In the following scenario, how would you describe Sammy's, David's, Alex's view in relation to studying?
Setting: Three Form 3 students in a school playground talking about their summer holiday with each of them adopt different approaches to learning.
Sammy: My friends! It is great that we have eventually finished all the examinations. Then… what shall we do for our summer holidays? Ah… I have an idea…Let us go to China or Taiwan or Thailand…just somewhere. We will have lots of fun there, guys.
David: I am too busy! I plan to borrow many reference books to read in the summer. There are many interesting books I would like to read. I think I can understand my subjects more and in deeper ways. I have already bought many books and if you are interested in them, I can lend some to you.
Alex: Oh! No! We won’t have enough time! The HKDSE is coming. I will spend my holidays finishing the exam papers of the past 10 years. If possible, I will even do these questions twice.
Sammy: Stop, stop…. We will have much fun going to China. Join with me!
David: Knowledge is important to us. Think about our world! If we don’t have knowledge, we won’t have the advancement of society.
Alex: Everybody knows past papers are very important. I must finish doing them. Examination results are most important to me.
Sammy: You two are crazy! We have just finished the examination. How can you be in the mood to talk about studying now? You two are so clever! You can just study before the examination and you can still get good marks. I am going to play basketball. Bye for now!
Adapted from the Educational Studies: Classroom Learning and Student Development course guide, Faculty of Education, HKU.
The phrase “Approach to learning” describes students' motive to study and preference regarding how they go about completing academic tasks. For instance, Alex chooses to memorize facts to meet requirements and get a good grade, while David chooses to try his best to comprehend and make sense of what is taught in order to become knowledgeable.
All theorists found the two contrasting characterization of approach to study, deep and surface approach to learning, as identified by Marton and Saljo. The major characteristics of the two approaches to learning are shown in the following summary table:
Comparison of deep approach and surface approach (Entwistle, 2004)
|Surface Approach||Deep Approach|
|Treating the course seen as unrelated bits of knowledge||Relating ideas to previous knowledge and experience|
|Routinely memorizing facts and carrying out procedures||Looking for patterns and underlying principles|
|Focusing narrowing on the minimum syllabus demands||Checking evidence and relating it to conclusion|
|Seeing little value or meaning in the course or set tasks||Examining logic and argument cautiously and critically|
|Studying without reflecting on either purpose or strategy||Monitoring understanding as learning progress|
In the face of different assessments and learning requirements, the same student can have drastically different interpretations of an educational event and its objective, and therefore the means for handling the tasks at stake.
In a nutshell, when assessment tasks can be completed by rote learning memorization, students will resort to surface approach to learning. When assessment tasks demand understanding, application and transfer to novel situations, or integration of information, then students will be likely to employ deep approach to study.
Furthermore, research has shown that the mobilization of deep approach is associated with better and higher quality of learning outcomes.
Approach to learning among Chinese learners: