Anton Havnes

  • Student involvement in professional education in Norway

    Anton Havnes, Oslo University College

    Research seminar

    Themes: learning environments

    Background

    In the present policy on higher education in Norway, a central element is to improve the quality and efficiency in higher education, and the goal is formulated that “students should succeed in their studies”. Policy measures are:

    • degree reform according to the Bologna declaration,
    • increased focus on teaching and the supervision of students
    • changes the system of assessment with a particular focus on portfolio assessment.
    • diverse measures to increase the study efforts among students, both time on task and quality of time spent on learning.

    The aim of this paper is to examine the study efforts and the study strategies among students in professional education at the University College of Oslo, the largest institution for professional education in fields like teacher training, social work, nursing and engineering.

    Topic

    Student learning can be described as a process of knowledge construction, in which student participation in various learning activities is essential. Improving learning implies improving the students’ participation in learning activities – in quantity and quality. Our main research question for our paper is: How is study effort and study strategies of students affected by characteristics like

    • gender and social background
    • student approaches to studying
    • structural characteristics of the study programme?

    Analytical approach

    Our main starting point is that student learning is strongly related to the students’ own study effort and study strategy. Study efforts here refers to time spent on education. Study strategy refers to characteristics of how students participate in the educational activities. Study effort and study strategies is regarded as as result of individual characteristics interacting with structural aspects of the study programme and the institutional context. Our analytical approach addresses learning at a point where cognitive and situative perspectives meet.

    The importance of students taking an active part and involving themselves in their study is underlined by several authors (Astin 1985, Tinto 1997). Knowledge is developed through the students’ own activity and the approaches to learning (Marton, Hounsell and Entwistle 1984), and how students assess the requirements set by the study programme (Biggs 1993). Others emphasise that the pedagogical surroundings not only give a feedback to the student and his or her activities, but also that learning has a social character and must be regarded as individualisation of affordances of the ambient learning context (Engeström 1987, Lave 1988, Lave and Wenger 1991, Cole 1996, Havnes 1997).

    Data and methodology

    The paper is based on a survey among students in their final year of professional education in 2001. As the result variable in this paper, we will use a combination of study effort and study strategies, especially along the dimension of learning autonomy. In a previous study (Dæhlen and Havnes 2003, Aamodt 2003), we focused on means. In this paper, we compare students belonging to the extreme groups according to study hours and degree of autonomy (e.g. the 25 scoring highest and lowest). To analyse this, we use a combination of table and figure presentation as well as regression techniques.