Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Students' Resistance to Change in Learning Strategies Courses

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Students' Resistance to Change in Learning Strategies Courses

Article excerpt

Colleges provide considerable support services to help students improve their learning. These programs include learning to learn courses, Supplemental Instruction, required programs for underprepared students, and integrated reading/ writing courses (see Simpson, Hynd, Nist, & Burrell, 1997 for a comprehensive review of these programs.) In 2000-2001, more than three-quarters (75.1%) of institutions of higher learning offered at least one remedial reading, writing, or mathematics course. More specifically, 80.4% of 2-year, 81.7% of public, and 67.9% of private 4-year institutions provided remedial courses (National Center for Education Statistics, 2002).

In addition to remedial courses, Supplemental Instruction and learning to learn courses play an important role in providing academic assistance to undergraduate students. Supplemental Instruction uses collaborative learning strategies in high-risk courses in which students participate in regularly scheduled, out of class, peer-facilitated study sessions. These sessions allow students an opportunity to discuss and review course information (Martin, Lorton, Blanc, & Evans, 1977). Learning to learn courses (e.g., Dembo & Jakubowski, 1999; Hofer, Yu, & Pintrich, 1998) teach students a variety of learning strategies to help them become more self-regulated learners. More specifically, students learn strategies to improve their time management, acquire higher- level content knowledge, manage their environment, develop critical thinking skills, and pursue extra help outside of class when needed. These courses are different from the more traditional study skill courses because they are based on learning theory, whereas study skill courses often are atheoretical (Pintrich, McKeachie, & Lin, 1987).

Unfortunately, there is limited systematic research on the effectiveness of many academic assistance programs (see Simpson, Hynd, Nist, & Burrell, 1997). There appear to be three interrelated problems that need the attention of administrators, researchers, and instructors of academic support programs. The first problem is that many students fail to seek help. Students, particularly those at the lower academic achievement levels, do not readily participate in academic support services unless they are required (Friedlander, 1980; Karabenick & Knapp, 1988, Rosen, 1983). For example, Karanbenick and Knapp ( 1988) have found a curvilinear relationship between help seeking and academic need. Their findings show that the rate of help seeking increased from low to moderate need, maximizing in the B- to C+ grade range, and then decreased with high need levels. Karanbenich and Knapp (1988) ask: "Why is the rate of help seeking so low among students who are performing poorly, who have undoubtedly experienced repeated academic failure, and who could most benefit from assistance" (p. 408)?

A second problem is that students who enroll in academic support programs often fail to attend sessions or classes on a regular basis. For example, although research evidence indicates that Supplemental Instruction has been successful in helping students achieve higher grades than comparable groups of students who do not enroll in the program (Arendale, 1994), administrators report that attendance at weekly study groups is a problem (Rettinger & Palmer, 1996; Sydney Stansbury, personal communication, june 10, 2002).

A third problem is that students who do enroll in academic support programs often fail to benefit from such programs or courses because they do not change their academic behavior. In a review of the effects of study skills courses in higher education institutions, Hattie, Biggs, and Purdie (1996) have reported the following:

It is very difficult to change the study skills that students have acquired, usually over many years of study...older students are more resistant to change...Although most programs in which the thrust is study skills use by university students, the effects on study skills are minimal, (p. …

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