A phenomenological study of the meanings of approaches to learning in higher education.

GREASLEY, Kay. (2003). A phenomenological study of the meanings of approaches to learning in higher education. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom)..

PDF (Version of Record)
10697020.pdf - Accepted Version
All rights reserved.

Download (12MB) | Preview


This study critically examines the meaning of approaches to learning in a Higher Education setting. In particular it highlights 'how' students leam by examining the way in which they approach their studies.The initial investigations into Approaches to Learning were conducted [in Sweden] by Marton and Saljo [during the sixties and seventies]. In their qualitative, phenomenographic work they attempted to discover the student experience of learning, focussing upon their approach to learning. Two key classifications of student's approach to learning were the outcomes of this research. These were deep level processing approach and a surface level approach. It was claimed that the approach used would affect the level of understanding obtained.This idiographic work was developed further by Entwistle and Ramsden (1983), however they directed the research in a nomothetic direction. The main outcome of their work was the Approaches to Studying Inventory (ASI) which according to these authors could quantitatively measure a student's predisposition to selected Approaches to Learning.The research approach adopted for this study does not however follow the nomothetic trend set by Entwistle and Ramsden, instead it attempts to develop the original work by Marton and Saljo by using an idiographic approach. The methodological approach used in this study is existential phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty, 1962) as this allows an examination of the learner as an individual. Further this approach facilitates a full description of the lived experiences so that a full insight into the lifeworld of the student may be presented. By adopting this alternate approach it is possible to develop the work of Marton and Saljo and enable a critique of the nomothetic approach used by Entwistle and Ramsden.The method used to enter the learner's lifeworld is qualitative interviews with six students studying in the Business School at the University of Derby. Each student was interviewed three times during the course of an academic year. The analytical procedure was guided by the rigours of a phenomenological methodology and a detailed profile of the individual lifeworld was formed. The Noesis-Noema distinction was also used as an analytical tool to summarise the meaning of learning for each of the participants.The findings from this phenomenological study demonstrated that approaches to learning is a complex and unique experience for each learner. The lifeworld descriptions of each student demonstrates this complexity, in particular it illuminates the inter-relationships which contribute to the individual complex nature of approaches to learning. Despite the individualistic nature of approaches to learning there were some issues that were common to the learners sampled. The themes were sociality and the student's approach to learning, learning as a support to wider needs, the meaning of learning and the student approach and what they do when trying to leam. All of these themes played a part in the meaning of approaches to learning for the students sampled.The phenomenological approach enabled an understanding of the complexity and individuality of approaches to learning by extricating the meanings of approaches to learning within the context of their lifeworld. The noema-noesis distinction proved invaluable as a heuristic device, identifying how the students 'approached' the 'object' of their learning. These findings highlighted the inadequacies of the ASI which is unable to elucidate the meanings and context of approaches to learning.This study demonstrates that if we want to understand the meanings and depth of approaches to learning then we must go beyond quantifiable variables, the nomothetic approach and instead focus on the individual's situation in life, the idiographic approach.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Coldron, John
Thesis advisor - Ashworth, Peter
Additional Information: Thesis (Ph.D.)--Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom), 2003.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2018 17:20
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2021 11:50
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/19718

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics