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Romy Lawson, Della Fazey and John Fazey University of Wales Bangor
Themes: learning and teaching methods
Most studies have found that, at the contextual level (e.g. degree programme) approach to study is stable over time (e.g. Busato, Prins, Elshout and Hamaker, 1998; Fazey, 1999), although Meyer and Scrivener (1995) reported a significant decrease in deep approach scores over a year of study and an increase in variables such as fear of failure and disorganised study. In Fazey's study, deep and strategic scores tended to decrease from beginning to end of a year of study whilst surface approach scores moved in the opposite direction but none of these changes was significant. At the situational level (e.g. a module) the results are possibly less equivocal. Most studies report a decrease in deep approach at the end of the module (e.g. Newstead, 1998; Solominides & Swannell, 1995). Newstead attributed the increase in surface scores as a response to the proximity of formal examination assessments suggesting that approach might change in relation to particular demands within a module such as assessment mode. Fazey & Lawson (2000) conducted a study that was contingent upon the use of a teaching approach that consistently raises expectations that a deep approach to learning is required and uses an assessment methodology that will reward such an approach - in this case a viva voce examination. They found that students taught using this constructively aligned methodology, maintained their deep approach to study and significantly decreased their surface approach at the assessment period of the module.
Fazey & Lawson’ s (2000) results indicate that the interventions were successful in encouraging the maintenance of deep and strategic approaches. Designing teaching methodologies that required students to present their ideas, to explore concepts and relationships, to reconstruct aspects of their knowledge and not to expect that there is ever a final answer to questions or necessarily only one solution to a problem created a positive learning environment.
This present study further explores this concept of constructively aligned approaches to teaching in a variety of subjects, testing the effect of the teaching methodologies and assessments on the students approaches to learning and motivational orientation.