ASSESSING CONCEPTIONS OF LEARNING IN PORTUGUESE HIGHER EDUCATION STUDENTS – DIFFERENCES BETWEEN STUDENTS OF DIFFERENT COURSES
Studies framed by the SLT model (Students Learning Theory), conducted with students of various nationalities identified some key components as descriptors of the quality of student learning in higher education, namely conceptions of learning, approaches to learning and preference for teaching.
It was discovered that students: i) have different conceptions of learning (e.g., Marton & Saljo, 1976; Grácio, 2002), ii) express and materialize these conceptions in concrete situations of learning addressing them also differently and iii) obtain results qualitatively different.
The conceptions of learning identified so far can be summarized as: learning as an act of reproduction; learning as search for meaning; learning as change and personal and professional fulfillment; learning as a process temporal and contextually unlimited; learning as individual and social process and learning as value (e.g., Marton, Dall'Alba & Beaty, 1993; Grácio, 2003). The same subject may have more than a conception of learning but although a subject that has profound and transformative conceptions may also have reproductive conceptions, the reverse does not occur. The conceptions of learning are materialized in the way students approaches to learning and in the levels of cognitive processing that they will use in performing the learning tasks (e. g., Marton & Saljo, 1997).
Students with reproductive conceptions adopt superficial approaches, concerning themselves with increasing of knowledge, memorization, reproduction and application of facts and procedures. In turn, students with transformative conceptions are more likely to adopt deep approaches and are primarily interested in understanding the material, see something differently and change as a person. However students who have deep conceptions and deep approaches may choose approach learning in a deep or superficial way depending on their perception of the demands of contexts.
The conceptions of learning form the background screen from which are derived approaches to learning, cognitive processing, use of strategies to learn, learning outcomes and even students perception of good teaching. This justifies the relevance of research on the conceptions of learning in higher education.
The results of the present research identify the conceptions of learning attending 1025 students of three Portuguese institutions of higher education (University of Évora, University of Lisbon and ISPA) using the COLI - Conceptions of Learning Inventory (Purdie & Hattie, 2002). In general the factorial structure of the instrument to the Portuguese population was confirmed as observed in several cross-cultural studies.