Research in Higher Education

, Volume 49, Issue 6, pp 469–494 | Cite as

The Effects of Discipline on Deep Approaches to Student Learning and College Outcomes

  • Thomas F. Nelson LairdEmail author
  • Rick Shoup
  • George D. Kuh
  • Michael J. Schwarz


“Deep learning” represents student engagement in approaches to learning that emphasize integration, synthesis, and reflection. Because learning is a shared responsibility between students and faculty, it is important to determine whether faculty members emphasize deep approaches to learning and to assess how much students employ these approaches. This study examines the effect of discipline on student use of and faculty members’ emphasis on deep approaches to learning as well as on the relationships between deep approaches to learning and selected educational outcomes. Using data from over 80,000 seniors and 10,000 faculty members we found that deep approaches to learning were more prevalent in Biglan’s soft, pure, and life fields compared to their counterparts. The differences were largest between soft and hard fields. We also found that seniors who engage more frequently in deep learning behaviors report greater educational gains, higher grades, and greater satisfaction with college, and that the strength of these relationships is relatively consistent across disciplinary categories.


Deep learning Discipline College seniors Faculty 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas F. Nelson Laird
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rick Shoup
    • 1
  • George D. Kuh
    • 1
  • Michael J. Schwarz
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for Postsecondary ResearchIndiana University BloomingtonBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.Las Positas CollegeLivermoreUSA

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