Although student-centred learning environments inspired by the constructivist learning theory are expected to enhance the adoption of deep approaches to learning aiming at understanding (Lea, Stephenson, & Troy, 2003), previous research revealed inconsistent results. The dissertation of Struyven (2005), of which the present dissertation is a follow-up study, revealed problems associated with student-centred learning environments, for instance a lack of structure. Therefore, the suggestion has been made to include lectures in student-centred learning environments (Mayer, 2004) in order to provide structuring support. The purpose of the dissertation is to investigate the effects of these mixed learning environments on students’ approaches to learning, motivation and achievement, as well as on their perceptions of the learning environment.
The dissertation includes five chapters. Chapter 1 consists of a narrative review outlining encouraging and discouraging factors (in the context, perceived context, and student) that may explain why student-centred learning environments do not always succeed in stimulating the adoption of deep approaches to learning. Chapter 2 investigates dynamics in students’ approaches to learning in a mixed learning environment consisting of constructivist design principles, lectures and portfolio-assessment. 138 first-year professional bachelor’s degree students in office management taking a course on intercultural communication and training participated in a pretest/posttest design. Chapters 3/4/5 are based on a large scale quasi-experimental study. 1098 first-year professional bachelor’s degree students in teacher education taking a course on child development participated in one of four learning environments: 1) lectures, 2) case-based learning (CBL), 3) alternation of lectures and CBL, and 4) a gradual transition from lectures to CBL. All students were assessed by means of case-based assessment. Chapter 3 investigates the effects of the learning environments on students’ approaches to learning. The perceived quality of the instructional methods (lectures/CBL) was taken into account in an attempt to explain the results concerning approaches to learning. Chapter 4 investigates the effects of the learning environments on students’ motivation and achievement. Since not only the teaching methods may influence motivation and achievement, but also the way in which they are implemented by the teacher, perceived need support is included. Chapter 5 looks at the profile of students (based on motivation and approaches to learning) entering the learning environment in order to explain how they perceive and achieve in the four learning environments.
The dissertation yields four main conclusions. Firstly, gradually moving from lectures to CBL has a surplus value. Compared to the completely CBL environment, students in the gradually implemented CBL environment adopted less surface approaches to learning, worked in a more organised way and invest more effort and concentration in their study; they were more autonomously motivated, and achieved better assessment results. Secondly, it is difficult to enhance deep approaches to learning. The mixed learning environment consisting of constructivist design principles, lectures and portfolio-assessment did not succeed in encouraging the adoption of the deep approach. Instead, students adopted more surface approaches. Also the four learning environments in the large scale study, including lectures and/or CBL, did not influence students’ adoption of deep approaches to learning. Thirdly, perceived need support is important in explaining students’ motivation. It is positively related to autonomous and negatively to controlled motivation. Fourtly, students’ motivational and learning profiles matter in explaining perceptions of the learning environment. Autonomously motivated deep-strategic learners were more positive about each learning environment (lectures and/or CBL) compared to little motivated and less pronounced deep-strategic learners. However, no effects of student profiles were found on achievement.
|Date of Award||25 Jun 2012|