# Approaches to Study and the Quality of Learning. Some Empirical Evidence from Engineering Education

- 139 Downloads
- 5 Citations

## Abstract

In the late 1990s failure rates in a first-year introductory calculus course at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology reached peak levels. This paper reports on findings from an action research project that was set up in 2002/2003 to improve the situation. The study confirms that students approach their tasks differently which contributes to qualitatively different learning outcomes. Furthermore, patterns of achievement in mathematics and physics in secondary education keep reoccurring in the calculus course, even though the teaching and learning contexts are different. The paper does not provide any definite answer as to why groups of students get involved in distinctly different learning processes, and it will take further research to decide the nature of commitment to the learning tasks. However, inspired by the notion of ‘practices’ this paper raises a discussion about the role of intentionality in learning processes. When doing mathematics, students are also in a process of being engaged in and developing a practice. It is a major challenge for academic staff to contribute to communities of practice that are conducive to learning.

## Keywords

approaches to learning assessment calculus failure rates quality of learning## Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

## References

- Biggs, J. (1999).
*Teaching for quality learning at university*, p. 15. Buckingham, UK: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press. Google Scholar - Biggs, J. (1990). Teaching design for learning. Keynote paper. Brisbane: Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia. (Quote from Gibbs, G. (1992).
*Improving the Quality of Student Learning*. Bristol: Technical and Education Services Ltd.) Google Scholar - Boaler, J. (2002). Exploring the nature of mathematical activity: Using theory, research and ‘working hypotheses’ to broaden conceptions of mathematics knowing.
*Educational Studies in Mathematics*,*1*, 3–21. Google Scholar - Bowden, J. & Marton, F. (1998).
*The university of learning*, p. 61. London: Kogan Page. Google Scholar - Brandau, L. (1990). Rewriting our stories of mathematics. In A. Sterret (Ed.),
*Using writing to teach mathematics*(pp. 73–77). Washington, DC: Mathematical Association of America. Google Scholar - Coxon, E., Jenkins, K., Marshall, J. & Massey, L. (1994).
*The politics of learning and teaching in Aotearoa – New Zealand*. Palmerston North, NZ: Dunmore Press. Google Scholar - Dick, B. (2000). A beginner's guide to action research. http://www.scu.edu.au/schools/gcm/arp/guide.html<09.04.03>
- Doherty, B. J. (1996). The write way: A look at journal writing in first-year algebra.
*Mathematics Teacher*,*89*, 556–560. Google Scholar - Dörfler, W. (2000). Means for meaning. In P. Cobb, E. Yackel & K. McClain (Eds.),
*Symbolizing and communicating in mathematics classrooms. Perspectives on discourse, tools, and instructional design*. Google Scholar - Entwistle, N., Hanley, M. & Hounsell, D. (1979). Identifying distinctive approaches to studying.
*Higher Education*,*8*, 365–380. Google Scholar - Gibbs, G. (1992).
*Improving the quality of student learning*, p. 5. Bristol: Technical and Education Services Ltd. Google Scholar - Glaser, B. G. (2001).
*The grounded theory perspective: Conceptualization contrasted with description*. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press. Google Scholar - Gravemejer, K., Cobb, P., Bowers, J. & Whitenack, J. (2000). Symbolizing, modeling, and instructional design. In P. Cobb, E. Yackel & K. McClain (Eds.),
*Symbolizing and communicating in mathematics classrooms. Perspectives on discourse, tools, and instructional design*. Google Scholar - Guckin, A. M. (1992).
*The role of mathematics informal writing in college mathematics instruction*. Doctoral disssertation, University of Minnesota, 1992.*Dissertation Abstracts International*,*53*, 1435A. Google Scholar - Gynnild, V. (2001).
*Læringsorientert eller eksamensfokusert? Nærstudier av pedagogisk utviklingsarbeid i sivilingeniørstudiet*, p. 378. Trondheim: Department of Education, NTNU. Google Scholar - Harel, G. & Sowder, L. (1998). Students' proof schemes: Results from exploratory studies. In A. H. Schoenfeld, J. Kaput & E. Dubinsky (Eds.),
*Research in collegiate mathematics education III*(pp. 234–283). Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society. Google Scholar - Hiebert, J. & Carpenter, T. (1992). Learning and teaching with understanding. In D. Grouws (Ed.),
*Handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning*(pp. 65–97). New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. Google Scholar - Hiebert, J. & Lefevre, P. (1986). Conceptual and procedural knowledge in mathematics: An introductory analysis. In J. Hiebert (Ed.),
*Conceptual and procedural knowledge: The case of mathematics*(pp. 1–27). Hillsdale, NJ: Laurence Erlbaum Associates. Google Scholar - Lundgren, U. (1972).
*Frame factors and the teaching process. A contribution to curriculum theory and theory on teaching*. Stockholm: Almquist & Wiksell. Google Scholar - Marton, F. (1981). Phenomenography – describing conceptions of the world around us.
*Instructional Science*,*10*, 178. CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Marton, F. & Säljö, R. (1976). On qualitative differences in learning I – outcome and process.
*British Journal of Educational Psychology*,*46*, 4–11. Google Scholar - Marton, F. & Säljö, R. (1984). Approaches to learning. In F. Marton, D. Hounsell & N. J. Entwistle (Eds.),
*The experience of learning*. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press. Google Scholar - McLeod, D. B. (1992). Research on affect in mathematics education: A reconceptualization. In D. A. Grouws (Ed.),
*Handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning*(pp. 576–596). New York: Macmillan. Google Scholar - Mcnair, R. E. (2000). Working in the mathematics frame: Maximising the potential to learn from students' mathematics discussions.
*Educational Studies in Mathematics*,*42*, 197–209. CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Oaks, A. B. (1990).
*Writing to learn mathematics: Why do we need it and why can it help us*? Paper presented at Association of Mathematics Teachers of New York State Conference, November 1990, Ellenville, NY. Google Scholar - Porter, M. K. & Masingila, M. O. (2000). Examining the effects of writing on conceptual and procedural knowledge in calculus.
*Educational Studies in Mathematics*,*42*, 165–177. CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Ramsden, P. (1984). The context of learning. In F. Marton et al. (Eds.),
*The experience of learning*(pp. 144–164). Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press. Google Scholar - Rose, B. J. (1990). Using expressive writing to support mathematics instruction: Benefits for the student, teacher and classroom. In A. Sterret (Ed.),
*Using writing to teach mathematics*(pp. 63–72). Washington, DC: Mathematical Association of America. Google Scholar - Säljö, R. (1975).
*Qualitative differences in learning as a function of the learner's conception of the task*, p. 14 ff (Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis). Google Scholar - Schoenfeld, A. H. (1992). Learning to think mathematically: Problem solving, metacognition, and sense-making in mathematics. In D. A. Grouws (Ed.),
*Handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning*(pp. 334–370). New York: Macmillan. Google Scholar - Schoenfeld, A. H. (1994).
*Mathematical thinking and problem solving*. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers. Google Scholar - Sfard, A. (2000). Symbolising mathematical reality into being – or how mathematical discourse and mathematical objects create each other. In P. Cobb, E. Yackel &K. McClain (Eds.),
*Symbolizing and communicating in mathematics classrooms. Perspectives on discourse, tools, and instructional design*. Google Scholar - Sfard, A. (2001). There is more to discourse than meets the ears: Looking at thinking as communicating to learn more about mathematical learning.
*Educational Studies in Mathematics*,*46*, 13–57. CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Snyder, B. (1971).
*The hidden curriculum*. Cambridge: MIT Press. Google Scholar - Vinner, S. (1997). The pseudo-conceptual and the pseudo-analytical thought processes in mathematics learning.
*Educational Studies in Mathematics*,*34*, 97–129. CrossRefGoogle Scholar - Wenger, E. (1998).
*Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity*. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar - Zuber-Skerrit, O. (2002). The concept of action learning.
*The Learning Organization*,*9*(3), 114–124. Google Scholar