Students' perceptions and preferences for learning

Year: 1996

Author: Eng, Chen Swee, Kingsland, Arthur

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The architecture and construction management (building) courses at the University of Newcastle, Australia, use a non-conventional integrated course structure and a problem-based learning approach. Since 1989, an on-going study has been conducted of students' perceptions of their learning environment at the second and final year stages of the course. Evaluation and monitoring of students' learning environments generates important feedback to the faculty and is essential in monitoring and managing quality in education. This is particularly important for non-conventional educational contexts where significant but unnoticed changes may occur over a period of time undermining the original intentions of the approach.

Evaluation of the students' learning environment based on students' perceptions provides valid inferences of "theories-in-use" and therefore useful feedback for formative purposes. Students' perceptions also reflect their attitudes and levels of satisfaction, and can be used for summative evaluation of their learning environments.

In this study, students' perceptions of their learning environment and their preferences were measured along the two dimensions of Teacher/Learner-centredness and Discipline/Problem-centredness. The "gaps" between the perceptions and preferences measures give an indication of the students' level of satisfaction. The paper reports six years of results in this on-going study examining the transitional effects of the course on students. It also discusses how this approach may be used to monitor changes in the learning environment.