Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Brazilian and Nigerian International Students' Conceptions of Learning in Higher Education

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Brazilian and Nigerian International Students' Conceptions of Learning in Higher Education

Article excerpt

One area of research that informs institutions about meeting the needs of international students is the literature on conceptions of learning. All students come to learning situations with different preconceived views of what "learning" means (Marshall, Summer, & Woolnough, 1999). Conception1s of learning refer to students' fundamental understanding, or interpretation, of the learning phenomena (Marton, 1981) and have been defined as coherent systems of knowledge and beliefs about learning and phenomena related to learning (Marshall et al., 1999; Tsai, 2009; Vermunt & Vermetten, 2004). In more depth, Cano and Cardelle-Elawar (2004) explained that learning conceptions are individual constructions that develop from knowledge and experience and dictate the different ways in which learning is understood. Vermunt and Vermetten (2004) argued that conceptions of learning include what an individual thinks about learning objectives, activities, strategies, tasks, and processes.

Students' conceptions of learning are important because they profoundly impact learning outcomes (Tsai, 2009) and influence students interaction with courses, classroom environment, teachers, and peers (Marshall et al., 1999). Further, learning conceptions include preconceived ideas about students' roles, the role of the instructor and other professionals in academia, and these ideas about roles and the relationships between all the different players in educational settings impact how students approach learning (Mclean, 2001). Tsai (2009) argued students' conceptions of learning guide primary beliefs about and interpretations of learning experiences as well as ultimately influence learning outcomes. Students' conceptions of learning have also been found to impact and predict academic achievement (Allan, 2003; Boulton-Lewis, Marton, Lewis, & Wilss, 2000; Tsai & Kuo, 2008). Cano and Cardelle-Elawar (2004) noted the more capable students are of deciding for themselves what learning means the more successful they are in their academic performance. It is therefore critical that educators are aware of and understand students' conceptions of learning.

LITERATURE REVIEW

When investigating international students' conceptions of learning, culture is an important construct to consider (Marshall et al., 1999; Tsai & Kuo, 2008; Tsai, 2009). Hong and Salili (2000) argued that conceptions of learning are formed by cultural values. Purdie, Hattie, and Douglas (1996) stated that environment, where learning occurs, influences conceptions of learning, and culture is embedded in environment. The general assumption that learning is a well-defined standard experience across cultures has been challenged by research indicating students' conceptions of learning differ (Jones, 2008). For example, Purdie, Hattie and Douglas (1996) found Austrailian students have a narrow school based view of learning, while Japanese students have a broader, more community based view of learning. Along similar veins, Boulton-Lewis et al. (2004) reported differences in indigenous Australian and Australian university students' views in terms of learning as an increase in knowledge, memorizing and reproducing, applying, and understanding. Abhayawansa and Fonseca (2010) examining Sri Lankan students enrolled in an Australian university found that the students from Sri Lanka reported beliefs about learning being teacher centered, whereas their Australian classmates perceived learning as student centered . Research has reported that Asian students differ from their Western classmates because they consider learning to be more than the transference of knowledge and attending school (Jones, 2008). Jones (2008) reported that Asian students view knowledge as having to do with things that cannot be measured such as emotions, intuitive feelings, spirituality, morality, and social skills, and this view differs from traditional Western beliefs about learning being built upon things that can be scientifically proven. …

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