surface-strategic-deep is not a continuum

Home Forums Understanding Learners and Learning (Week 2) TEL One: Approaches to learning surface-strategic-deep is not a continuum

This topic contains 4 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  guy saward 6 years, 2 months ago.

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  • #17892

    guy saward
    Participant

    Or at least a single dimensional one.  In response to this week’s TEL One task I have been distracted from thinking about what my style of engagement is with ocTEL, or how I might accommodate different learning styles (activity 2.2?) in my design, into what the differences are between surface, deep and strategic learning styles.

    My first encounter with these styles was on my PGCert when starting lecturing where the link was clearly made with motivation: deep=intrinsic, surface=extrinsic. Not sure where strategic fell in the mix.  But it is clear from many descriptions, that strategic is more extrinsically driven, whether from the ocTEL official post, participant contributions (e.g. c.collis) or other external sources (e.g. Warwick U). However strategic learning is typically also seen as focussed on a more in depth/higher level of knowledge, even if the goal is only to achieve a better grade.

    This could be seen as resulting in a simple continuum from simple surface learning, through strategic to deep learning as follows:
    <table style=”border-collapse: collapse; border: 0.5px solid #cbcbcb;” cellspacing=”0″ cellpadding=”0″>
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    <p style=”margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Calibri;”><b>Learning Style</b></p>
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    <td style=”width: 119.7px; padding: 0.0px 5.0px 0.0px 5.0px; border: 0.5px solid #cbcbcb;” valign=”top”>
    <p style=”margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Calibri;”><b>Surface</b></p>
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    <td style=”width: 119.7px; padding: 0.0px 5.0px 0.0px 5.0px; border: 0.5px solid #cbcbcb;” valign=”top”>
    <p style=”margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Calibri;”><b>Strategic</b></p>
    </td>
    <td style=”width: 119.7px; padding: 0.0px 5.0px 0.0px 5.0px; border: 0.5px solid #cbcbcb;” valign=”top”>
    <p style=”margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Calibri;”><b>Deep</b></p>
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    </tr>
    <tr>
    <td style=”width: 119.7px; padding: 0.0px 5.0px 0.0px 5.0px; border: 0.5px solid #cbcbcb;” valign=”top”>
    <p style=”margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Calibri;”><b>Motivation</b></p>
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    <p style=”margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Calibri;”>extrinsic</p>
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    <td style=”width: 119.7px; padding: 0.0px 5.0px 0.0px 5.0px; border: 0.5px solid #cbcbcb;” valign=”top”>
    <p style=”margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Calibri;”>extrinsic</p>
    </td>
    <td style=”width: 119.7px; padding: 0.0px 5.0px 0.0px 5.0px; border: 0.5px solid #cbcbcb;” valign=”top”>
    <p style=”margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Calibri;”>intrinsic</p>
    </td>
    </tr>
    <tr>
    <td style=”width: 119.7px; padding: 0.0px 5.0px 0.0px 5.0px; border: 0.5px solid #cbcbcb;” valign=”top”>
    <p style=”margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Calibri;”><b>Knowledge</b></p>
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    <p style=”margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Calibri;”>low</p>
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    <p style=”margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Calibri;”>medium</p>
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    <p style=”margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Calibri;”>high</p>
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    <tr>
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    <p style=”margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Calibri;”><b>Goal</b></p>
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    <p style=”margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Calibri;”>avoid failure</p>
    </td>
    <td style=”width: 119.7px; padding: 0.0px 5.0px 0.0px 5.0px; border: 0.5px solid #cbcbcb;” valign=”top”>
    <p style=”margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Calibri;”>get good grade</p>
    </td>
    <td style=”width: 119.7px; padding: 0.0px 5.0px 0.0px 5.0px; border: 0.5px solid #cbcbcb;” valign=”top”>
    <p style=”margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Calibri;”>understand subject</p>
    </td>
    </tr>
    </tbody>
    </table>
    While this could be seen as a strawman, with an obvious question of how you quantify or classify knowledge, I think it a reasonable summary of different views.  More importantly there are obvious ways of thinking about a level of knowledge of a subject, for example Bloom’s taxonomy.

    My preferred way of thinking about knowledge is to use a definition derived from knowledge management (KM) – a business discipline favoured in the 90s following the 80s down-sizing.   In this approach, it is possible to think about knowledge being information structured to achieve a goal.  This links in nicely with models such a Bloom where the amount of information, and how it is connected, varys tremendously between being able to remember or explain a particular concept compared to evaluating, synthesizing or creating new ones.  It also links nicely with the goals related to the learning types shown above.

    However, the continuum above breaks down when one considers that motivation and knowledge acquisition are in fact independent or orthogonal.  This provides a way of clarifying the muddied approach that Diana refers to by the introduction of a strategic style between surface and deep.  So rather than referring to a “student (who) can be strategic and either deep or surface in relation to a particular learning task”, I would suggest that strategic learners would be aiming to acquire and structure information differently, depending on their goal, rather than a particular task.

    The result is that we do have strategic learners who may acquire superficial amounts of simply structured information, provided it is enough to get the good grade they are after.  We also have strategic learners, as exemplified by c.collis in another of his contributions, who are extrinsically motivated by a particular goal, rather than being intrinsically motivated by the love of the subject, but who also engage in deep learning.  By considering goals and information structures independently of motivation we can cater for strategic learners who range from consultants who need just need enough information to bluff to clients, to weary lecturers who need a good understanding to teach what they are told to inquisitive students, to motivated professionals who want to successfully implement  change in their working environment.

    As a parting thought from reflection which is mainly driven by personal experience over the years, I was interested to skim Bigg’s later paper in which he proposes a two dimensional approach to the classification of learning techniques.  In this, engagement or type of activity mirrors the knowledge level I would propose as one dimension of classification.  I have yet to work out how his second dimension of student activity relates to my second dimension of motivation though there are obvious links.  Given extra time, I would sketch this out in more detailed words and pictures!

    Biggs, B. 1999, What the Student Does: teaching for enhanced learning, Higher Education Research & Development, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp57-75, DOI:10.1080/0729436990180105

    • This topic was modified 6 years, 2 months ago by  guy saward.
    • This topic was modified 6 years, 2 months ago by  guy saward.
  • #17975

    guy saward
    Participant

    Ok – failed with the table insert and ran out of time last night to re-edit – here’s a blog post with a picture insert.

  • #18032

    Moira Sarsfield
    Participant

    Hi Guy. I like the idea of including motivation and goals in the equation.

    You say, “strategic learners would be aiming to acquire and structure information differently, depending on their goal, rather than a particular task”, but if their goal is to get a good mark in the task then this will impact on their learning. For example, if they are going to be tested with a multiple choice question test then they might adopt a superficial, fact-learning approach, even though the test will actually test deeper learning.

     

    • #18037

      guy saward
      Participant

      Thanks for the comment Moira and agree totally. This backs up the point that strategic learners may sometime use surface learning, sometime deep.

      Interestingly, an objective test might elicit a different response depending on where it occurs and what the overall goal is. Assuming the student wants a good grade and the test is at the end, the focus might be on putting in just enough, superficial, effort/revision to ensure they get a good enough test score to get the overall grade result they want. Whereas at the beginning, I might expect a strategic learner wanting to get a good grade to be using deeper learning, some portion of which might be assessed by an objective test.

      This then ties back to the idea of needing to develop assessment strategies that encourage the development of deeper knowledge structures or learning activities.

  • #19431

    guy saward
    Participant

    As a follow-up to this post (while reviewing my badge collection!) I realise that I did not directly address the questions for the TEL activity, namely:

    • Have you seen any evidence of these different approaches in online contexts, e.g. in technology-enhanced courses you teach? How did these differences manifest themselves in terms of online learning behaviour?
    • Are you leaning towards one approach in particular on ocTEL, and if so why might that be? Perhaps you are employing strategies from more than one approach?
    • Are learners who tend to take a ‘surface’ approach likely to learn more or less effectively online versus face-to-face?
    • How might we encourage ‘deep learning’ in online contexts?

    The closest I got was in examining the difference between surface, strategic and deep learning above, and thinking about how the difference in depth of knowledge and motivation might be reflected in cMoocs vs xMoocs.  That said, much of the discussion leaves the questions above only implicitly addressed.

    So for some quick answers:

    • I think surface approaches to learning can be just as common online as in class.  While I think there is more chance for teachers to increase motivation in tasks in a face to face context, peer motivation online may be just as effective
    • Encouraging deeper motivation in online contexts might be done by providing students with the ability to direct their own learning, with tempty trailers to engaging content that will pique their interest, and making sure that their contributions are responded to and used to build a picture of the learner.  All these are things that might be done in an offline context
    • Encouraging deeper knowledge structures in an online content is about providing activities and feedback where a superficial answer (i.e. an MCQ objective test) is not enough.  Again, this is something that is not specific to an online context.

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