Essay on social service
In moving from one focus to the other there is also an important shift in research paradigm which is of particular significance in understanding the studies reported in subsequent chapters. This paradigm shift is thus presented as a separate section. Selection and prediction studies Educational research has provided a great deal of evidence about the factors associated with student learning. To what essay on social service extent could degree class be predicted from measurements made during the first year of studying?
Following the American experience, studies in Britain examined the value of tests of academic aptitude. In both Scotland (Powell, 1973) and England (Choppin et al. What other factors might explain the very different levels of academic performance among students?
Different forms of motivation were described in an earlier section, essay on social service and have been used in many of these studies. The first three groups all achieved above average degree results, while the last group did very badly indeed. Perhaps the best-known inventory of study habits and attitudes was devised by Brown and Holtzman (1966) who reported correlations of over 0. Work on study habits indicates, above all, that organized study methods and promptness in completing assigned work are associated with high grades, which comes as no surprise. These results do, however, imply that it is possible to generalize about effective study methods. Yet in several studies systematic study methods (of whatever system) have been shown to be related to academic success. Their comments suggested a transfer of blame for their poor perform- ance.
They tended to be critical of facilities, mentioning too much chatter, over-crowding, or scarcity of books. Presumably better-organized students modify their study strategies to overcome any defects in the academic environment and so maintain a more positive attitude to their studies. It has provided a rationale for providing advice for students on effective study skills, but the plethora of handbooks on the subject has had little, if any, effect.
Why has this substantial body of research made such little impact on practice? Perhaps the most striking deficiency is that it failed in its main intention. Its purpose was to explain academic performance in terms of factors related to success and failure. Explanation was based on prediction, explored mainly through correlational analyses. It asked which characteristics of students were consistently related to high levels of academic performance. Some consistent correlations were reported successful students were found to be intellectually more able, more highly motivated, and better organized. But such findings, while seeming obvious, paradoxically were supported by unconvincingly low levels of correlation. Not only are such findings too general to be useful and too obvious to provide new insights, but they also remain firmly rooted in an external view of the student — the perspective of educational psycholog- ists. These researchers continued — as the lecturers had — implicitly or explicitly to blame the students for low levels of academic attainment. Thus failure is explained away as the result of low ability or lack of organization or application. They took little cognizance of the existence of individual differences in the processes of studying, nor of the complex educational and social context within which learning takes place.
More recent quantitative research has examined the processes of learning, but as this research has made use of concepts derived from the qualitative studies reported in Chapter 3 of this book, further discussion of this work will be introduced at a much later stage (Chapter 9).
A reversal of perspective provides an immediate, if uncomfort- able, insight for the lecturer. While university lecturers are undoubtedly knowledgeable, they are totally untrained and unexamined in the art of communication. The completely incorrect assumption is that anyone with a good degree will automatically be able to impart this knowledge to others. It assigns blame for a poor academic performance solely to the student without asking how the student came to lose interest.
Finally, it ignores the responsibilities of the institution and the teacher for the outcomes of learning. The new research paradigm switches perspective and so provides insights for the teacher which are not only firmly rooted in real-life situations in higher education, essay on social service but are also more illuminating. They present a description of student learning from an unusual perspective — that of the student. This new approach to educational research was introduced into the British literature in an influential paper by Parlett and Hamilton (1972), but was anticipated in part by the arguments of Bantock (1961). Parlett and Hamilton criticized what they termed the agricultural-botanical experimental paradigm in educational research, in which research designs incorporated a belief that students react to contrasting educational treatments as consistently as plants react to fertilizers. They contrasted the traditional research paradigm with the procedures used by social anthropologists, who observe and question people in different cultures in an attempt empathetically to understand their customs and beliefs.
The more general approach — investigating any educational situation from within — is the alternative paradigm which is used almost exclusively in the studies reported in the following chapters. But they have important similarities, which will be introduced in the next section. They also have an affinity to two well-known studies carried out in the United States by Howard Becker and his colleagues (1968) and by William Perry (1970). Their approach was very much that of the social anthropologist who takes detailed field-notes of the information provided and observations made.
Their analyses involved reading and re-reading their field-notes and also lengthy discussions among the research team to establish their main conclusions. They illustrated their findings through the use of comments made by students which had been selected as typical of a generally expressed view. Clearly whatever lecturers believe they are aiming at, the assessment pressures push students towards instrumental ways of studying. Strong resentment is felt by some students who expect the experience of university education to be stimulating and liberating, and who find in contrast syllabuses and assessment procedures to be restricting and stultifying. Comments on academic work tended to be too general to give any clear impression of the extent to which students might still be developing critical thinking and independent insights, in spite of the apparent strength of assessment constraints.