The essay examines the comparison of surface approach and deep approach used in university students. As a fact, many first year students, regardless of majors, adopt surface approaches to learning. However, universities encourage students to accept a deep approach to learn rather than surface approach. Therefore, many first year students face a challenge to use which approach to achieve high academic grades. The essay presents the two opposite arguments about the learning approaches, and then raises opinion that deep approach is a much feasible method.
The surface approach to learning mentions students just recite study content rather than acknowledge the true meaning. Many first year students nowadays, regardless of their area of study, adopt surface approaches to learning. Actually, such surface learning approach is not quite effective. This is because such approach is stemmed from students’ previous learning knowledge, while the knowledge is not related with positive absorption. The knowledge is owned by students’ tutors rather than students themselves (Masters & Donnison, 2010).
Students treat the learning courses as routine memorizing process or requirement. They tend to focus much more energy on the surface requirements like reciting words or sentences, pursuit surface meaning of the tasks or courses without their own deep thoughts. Such learning approach makes students seldom timely respond learning strategies, lack learning enthusiasm and driving forces (Entwistle & Peterson, 2004). They will often feel pressure about study task, which will impact their confidence from a long run. Furthermore, due to these features, surface approach is usually thought as lack of understanding.
Facts have proved that surface approaches to learning are often related with poor academic performance over the first semester of study (Entwistle & Peterson, 2004). However, some researchers think it is not correct to think surface approaches to learning are always inefficient or ineffective, for example, as to some courses such as foreign languages study, basic mathematics and etc. , the capability of memory is regarded as necessary, because it builds up the base for deeper learning in such courses (Masters & Donnison, 2010).
It is well known that advanced study contains learning process which makes students become competent learner who fully understand the academic knowledge and restructure knowledge systems from his own perspective of view. Actually, this explanation reflects the essence of deep approach to learning. A deep approach to learning is defined as a complicated process of individual development which generates the fundamental change of learning habits and perspectives (Rawson, 2000).
It is also required students to set up meaningful tasks objectives for engagement, put efforts on understanding deep context meanings and main principles, and utilize academic knowledge into actual practice. Some researchers argue that the deep approach to learning is a kind of innovations in university course, but however it has none business with first year students (Masters & Donnison, 2010).
The reason is that first year students have limited experiences in campus living and the priority thing for them is get quick familiar with the new surroundings. And what is more, they think it is difficult for first year students to go beyond basic understanding of the learning courses as most of them just start live and study independently (Entwistle & Peterson, 2004).
Students in first year fail to present the all characteristics related to deep learning such as dedication in specific tasks continuously and persistently (Entwistle & Peterson, 2004). But the essay holds on the opinion that deep learning approach is not necessarily impracticable for first year students. The reason is because some first year students have used the deep approach to learning when they are studying in high school. Good learning habits or method is not directly limited by students existing experience and incapacity to merge various kinds of basic knowledge (Donnison & Penn-Edwards,2012).
Besides the above argument, for first year students, it is important to use strategic approach and put efforts into organized study since study is a process with a specific learning intention to fulfill all kind of assessment (Burton, Taylor, Dowling, & Lawrence, 2009). The said organized study contains effective time management and learning behaviors management which mean students need to learn to monitor the effectiveness of their study outcomes. From this point of view, therefore, a deep learning is preferable.
At the first year stage, it is suggested that there is a need for students to change students learning habits from surface approaches to deep learning since one of the ultimate objectives of undergraduate education is to establish and develop students’ correct lifelong learning habits and thinking skills, which can benefit their whole life (Burton, Taylor, Dowling, & Lawrence, 2009). The learning approaches are much more important and meaningful than academic grades.
Many educators argue that the first year in university should be assigned to build up a mature methodology which could consistently help students take advanced learning, and assist them to change learning behaviors to become adaptive with higher education (Entwistle & Peterson, 2004). Additionally, deep approach to learning can make many students achieve good academic assessment from a long run. Students engage in learning just because of academic assessment demands, therefore using the appropriate assessment would seem much meaningful.
Nowadays, university begins to take the comprehensive assessment system to evaluate students’ achievement rather than just use course scores before.
Such changes of assessment practice will also push students to move from initial surface learner to deep learner. Students are encouraged to focus on soft aspects instead of hard scores. It is argued that it is necessary for first year students to make their learning processes transparent. And what is more, it is important to come into being the understanding (Burton, Taylor, Dowling, & Lawrence, 2009). In conclusion, some researchers have different arguments or indication for first year students to use a surface approach or a deep approach to learning.
Researchers argue that some surface approaches of learning is important for first year students because the skills of memorization can be used to deepen and develop understanding which students can accept and come into being an learning approach (Entwistle & Peterson, 2004). They think the deep learning is impracticable and unexpected to first year students. While other opinions think the deep approaches of learning is much more important than surface one because learning attitude and methodology can build up solid base for student lifelong study.
There is a place in higher education for a deep approach to learning. The academic scores should not be put into first place for first year students (Burton, Taylor, Dowling, & Lawrence, 2009). Certainly, a complete education is aimed to keep balance between knowledge memorization and utilization. The essay proposes that deep approach of learning rather than surface learning should be regarded as an important and necessary method in university study, particularly first year study.
Therefore, how to transit from surface approach to deep approach in order to go through the courses smoothly and achieve study objectives is the most critical topic for most of first year students. References list: Burton, L. , Taylor, J. , Dowling, D. , & Lawrence, J. (2009). Learning approaches, personality and concepts of knowledge of first-year students: Mature-age versus school leavers. Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development, 6(1), 65-81. Donnison, S. & Penn-Edwards, S. (2012). Focusing on first year assessment: Surface or deep approaches to learning?
The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 3(2),9-20 Entwistle, N. , & Peterson, E. (2004). Conceptions of learning and knowledge in higher education: Relationships with study behaviour and influences of learning environments. International Journal of Educational Research, 41, 407-428. Masters, J. , & Donnison, S. (2010). First year transition in teacher education: The pod experience. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 35(2), 87-98.
Penn-Edwards, S. , & Donnison, S. (2011). Engaging with higher education academic support: A first year student teacher transition model. European Journal of Education, 46(4), 566-580. Rawson, M. (2000). Learning to learn: More than a skill set. Studies in Higher Education, 25(2), 225-238.
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