level experiences are linked to behaviours through mediating macro-level psychological states. We use this dual interpretation together with Seeman’s (Ann Rev Sociol, 1975) six variants of alienation to construct a clear and well-ordered overall framework, and to hypothesize comprehensive explanations for the correlations observed between surface approaches to learning and five dimensions of learning experience emphasized in SLT. These five hypotheses are presented as succinct if…then statements, and assessed according to established qualitative criteria. Overall, the article prepares the way both for empirical verification of what is a complex theoretical structure, and for other future research in this vein.
KeywordsAlienation Approaches to learning Course Experience Questionnaire Part/whole analysis Micro–macro theory
We would like to acknowledge assistance with crafting this article provided by Paul Ramsden, Keith Trigwell, and by an esteemed colleague, scholar and friend, Ray Debus (1931–2014).
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