Conceptions of learning and knowledge in higher education

In this article Entwistle and Peterson studied students study behaviour in terms of their reactions to the learning environments they experienced. The authors reviewed past literatures from 1970 to 2005 to detail some broad and specific concepts associated with student learning and study behaviour. Three student’s approaches to learning and studying namely: Deep approach, surface approach and strategic approach were identified. They authors argued that students conceptions of knowledge, conceptions of learning, and learning orientations are broad constructs that develop and change during the learning process and within different learning environments. Their research focused on conceptual framework showing influences on student learning. The article is useful to my understanding the relationship approaches to teaching and student learning. The main limitation of the article that it did not indicate which specific activities support high-quality learning, thus the authors indicated that well-established psychological principles, will support learning fully, only if they also follow equally well-established principles derived from educational research. This article will be useful to clarify meaning of some concepts.

Entwistle, N. J. and Peterson, E. R., (2004). Conceptions of learning and knowledge in higher education: Relationships with study behaviour and influences of learning environments. International Journal of Educational Research, 41, 407-428.

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Teaching Style

The best method of teaching at undergraduate level according to (Felder, 2002) is inductive approaches such as problem-based learning, discovery learning, inquiry learning or some variation of the themes. Most engineering academics tend to implicitly assume that all students adopt similar learning styles; they also expect the same learning style to be applied to all areas of engineering studies (Mills et al, 2005). Apter (2001) suggests that Learners can become more effective as learners if they are made aware of the important qualities which they and other learners possess. The assessment of Grasha’s Teaching Styles instrument indicated that in the five category styles, my rating is high for expert, formal authority, personal model, delegator and moderate for facilitator. ( I would need to improve on my facilitation skills. The result of the Angelo and Cross (1993) Teaching Goals Inventory (TGI) identified my role as a teacher as “helping students develop higher-order thinking skills” with 63% rating in the higher order thinking skills cluster compared with 33% basic academic success skills cluster.

According to Felder & Silverman (1988) the learning styles of most engineering students and teaching styles of most engineering professors are incompatible in several dimensions. They indicated that engineering students are visual, sensing, inductive, and active, while most engineering education is auditory, abstract (intuitive), deductive, passive, and sequential. A commitment to identify and respond to any weaknesses in teaching strategies, and in the learning environment in an integrated way is needed to support and facilitate student success rates and engender active learning.

Angelo, T. & Cross, K. P. 1993, Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook For College Teachers, Jossey- Bass Publishers, San Francisco, USA.

Apter, M. J. 2001, Motivational styles in everyday life: a guide to reversal theory, American Psychological Association, Washington DC.

Felder, R. & Silverman, L. 1988, “Learning and Teaching Styles in Engineering Education”, Engineering Education, Vol. 78, No. 7, pp. 674-681.


Mills, J., Ayre, M., Hands, D. & Carden, P. 2005. “Learning about learning styles: Can this improve

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Teaching Philosophy

I learn by actively participating in the learning task. I prefer visual and distinct experiences of facts as postulated by David Kolb (1976) leading to deep in thought observations. Specifically I can be considered as a visually- and tactilely-oriented student based on Dunn and Dunn learning styles (Miller, et al. 2001). When I have learnt anything it means that I have figured out the process of comfortably solving the problems using required skills or knowledge. Studies indicates that tactilely-oriented students learn more easily when information is presented step by step in a cumulative sequential pattern that builds towards a conceptual understanding (Dunn et al. 1990). This describes perfectly my learning preferences for always wanting to first see some examples of the use of new methods, concepts or theories so that I can internalise and then apply in different context. I generally prefer analytical problems then descriptive one which places me in the analytical-Imagery dimension for Riding’s model of cognitive style. Riding and Rayner (1997) define cognitive style as ‘the way the individual person thinks’ and as ‘an individual’s preferred and habitual approach to organising and representing information’.

As a teacher I facilitate the learning of the students by helping them recognize the hidden meaning of concepts and theories. The students’ motivational base, socio-emotional capabilities and skills for self-regulation are fundamentally known factors to influence both how students experience and interpret learning situations and what kinds of learning strategies they adopt (Jarvela & Niemivirta, 1999). Learning was suggested to be a process of integrated interplay between mental integration of the learning content and the incentive area of providing the necessary mental energy for the process (Illeris, K., 2009). My learning facilitation is usually done by engaging the student to construct their knowledge by being an active learner. When students simply absorb and regurgitate information educators often become frustrated (Cotton, 2011). Therefore to encourage students to be ‘open minded, reflective, critical’ and to ‘undertake active learning’, I explore the use of examples that the individual students will be familiar from their prior knowledge so that they can draw out the new concepts I want them to recognise. This approach is adopted to cater for the diversity within the student’s cohort to suit their learning journey. The prime issue when dealing with diversity in education is not about the dispensing of knowledge, but to provide the appropriate settings that allow students to take part, support and comprehend their knowledge gained. Shaw (2005) suggests that diversity is a fundamental concern in teaching and learning. My engagement method is undertaking to the point that the individuals can describe the concept in their own words and is observed to have comprehended the hidden meaning of the concepts by applying it to a different context. I normally apply different mode depending on the observed level of the student’s knowledge. I normally prefer where practicable to engage students individually so that I can be of assistance when they are constructing their knowledge.

Teaching Civil engineering courses in three different countries Nigeria, Botswana and Australia had now exposed me to the two distinct engineering education paradigms currently in operation globally. The traditional engineering education paradigm which focus on content delivery in a face to face lecture, tutorials and practicals mode and the new engineering education paradigm focused on outcome based criteria in a Project Based Learning (PBL) pedagogy. Teaching in the traditional Engineering education mode my emphasis was on the engineering science. Usually my emphasis is on high technical capability mostly requiring from students deterministic solutions of closely defined, idealised technical problems. In accordance to the bloom taxonomy of learning domains this traditional engineering education is claimed to emphasis low orders skills. Engineering graduates from the traditional paradigm are technically sound in information recall, interpreting of facts and its application corresponding to the first three level in Bloom’s Taxonomy however industrial leaders have consistently called for graduates who can work in teams and solve real world problems (Augustine, 1996) by identifying the components of ill-defined professional problems which requires higher order skills to analysis, synthesis and evaluate the different contenting scenarios. In the last decade much discussion on improvements to engineering education, called for more integration of engineering practice (Cussler, 2002) which resulted in curriculum renewal with a shift in paradigm to student centred learning. The industry had generally expressed the view that engineering graduates were well-qualified technically but lacked the “soft” engineering skills (Kelly 2008). The new engineering education paradigm which I now operate in Australia focuses on the learner which is the student. The Australia Engineering education in my opinion is built on a business model where there learner is the customer that requires a services being delivered by the lecturer and the institution the service provider. The quality of services (lectures) offered the customer is continually monitored and improved to enhance that institution remains in business by attracting more customers (students).

In CQUniversity my emphasis is on the art of engineering where the students are expected to demonstrate specific learning outcomes in a flexible delivery mode. I normally encourage the student to acquire reflective practices thereby developing the culture of lifelong learning and such skills as critical thinking, teamwork, communication and leadership. My courses are delivered in such a way to elicit student understand the social, economic and environment consequences of any engineering solution. I encourage students to always look outward for real concerns of communities, environmental issues, economic issues, global issues and local conditions.

Augustine, N. R. (1996). Rebuilding engineering education. Chronicle of Higher Education,
May 24, 1996: B1–B2.

Cotton, C. (2011). Real-world and Active: The Benefits of Problem-based Learning. Teacher: The National Education Magazine, Mar 2011: 20-24.

Cussler, E., (2002) “What Happens to Chemical Engineering Education,” ConocoPhillips Lecture Series in Chemical Engineering given at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, March 1, 2002.

Dunn R, Sklar RI, Beaudry J and Bruno J (1990). Effects of matching and mismatching minority developmental college students’ hemispheric preferences on mathematics scores. Journal of Educational Research and Extension, 83(5), 283–288.

Jarvela, S. & Niemivirta, M. (1999). The changes in learning theory and the topicality of the recent research on motivation. Research Dialogue in Learning and Instruction, 1, 57–65.

Kelly, E. W.,(2008) Standards in Civil Engineering Design Education Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice, Vol. 134, No. 1, January 1, 2008.

Kolb, D. A. (1976), The Learning Style Inventory: Technical Manual, McBer, Boston, Ma.

Miller JA, Dunn R, Beasley M, Ostrow S, Geisert G and Nelson B (2000/01). Effects of traditional versus learning style presentations of course content in ultrasound and anatomy on the achievement and attitude of allied college health students. National Forum of Applied Educational Research Journal, 13(2), 50–62.

Rayner S and Riding R (1997). Towards a categorisation of cognitive styles and learning styles. Educational Psychology, 17(1/2).

Shaw, G. (Ed.). (2005). Tertiary teaching and learning: Dealing with diversity. Darwin, NT: Charles
Darwin University Press.

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Learning Styles –a summary

The theory and practice of learning styles has generated great interest and controversy. Frank et al. (2004) undertook a systematic and critically review of the growing body of theoretical and empirical research on learning styles. They authors identified the  71 models of learning styles from the literatures that revealed the extent of diversity. They suggested that learning styles field can be categorised into three areas namely (i) theoretical, (ii) pedagogical and (iii) commercial. They observed conflicting assumptions about learning that underpin the mainstream ideas; also competing ideas about learning have led to a proliferation of terms and concepts.

Author (s) Measure Key terms/descriptor Date Introduce
Allinson and Hayes Cognitive Style Index (CSI) intuitive/analytic 1996
Apter Motivational Style Profile (MSP) telic/paratelic –negativism/conformity –autic mastery/autic sympathy –

alloic mastery/alloic sympathy –

arousal avoidance/arousal seeking –

optimism/pessimism –

arousability – effortfulness

Bartlett sensory modality preferences 1932
Betts Betts Inventory imagery 1909
Biggs Study Process Questionnaire surface/deep achieving 1987
Broverman automatisation – restructuring 1960
Cacioppo and Petty Need for Cognition Scale related to fielddependence/independence –articulative/global 1982
Canfield Canfield Learning Style Inventory (CLSI) conditions – content –modes – expectancy 1980
Christensen Lifescripts (social context but relevant to cognition)analyser – controller – supporter –promoter 1980
Conti and Kolody Self-Knowledge Inventory of LifelongLearning Skills (SKILLS) metacognition – metamotivation –memory – critical thinking –resource management 1990
Cooper Learning Styles ID visual/verbal – holist/analyst,environmental preference 1997
Curry Onion’ model instructional preference –information processing style –cognitive personal style 1983
Das simultaneous/successiveprocessing and planning 1988
Dunn and Dunn Learning Style Questionnaire (LSQ)Learning Styles Inventory (LSI)Productivity Environmental

Preference Survey (PEPS)

Building Excellence Survey (BES)

environmental –emotional – sociological –physiological processing 197919751979


Entwistle Approaches to Study Inventory(ASI)Revised Approaches to Study

Inventory (RASI)

Approaches and Study Skills

Inventory for Students (ASSIST)

meaning orientation – reproducingorientation – achieving orientation –non-academic orientation –


deep approach – surface

approach – strategic approach –

lack of direction –

academic self-confidence –

metacognitive awareness

Epstein and Meier Constructive Thinking Inventory (CTI) emotional coping – behavioural coping –personal superstitious thinking –categorical thinking – esoteric thinking –

naïve optimism – global constructive


Felder and Silverman Index of Learning Styles (ILS) active/reflective – sensing/intuitive –visual/verbal – sequential/global 1996
Friedman and Stritter Instructional Preference Questionnaire 1976
Galbraith and James perceptual ability 1984
Gardner et al. tolerant/intolerant 1959
Gordon Scale of Imagery Control imagery 1949
Grasha-Riechmann Student Learning Style Scales (SLSS) competitive/collaborative –independent/dependent –participant/avoidant 1974
Gregorc Gregorc Mind Styles Delineator(MSD) concrete sequential/abstractrandom – abstractsequential/concrete random 1977
Groner Cognitive Style Scale heuristic/algorithmic 1990
Guilford convergent/divergent thinking 1950
Harrison-Branson Revised Inquiry Mode Questionnaire synthesist – idealist – pragmatist –analyst – realist 1998
Hermanussen, Wierstra,de Jong and Thijsse Questionnaire Practice-orientedLearning (QPL) immersion – reflection –conceptualisation –experimentation – regulation 2000
Hill Cognitive Style Profile symbol processing – modalitiesof inference – cultural determinants 1976
Holzman and Klein Schematising Test eveller/sharpener 1954
Honey and Mumford Learning Styles Questionnaire (LSQ) activist/reflector –theorist/pragmatist 1982
Hudson following Guilford) diverging/converging 1966
Hunt Paragraph Completion Method need for structure: conforming –dependent 1978
Jackson Learning Styles Profiler (LSP) initiator – analyst – reasoner –implementer 2002
Kagan Matching Familiar Figures Test impulsivity/reflexivity – focus/scan 19651967
Kaufmann The A-E Inventory assimilator/explorer 1989
Keefe and Monke (NASSP) NASSP Learning Style Profile (explicitattempt at meta-taxonomy physiological – environmental –cognitive – affective domainsplus information processing 1986
Kirby et al. Multidimensional verbal-visual LSQ verbal/visual 1988
Kirton Kirton Adaption-Innovation inventory(KAI) adaptor/innovator 1989
Kogan Sorting styles into types 3 types of style:maximal performance (ability)measures

value directionality (advantageous)


value-differentiated measures

Kolb Cognitive Style Delineators analytic/global 1980
Marks Marks Vividness of Visual ImageryQuestionnaire imagery 1973
Marton and Säljö deep/surface processing 1976
McCarthy 4MAT innovative – analytic –common-sense – dynamic 1987
McKenney and Keen Model of cognitive style perceptive/receptive –systematic/intuitive 1974
Meredith focus/scan 1981
Messick analytic/non-analytic conceptualising 1976
Miller Personality typology: cognitive,affective, conative analyst/holist – emotionalstability/instability –objective-subjective 1991
Myers-Briggs Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) perceiving/judging –sensing/intuition – thinking/feeling –extraversion/introversion 1962
Paivio Individual Difference Questionnaire(IDQ) imagery (dual coding) 1971
Pask serialist/holist 1976
Pettigrew Scale of cognitive style category width (broad/narrow) 1958
Pintrich, Smith,Garcia and McCeachie Motivated Strategies for LearningQuestionnaire goal orientation (intrinsic/extrinsic) –expectancy – anxiety – cognitivestrategies (rehearsal, selection,

organisation, elaboration,

metacognition, surface processing,

critical thinking, original thinking) –

resource management

Reinert Edmonds Learning Style IdentificationExercise (ELSIE) types of perception:visual – verbal – aural – emotional 1976
Renzulli-Smith Learning Style Inventory teaching styles and learning contexts 1978
Rezler-Rezmovic Learning Preference Inventory abstract/concrete –individual/interpersonal –teacher structure/student structure 1981
Richardson Verbaliser Visualiser Questionnaire(after Paivio) verbaliser/visualiser 1977
Riding Cognitive Styles Analysis (CSA) holist/analytic – verbaliser/imager 1991
Schmeck et al.                  Inventory of Learning Processes deep processing – shallow processing –elaborative processing –serial processing – holistic processi 1977
Sheehan Shortened Betts Inventory imagery 1967
Sternberg Thinking Styles functions – forms – levels –scopes – meanings 1998
Tamir-Cohen Cognitive Preference Inventory modes – recall principles –questioning applications 1980
Torrance Style of Learning and Thinking creative thinking 1990
Vermunt Inventory of Learning Styles (ILS) meaning-directed –application-directed –reproduction-directed – undir 1996
Walters Psychological Inventory of CriminalThinking Styles confusion – defensiveness –mollification – cut-off –entitlement – power orientation –

sentimentality – superoptimism –

cognitive indolence – discon

Weinstein, Zimmermanand Palmer Learning and Study Strategies Inventory cognitive processing – motivation –metacognitive regulation 1988
Whetton and Cameron Cognitive Style Questionnaire (CSQ)[based on McKenney and Keen] gathering: perceptive/receptiveevaluating: systematic/intuitiveresponding: active/reflective 1984
Witkin Group Embedded Figures Test (GEFT) field dependence/independence 1962
Zimmerman and Martinez-Pons Self-Regulated Learning InterviewSchedule (SRLIS 14 strategies 1986

Frank Coffield, David Moseley, Elaine Hall and Kathryn Ecclestone (2004) Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning:A systematic and critical review. Learning and Skills Research Center

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A Paradigm Shift in Engineering Education

Traditionally the engineering education paradigm focused on content delivery in a face to face lecture, tutorials and practicals mode with the lecturer emphasising on engineering science. Australia universities had shifted in the 1990’s from this mode to a new engineering education paradigm that currently focuses on the student learner with outcome based criteria. CQUniversity currently uses Project Based Learning (PBL) pedagogy with a 50/50 course split basis in a two mode delivery to both internal and FLEX students. The main trust of the pedagogy is to provide the learning environment similar to an Engineer real working environment where the student takes responsibility to be a reflective learner. The new engineering education paradigm emphasizes the art of engineering rather than engineering science. How is PBL administered in higher education? What are the current issues with PBL implementation?

PBL pedagogy is the 21st century intervention strategy by engineering academics to address the percieved gap in competency raised by the industry employing their graduate.

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Blogging was unknown to me until I arrived in Australia. Now as a requirement for Assessment 3 I am required to blog. The first natural question to be asked will be what is bloging? A search in the internet for answer indicates that blog is a short form of the term “web log” which was coined by Jorn Barger in 1997. The information technology revolution as a result of web 2.0 has seen blog becoming a learning tool for the 21st century education. Hourigan and Murray (2010) suggest that there are currently two popular types of blogs used for academic purposes in content producing namely (1) multi-authored collaborative group blogging and (2) single-authored reflective blogging. They identified three different categories of academics that frequently set up and post on their individual blogs in order to examine the generic features for blog writing task. The concluded that blogging develop specific reflective communicative skills for learners.

Scientific literature suggests that one area of academic use for blog is learning through reflection. Brandt (2008) indicates that reflective conversations between teachers and students when integrated as a practice both the teachers and students could benefit from it. Through peer feedback, reflective journal writing, and reading, teachers could uncover the obstacles and discover how their teaching beliefs need to change in order to implement transformative teaching strategies (Sockman and Sharma, 2008). Blogs can stimulate reading and motivate learning (Yang, 2009) for language learners.

Hollenbaugh’s (2009) investigation on why individual maintaining personal blog identified the following motives.
1. Helping/informing
2. Social connection
3. Pass time or relieving boredom
4. Exhibitionism
5. archiving/organizing
6. Professionalism
7. To elicit feedback or advice


Brandt, C. (2008). Integrating feedback and reflection in teacher preparation. ELT Journal, 62 (1), 37–46.

Hollenbaugh, E. E (2009) Motives for Maintaining Personal Journal Blogs. CYBERPSYCHOLOGY, BEHAVIOR, AND SOCIAL NETWORKING Volume 14, Number 1-2, 2011

Hourigan, T & Murray, L. (2010) Investigating the emerging generic features of the blog writing
task across three discrete learner groups at a higher education institution. International Council for Educational Media

Sockman, B., & Sharma, P. (2008). Struggling toward a transformative model of instruction: It’s not so easy! Teaching and Teacher Education, 24 (4), 1070–1082.

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