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Consistency and variability of learning strategies in different university courses

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Abstract

The present study addressed the question of consistency and variability in learning strategies. Four university courses provided different learning contexts. The same group of students reported about their learning strategies by completing identical questionnaires on each of these courses. Participants were 85 students attending the first year of Law studies. A second study consisted of 63 students attending similar courses in the following academic year. An analysis of variance showed that students varied their reported learning strategies as a function of different learning contexts. This indicated a context-specific component in strategy use. Intercorrelations, however, showed that students displayed consistency in reported learning strategies across course contexts as well. This indicated a personal, habitual component in strategy use. It thus seems that the question of variability and consistency in learning strategies does not yield an ‘either-or’, answer. Context variables were explored to explain the variations. Use of stated cases, provision of a clear organisation of subject matter and of diverse didactic resources appeared to diminish encountered problems and lack of regulation (which proved to be related variables), and promote the use of concrete processing, relating, analyzing, self-regulation and externally regulated strategies. Evidence was found that learning strategies differed among each other in the degree of variability. Memorizing turned out to be relatively resistant to differences in course context, whereas concrete processing strategies and lack of regulation showed relatively large susceptibility to course context. Explanations were proposed in terms of different stages in the development of learning strategies and in terms of context-variables.

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Vermetten, Y.J., Lodewijks, H.G. & Vermunt, J.D. Consistency and variability of learning strategies in different university courses. Higher Education 37, 1–21 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1003573727713

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