Contextualising studies in higher education : First-year experiences of studying and learning in engineering

Detta är en avhandling från Stockholm : Pedagogiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet

Sammanfattning: The study aims at investigating students’ first-year experiences of studying and learning in tertiary engineering education. At the end of their first year 86 Swedish undergraduates of electrical engineering and computer science at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm were asked to reflect in writing on the conditions for studying and learning as they perceived them. Fifteen of these students were selected for subsequent interviews which explored in greater detail their experiences of studying and learning in engineering education.Drawing on a methodological framework – intentional analysis – derived from an alternative conceptualisation of student learning to those typically followed in research within this area, qualitative analyses of the data were carried out which focused on the students’ narratives in terms of actions that they had performed to fulfil certain study goals. The analyses revealed that the students had understood and gone about their studies in different ways: as a question of exertion of disciplined effort, as a problem of remediation taking corrective steps to ‘stay in phase’ with the course schedule, or as a matter of maintaining autonomy in relation to perceived constraints of the teaching-learning environment. It is argued that the students’ varying ways of dealing with their studies may be understood and explained with reference to their personal beliefs about what it means to study and learn.The results lead to a particularisation of the notion of ‘learning orientation’ used in previous research to describe students’ personal contexts for study. It has been argued that these personal contexts arise through a ‘complex negotiation process’ between students’ learning orientations and their perceptions of the educational setting. The thesis suggests that this negotiation process can be conceptualised as a process of contextualisation involving beliefs about both cognitive and situational/cultural aspects of studies, working as intrinsic and/or extrinsic determinants of the students’ actions.

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