Student Motivation, Cognition, and Learning: Essays in Honor of Wilbert J. McKeachie

By Paul R. Pintrich; Donald R. Brown et al. | Go to book overview

4
Science Students' Learning: Ethnographic Studies in Three Disciplines

Janet Gail Donald
McGill University
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

To understand how students learn at the postsecondary level has been a lifelong quest for Bill McKeachie. In 1974 his review of the field of instructional psychology brought together studies on the factors that influence the effectiveness of instruction: the learner, the teacher, and the instructional process (McKeachie, 1974). The principles of learning and instruction enunciated at that time reflected a change from an associationist approach to an information-processing approach to learning. One of the questions asked in this article interested me greatly as a young researcher at McGill University's Centre for Learning and Development: "What was the effect of content structure and information processing strategies on the teaching and learning process?" Little was known about representations of knowledge at that time, but I began to investigate methods for representing course content and disciplinary differences in student learning. Twenty years later, McGill's Centre for University Teaching and Learning has evolved as has our program of research to a cognitive and constructivist approach to postsecondary learning and thinking. Over the years, Bill has provided wise counsel to members of our centre as an invited speaker, symposium participant, discussant, and external reviewer. This study of student learning in three scientific disciplines--physics, engineering,

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