• Improving Student Learning Theory and Practice - 10 Years on

    Title: Evoked conceptions of learning and learning environments

    Author(s): Keith Trigwell and Paul Ashwin
    Institution: University of Oxford
    Session: Research seminar  

    Biggs' 3P model of student learning (Biggs, 1999) describes relations between presage variables such as students' conceptions of learning, and process (approaches to learning) and product (outcomes of learning) variables from a systems perspective. Empirical research in support of these theoretical relations has been reported, and helps explain some of the variation in learning outcomes. An alternate view of the relations between these variables is a relational view that builds on the ideas of situated-ness and the anatomy of awareness (Prosser and Trigwell, 1999). When seen from this relational student learning research perspective, it is not so much conceptions of learning per se but those conceptions that are evoked by the students' experience of their unique learning situation, that are more likely to be strongly related to students' approaches to learning, perceptions of their learning environment and learning outcome. An evoked conception of learning is one that students adopt in response to their perceived learning context. It may not be the same conception as expressed by students in interviews or inventories on their conceptions of learning: if students perceive a situation requires it, a less sophisticated conception may be evoked. This paper describes a study designed to explore the idea of evoked conceptions of learning, and the relations between these aspects of students' awareness, their awareness of other environmental variables, and learning outcomes.

    A questionnaire containing standard items on approaches to learning, perceptions of the learning environment (Prosser and Trigwell, 1999), and anticipated learning outcomes was sent to all students in one college at the University of Oxford. The questionnaire also included ten new items that were designed to capture students' evoked conceptions of learning. A total of 130 completed copies (35 percent) were returned. While this return percentage is low, it is the number of returns that is significant (and sufficient) for the study being reported here, which aimed to explore variation between individual student's structures of awareness of aspects of their learning environment. This comparison is achieved using a hierarchical (Wards' Method) cluster analysis, which groups students who report similar patterns of relations between variables. The results show that when students perceived the learning environment as being more supportive of learning, they are more likely to describe an evoked conception of learning that is more closely aligned with those promoted by the University. They also had higher scores on the deep approach to learning scale, lower scores on the surface approach scale, and expected to gain a higher degree classification.

    The embryonic evoked conceptions of learning scale has the potential to be a robust and efficient measure, capable of capturing the situated-ness of learning conceptions. This paper will present the details associated with the development of this scale, and the results showing the important relations between conceptions of learning and learning outcomes.

    Biggs, J. (1999). Teaching for Quality Learning at University. SRHE and Open University Press: Buckingham.

    Prosser, M. and Trigwell, K. (1999). Understanding Learning and Teaching: The experience in higher education. SRHE and Open University Press: Buckingham.