Students learning-approach profiles in relation to their university experience and success

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Teaching in Higher Education

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Taylor & Francis


University of Cape Town

What is the connection between student success and their approaches to learning? Do learning approaches develop with university experience? We explored these questions by constructing profiles using a specially developed fixed response instrument and administering this to students at two similar South African universities. Groups consisted of access course applicants, access course students, and first and second year mainstream chemistry students. Successful senior students showed more sophisticated approaches to learning than other groups. Unsuccessful students fell into two different categories: those using a surface approach, and predominantly first generation tertiary students who used deep approaches. We discuss possible reasons for the latter group's lack of success. These findings raise questions for academic development practitioners advocating the use of deep approaches. The instrument was found to be useful for both diagnostic and pedagogic purposes.

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Teaching in Higher Education on 18 September 2008, available online: