Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Approaches to Studying and the Undergraduate Business Student: A Qualitative Assessment

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Approaches to Studying and the Undergraduate Business Student: A Qualitative Assessment

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In higher education, students spend less time in the classroom than during their secondary school days, yet are responsible for greater amounts of material covered at a more rapid pace. Among researchers in higher education, much effort has been devoted to determining factors that might influence the university student's approach to this learning experience. For example, it seems intuitive that time spent in study and preparation outside of class would directly influence academic achievement. However, according to Noonis and Hudson (2006), such an effect is not independent, but interacts with motivation and ability. Evidence also exists that reported weekly study time (during senior year of high school) by entering college freshmen, while rising slightly in recent years, saw a steady decline for nearly two decades (Higher Education Research Institute, 2003; 2012; Noonis & Hudson, 2006). When asked this question in 1987, 47.0% of the roughly 276,000 entering freshmen surveyed claimed spending six or more hours per week engaged in study outside of class. That figure steadily declined each year to reach 34.0% in the 2003 report, and stood at 38.4% in the 2012 survey (of 192,912 entering freshmen). Students today engage in added diversions to their educational efforts via the time consumers of social media, video games, Web surfing, and rapid-fire texting, made more readily available by the growing preponderance of smart phone and tablet usage. This, too, is combined with the steady increase in the percentage of college students who work either full-time or part-time during the academic year (Noonis & Hudson, 2006).

These trends all contribute to the intriguing question regarding how our students spend their study time and by what manner it should best be managed to effect learning and academic success. Hadwin and Winne (1996) charged higher education institutions to "provide means for students to develop adaptable strategies with which to pursue knowledge and solve problems during and after postsecondary experiences," (p. 693). They recommended that positive findings on studying and learning be incorporated into the class experience and not be confined to universities' study skills programs (e.g., as demonstrated in English, Luckett, & Mladenovic, 2004; Hall, Ramsay, & Raven, 2004). This supports the greater direct incorporation of specific study skills into a particular learning context. For example, through specific changes in the learning environment, Hall et al. (2004) detected a small, but significant increase in first-year accounting students' use of a deep learning approach and a small, but also significant, reduction in reliance on surface learning.

Among business educators, there has been growing acknowledgement that to improve the quality of student learning, there must first be a better understanding of how our students learn (Byrne, Flood, & Willis, 2002; Byrne & Willis, 2009). Because learning is relational, that is, dependent upon the way a particular student relates to the "learning context" (Prosser & Trigwell, 1999; Ramsden, 1987), a whole range of factors will affect a student's approach to studying and learning. Among these are the student's prior learning experiences and orientations. The learning context, which includes both the nature of the course and the teaching within the course (English et al. 2004), also encompasses factors controllable by educators, such as teaching style, the nature of curriculum and course content, assessment methods, and the demands of particular tasks (Ramsden, 1992). As Richardson (2010) states, "In short, perceptions of the academic context are a primary determinant of approaches to studying," (p. 537).

Evidence also exists that the different academic disciplines cultivate different learning environments resulting in student's developing a variety of study approaches across those disciplines (Entwistle & Ramsden, 1983; Meyer & Eley, 1999). …

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