Reconsidering the dimensions of approaches to learning

D. Kember, A. Wong, Yin Ping Leung

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


Background. The dimensionality of student approaches to learning, inherent in the instruments commonly used to measure them, lacks consistency with research, particularly concerning Asian students, conducted since the original instruments were devised. Aims. The study examined four strands of evidence to examine whether, and if so how, the dimensionality of the instruments should be modified. 1. A qualitative study of students' perceptions of the motivational aspects of curricula. 2. A study by confirmatory factor analysis of the SPQ and LPQ which suggested that the surface strategy subscale can be split into two. 3. Recent research, mainly in Asia, which suggests the existence of approaches to learning which combine understanding with memorisation. 4. A review of literature relevant to the motivational dimensions of approaches to learning. Methods and Samples. Item 1 used semi-structured interviews with 55 undergraduate students. Item 2 used confirmatory factor analysis on a sample of 4863 university students from Hong Kong universities who completed the Study Process Questionnaire. Items 3 and 4 were drawn from a review of pertinent literature. Results. The strands of evidence confirm earlier work which suggests that approaches to learning are best described by a model with two main factors, which we labelled meaning and reproducing. Each main factor has a strategy indicator characterised principally by the presence or absence of the intention to understand the material. We also found evidence of four motivation indicators; intrinsic interest, a positive motivator referring to courses with good career preparation, a negative minimising motive and achievement motivation. The final category needs to take into account the evidence of communal rather than competitive achievement motive. Conclusions. Our suggestion is that the instruments be redeveloped in two forms. A simple two-factor - deep and surface - instrument would be suitable for teaching evaluation and simple research applications. The development and testing of an instrument which took into account all the strategy and motive elements would be a useful exercise in clarifying the dimensionality of approaches to learning. It would also permit a more thorough examination of cultural influences upon approaches to learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-343
Number of pages21
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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