FrankCoffieldLearning Styles

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    Conclusions

    Entwist le and his colleagues have spent almost30 years refining the validity and reliability of theirinventories to arri ve at it ems that have reasonable

    predict ive validity. They acknowledge the tendencyfor detailed, continuous ref inements to make technicalconstructs less credible and less easy to use byresearchers outside educat ional psychology. They havetherefore supplemented their analysis of approachesto learning with data from qualitat ive studies to explorethe consistency and variability of learning approacheswithin specific contexts (see McCune and Entwistle2000; Entwistle and Walker 2000). In this respect,their methodology and the data their studies haveproduced offer a rich, authentic account of learningin higher education.

    However, one feature of a posi tivist methodology,

    which aims for precise measures of psychometrictraits, is that i tems proliferate in order to try to capturethe nuances of approaches to learning. There are otherlimitat ions to quanti tat ive measures of approachesto learning. For example, apparent ly robustclassifications of meaning and reproductionorientations in a questionnaire are shown to be lessvalid when interviews are used with the same students.Richardson (1997) argued that interviews by Martonand Slj show deep and surface approaches asdifferent categories or forms of understanding, or asa single bipolar dimension along which individualsmay vary. In contrast, questionnaires operationalisethese approaches as separate scales that turn outto be essentially orthogonal to each other; a s tudentmay therefore score high or low on both. Accordingto Richardson, this difference highlights the need forresearchers to differentiate between methods t hataim to reveal average and general disposit ions withina group and those that aim to explain the subtletyof individuals actions and motives.

    Despite attempts to ref lect t he complexityof environmental factors affecting students approachesto learning and studying, the model does not discussthe impact of broader factors such as class, raceand gender. Although t he model takes some accountof intensifying polit ical and insti tut ional pressuresin higher education, such as quality assuranceand funding, sociological inf luences on participationand attitudes to learning are not encompassedby Entwistles model.

    There is also confusion over the theoretical basisfor const ructs in the ASI and ASSIST and subsequentinterpretation of t hem in external evaluations.Two contrasting research traditions create theseconstructs: information processing in cognitivepsycholog