Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

The Effect of Engagement and Perceived Course Value on Deep and Surface Learning Strategies

Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

The Effect of Engagement and Perceived Course Value on Deep and Surface Learning Strategies

Article excerpt


Colleges and universities are spending much time and effort to provide their students with the best educational experience possible. This effort becomes particularly important when framed within the idea that students usually have more than one choice for their college career, leading to competition between higher education institutions. In order to make their programs more attractive to current and potential students, many colleges and universities have begun a fundamental shift in how their classes are conducted. Often, these institutions have moved away from the traditional lecture-based pedagogy in favor of more active, learner-centered activities. It is believed that more learner-centered and collaborative activities will enhance a student's learning experience. Though a positive learning experience could be defined by a number of factors, engagement, perceived course value, and the use of deep learning strategies are believed to be integral to a student's positive learning experience.

One of the most important and often researched factors that contribute to a student's course experience is engagement. Though numerous studies have examined student engagement and a complete examination of this topic is beyond the scope of this paper, Corno and Mandinach (1983) were the first researchers to define and examine student cognitive engagement. They proposed that student engagement was evident when students demonstrated prolonged attention to a mentally challenging task, resulting in authentic learning and increased levels of higher order thinking. Indeed, Conrad and Donaldson (2004) stated that critical thinking is a result of high levels of engagement.

Richardson and Newby (2006) defined cognitive engagement as the integration and utilization of students' motivations and strategies in the course of their learning. In their study, an engaged student is a motivated student. They focused on which motivations and learning strategies lead to cognitive engagement in order to properly manipulate the learning environment to encourage the students' engagement. By understanding effective ways in which the instructor (the informer) can frame the message to the student (the client), the instructor (the informer) may be able to enhance the student's (the client's) motivation to receive the message (cf. Cohen, 2009).

Hidi and Renninger (2006) propose a four-phase model of interest development that affects learning and engagement. Each phase is characterized by varying amounts of affect, knowledge, and value. Sustained interest is achieved either by support from others or by the challenge or opportunity provided by the task to be learned. Hidi and Renninger (2006) believe that the potential for interest is in the person, but the environment and content define the direction of interest and influence its development. Early phases of interest development tend to be affective because they consist of focused attention and positive feelings. Later phases of interest development continue to consist of positive feelings but also include sustained value and knowledge. Indicators of later phases of interest are the student's repeated engagement and knowledge.

Student biases can act as filters on information received (Jamieson & Hyland, 2006). For example, information biases are believed to modify incoming information to align it with the client's (student's) preferences. The Single Client Resonance Model proposed by Gill (2008) explains that a series of filters affects a student's (client's) knowledge at three levels, from high level concepts at one extreme (Level 3) to lower, more automated operators at the other extreme (Level 1). An in-depth understanding of high level concepts (deep learning) can be reached when attention (engagement) and motivation are present. The process of engagement is as an important a factor in informing our clients (students) as the quality and usefulness of the task at hand. …

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