Kristofer Modig

  • Students’ micro cultures determine the quality of teaching

    Kristofer Modig and Torgny Roxå, Lund University

    Research seminar

    Themes: course and programme design, graduate outcomes, diversity and inclusivity, supporting learners, faculty development methods and/or strategies

    Wednesday 9 September 2009, 09.00 - 10.00 in room 121

    Students with a deep approach (Marton & Booth, 1997) to learning have a more complex understanding of the purpose of teaching than do students with a surface approach (Campbell et al., 2001). Further, university students form networks with fellow students where they support each other to adopt different study strategies (Eggens et al., 2008). These networks are related to success during studies. In this conceptual paper we will discuss the existence and implications of micro-cultures within the student group, where construction of meaning in relation to teaching can be more or less productive. Cultural effects on student learning have also been discussed by Houtte (2004) and Marshall (2007). Marsh (2007) however, does not mention cultural effects in his extensive survey of research on student evaluations of teaching. Nor do Carini et al. (2006) while testing the linkage between the national survey of student engagement (NSSE) and desirable learning outcomes.

    Hypothesis: Student learning is, at least partially, determined by relatively stable cultures within the student body. These cultures influence the outcome of university teaching, as measured by student learning outcomes.

    At Lund University Faculty of Engineering (LTH), the Course Experience Questionnaire (CEQ) (Ramsden, 2005) is distributed to every student completing a module of his or her five-year programme. The CEQ-data is then complemented with completion-data and free-text comments from students. The responsible teacher, the programme director, and student representatives next discuss this preliminary report. Each of the three parties summarises the discussion separately. The final report (the summaries together with the data from the preliminary report) is published on the intranet and e-mailed to participating students. The system has been in place since 2003. Today 2550 final reports compiled from 83 992 CEQ-forms are published on the LTH intranet. They form the data source for this study.

    The programme that the students belong to determines, to a large extent, the CEQ-outcomes (Björnsson et al., 2009). In a comparison among four factors possibly influencing results on scales like overall satisfaction, relevance, feedback from teachers, teacher enthusiasm, clear goals, problem solving, and ability to work in groups, the programme was by far the most important determinant of the total variance in the scales (three times larger then the sum of the others). This appears to be true even if students are taught together with students from other programmes.

    The results show that in modular programmes students respond consistently and stable as a programme-group to the CEQ. This supports the hypothesis that student cultures are present and that they influence the students’ responses to teaching. Individual students can be more or less dependent on the micro-culture to which they belong. This will influence the outcome of student learning and, at least partially, the outcome of the teaching offered by an institution and its teachers. In a modular programme these cultures are constructed before students enter a specific module. A further understanding of culture and micro-cultures among students could enhance our understanding of how teaching, and other support measures, can influence students to adopt productive approaches to learning during their years in higher education.


    • Björnsson, L., Dahlbom, M., Modig, K. & Sjöberg, A. (2009) Kursvärderingssystemet vid LTH: uppfylls avsedda syften?Inspirationskursen vid LTH (Lund, LTH).
    • Campbell, J., Smith, D., Boulton-Lewis, G., Brownlee, J., Burnett, P.C., Carrington, S. & Purdie, N. (2001) Students’ Perceptions of Teaching and Learning: the influence of students’ approaches to learning and teachers’ approaches to teaching, Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, 7(2), pp. 173 - 187.
    • Carini, R., Kuh, G. & Klein, S. (2006) Student Engagement and Student Learning: Testing the Linkages, Research in Higher Education, 47(1), pp. 1 - 32.
    • Eggens, L., van der Werf, M. & Bosker, R. (2008) The influence of personal networks and social support on study attainment of students in university education Higher Education, 55(5), pp. 553 – 573.
    • Houtte, M.V. (2004) Why boys achieve less at school than girls: the difference between boys' and girls' academic culture., Educational Studies, 30(2), pp. 159 -173.
    • Marsh, H.W. (2007) Students' evaluations of university teaching: dimensionality, reliability, validity, potential biases and usefulness, in: R.P. Perry & J.C. Smart (Eds) The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education: An Evidence-Based Perspective Springer.
    • Marshall, G. (2007) Real Teaching and Real Learning vs Narrative Myths about Education Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 6(1), pp. 7 -27.
      Marton, F. & Booth, S. (1997) Learning and Awareness (New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.).
    • Ramsden, P. (2005) Learning to Teach in Higher Education (London, RoutledgeFalmer).