Perceptions of learning environments and conceptions of learning: Implications for students' evaluation of teaching

Year: 1994

Author: Taylor, Peter G.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Much has been made of the notion of "conceptions of learning" (SSljö, 1979) at the tertiary level, as exemplified by Morgan (1993). The identification and description of six qualitatively distinct ways that individuals characterise learning (Marton, Dall'Alba & Beaty, 1992) have informed pedagogical work at both theoretical and applied levels. The relationship between conceptions of learning and the outcomes of learning have been scrutinised, as has the associated notion of approaches to learning. What remains unclear in the research to date however, is the relative proportion of a cohort of tertiary students whose conception of learning may fit each characterisation. In the context of a need to demonstrate quality in terms of tertiary teaching and learning practices, and given that so much tertiary teaching occurs en masse, there is a need to explore the relationship between students' perceptions of quality teaching and their conceptions of learning.

This paper identifies and discusses the relative proportion of a large (869) sample of students at one Australian university whose characterisation of learning "fits" each conception. It extends the discussion by exploring the relationship between the conceptions they express and their views of learning environments, as discussed in Clarke (1994). It then examines the implications of these findings for interpretations of students' evaluations of teaching.