A new paper by myself and Rob Reid, examining a range of social and academic factors that might influence how students learn in the first year, entitled ‘First course at university: Assessing the impact of student age, nationality and learning style’ will be out shortly in the International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education
In our paper, we discuss how the majority of students sampled demonstrated evidence that they were ‘surface’ or ‘reproducing’ learners. This style of learning is generally characterized by factual recall and memorization, with less emphasis on conceptual understanding and integration of material across course themes. This latter, ‘deep’ approach is typically a favored pedagogical outcome, but in our first-year biology course, offered no benefits to students in terms of their academic achievement and grades. Designing curricula to encourage more comprehensive styles of learning, while at the same time ensuring students learn enough of the factual content they will need in future studies, is a continuing challenge for instructors of these broad introductory courses.