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Good teaching, freedom in learning, and staff openness to students are the defining characteristics of this evaluative dimension, with social climate and light workload playing lesser parts. The inventory and course perceptions questionnaire are quantitative research instruments, but this does not mean that their use violates the assumptions of the perspective adopted in this book. Our research strategy deliberately used an alternation of qualitative and quantitative methods. The inventory of approaches to studying and the course perceptions questionnaire were administered to 2208 students in 66 departments.

The disciplines included were physics, engineering, econo- mics, psychology, English and history. The two main study orientations (meaning and reproducing) could be identified in all the subject areas. Departments which were perceived to provide good teaching (and particularly help with studying) combined with freedom in learning (choice of study method and content) were more likely to have students reporting an orientation towards meaning. Reproducing orienta- tions were more commonly found in the departments perceived to combine a heavy workload with a lack of choice over content and method. Just as students in the Lancaster interview study described relationships between effective teaching and positive attitudes to studying a topic, so the students in the survey who were working in departments that were evaluated highly were more likely to report involvement with their work. In contrast the students in the negatively evaluated departments were more likely to report cynical and disenchanted attitudes to higher education. Marton and Sttljd (1976b) had showed that surface approaches to learning were relatively easy to induce in students, while deep approaches were difficult to encourage (Chapter 3). Just as we would expect from these findings, the survey analyses revealed that it was much easier to predict which departments would score highly on reproducing orientation than on meaning orientation.

In other words, some departments seem to induce Surface approaches in a direct way. Other departments appear to provide Contexts within which students find it easier to develop an interest in the Subject matter and to use approaches aimed at understanding.

The Influence is, however, less easy to predict, depending presumably more OH the individual students. As we shall see in the next chapter, students differ greatly in what they want to achieve from their studying.

The findings have some significant implications for teaching in higher education.

In these results are the beginnings of a model of student learning in context. The relationships are complex but should be recognizable to both teachers and students.

Previous research had shown clear links between inappropri- ate and excessive assessment demands and surface approaches. This effect is confirmed by the data from the departments in the survey. However it now also seems clear that some departments provide a context which facilitates the development of a meaning orientation. Further study of the detailed differences between these different types of best essay websites department should reveal how changes in teaching and assessment procedures might discourage a reproducing orientation and allow deep approaches to emerge. Thus interest and commitment to a subject area can be fostered by certain experiences best essay websites of teaching and by perceived freedom in learning, and intrinsic interest is fundamentally related to a deep approach.

Inadequate previous know- ledge of a topic, itself partly a consequence of inadequacies in teaching, and the anxiety best essay websites created by insensitive teaching or an overdemanding syllabus, push students towards a surface approach, as a coping ploy. This model is complicated by the need to consider subject area differences. The disturbing implication of this part of the research is that at least some students may be handicapped in the development and use of both operation and comprehension learning styles by the dominant culture of the discipline in which they are being trained.

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This is not a question of whether one style of learning is objectively more appropriate to some inherent characteristics of the subject-matter, but rather of how the tasks set in an undergraduate arts or science course may be biased towards the use of one or the other style.

Scientific thinking does indeed involve much attention to details, logical analysis, and strict adherence to procedures, but it also requires students to interpret data in relation to their own experience. If the perceived context of learning overemphasizes one style, then students may develop inadequate approaches to learning.

These arguments suggest that greater variety in learning tasks, and in forms of teaching, would probably be beneficial to students in all subject areas.

As we have already seen, freedom in learning is valued by students in all subject areas and is related to deep approaches to learning. Freedom of choice, however, should be complemented by a provision of clear frameworks within which that choice is exercised. Unstructured freedom is unlikely to develop versatile learning skills. The single most important message to emerge from these research findings is that intense effort must be made in course planning, and in the setting of assessment questions, to avoid presenting a learning context which is perceived by students to require, or reward, surface approaches. It is useless, for example, simply to tell students that verbatim reproduction of information in an examination is wrong, to expect this warning to discourage surface approaches, and to blame the students when it does not. If students feel that there is insufficient time to study the examined topics properly (perhaps because of the demands of other courses), or if they have experienced inadequate teaching, or if they are given high marks for reproducing lecture notes, or if their previous knowledge within the area is insufficiently developed, then they will feel constrained to use surface approaches. Only by studying the internal relationships between how students perceive course demands and how they approach studying can the complexity, and apparent paradoxes, in student learning be understood. In the last analysis, these two facets of staff development are inseparable. Our attention should be on the quality of learning, not simply on how to improve the techniques of teaching. Different students want different things from higher education and respond differently to similarly perceived conditions. Some cope better than others with adverse assessment and teaching conditions, and only part of the variation in the quality of learning is explained by contexual influences. But it would be a mistake to try to force a dichotomy between student characteristics and context in understanding how students learn.

This leads to the last implication of the results to be best essay websites discussed here. Lecturers in higher education can do much to help their students improve their approaches to learning. There are compelling arguments for trying best essay websites to change this attitude. Not the least powerful of these arguments derives from the results of the research reported here. Students see help with approaches to studying to be an essential part of good teaching. At the same time, staff would find that their involvement in such programmes would increase their own awareness of the effects of teaching and assessment on their students and so help to make them more effective teachers.

Acknowledgements The research reported here was supported by a grant from the Social Science Research Council (now the Economic and Social Research Council).

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