MP deep learning

(The FASEB Journal. 2011;25:672.11)

Does Your Teaching Encourage Deep or Superficial Learning?

Mary Pat Wenderoth.
Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

What determines if students use a deep or superficial approach to learning? Is this study approach innate or a consequence of the learning environment? The Revised Study Process Questionnaire (RSPQ) produces two scores (deep and superficial) each with a maximum of 50. Students in ten different Biology courses (100–400 level) took the RSPQ. For each course the deep score (31.6±1.7) was significantly greater (p<0.05) than the superficial score (25.5±0.9). However, there was no significant difference between superficial scores and only one course had a significantly greater deep score (34.8± 3.2). As the deep and superficial scores were uniform across academic levels, it was necessary to determine if the scores represented an innate and stable characteristic of biology majors. A class of senior biology majors take the RSPQ twice. First they were to answer with respect to a class they liked and second with respect to a class they did not like. In both cases, the student was asked to identify the department but not the course and give reasons for their selection. Classes they liked produced deep = 34.3±5.7, superficial 24.4±6.1 while the disliked course producing just the opposite, deep 22.7±6.4, superficial 34.3±7.8. These results indicate that student’s learning strategies are fluid not innate and are influenced by course characteristics. Characteristics of courses that promoted superficial learning will be discussed.

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