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Relations between teachers' approaches to teaching and students' approaches to learning

Abstract

This paper reports on an empirical study which shows that qualitatively different approaches to teaching are associated with qualitatively different approaches to learning. More specifically, the results indicate that in the classes where teachers describe their approach to teaching as having a focus on what they do and on transmitting knowledge, students are more likely to report that they adopt a surface approach to the learning of that subject. Conversely, but less strongly, in the classes where students report adopting significantly deeper approaches to learning, teaching staff report adopting approaches to teaching that are more oriented towards students and to changing the students conceptions. The study made use of a teaching approach inventory derived from interviews with academic staff, and a modified approach to learning questionnaire. These conclusions are derived from a factor and cluster analysis of 48 classes (involving 46 science teachers and 3956 science students) in Australian universities. The results complete a chain of relations from teacher thinking to the outcomes of student learning. Previous studies have shown relations between teachers' conceptions of teaching and learning and their approaches to teaching. Numerous studies have shown correlations between students' deeper approaches to learning and higher quality learning outcomes. The results reported here link these two sets of studies. They also highlight the importance, in attempts to improve the quality of student learning, of discouraging teacher-focused transmission teaching and encouraging higher quality, conceptual change/student-focused approaches to teaching.

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Trigwell, K., Prosser, M. & Waterhouse, F. Relations between teachers' approaches to teaching and students' approaches to learning. Higher Education 37, 57–70 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1003548313194

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Keywords

  • Cluster Analysis
  • Empirical Study
  • Science Teacher
  • Student Learning
  • Learning Outcome