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Learning Patterns of Engineering Students in a Singapore Tertiary Education Context and the Implications for Continuing Education in the Field of Engineering

TAN, KIA,ANN,AARON (2012) Learning Patterns of Engineering Students in a Singapore Tertiary Education Context and the Implications for Continuing Education in the Field of Engineering. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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In 1997, Singapore implemented radical changes to its education curricula to foster deep, self-directed learning which were thought to be important for lifelong learning. The aim of this study was to establish if there was any evidence that Singapore tertiary students, having been through the revised curricula, had indeed developed desirable learning patterns for continuing education. The samples comprised polytechnic Engineering undergraduates from the Year 1 (N=638), Year 2 (N=616) and Year 3 (N=705) cohorts. The study also included a control sample of working adults (Professionals) (N=140) who had returned for continuing education. A mixed methods design was executed with a cross-sectional study using the 100-item English version of Vermunt's Inventory of Learning Styles, together with semi-structured group interviews.

A flexible learning pattern was reported to be common among undergraduates. Besides that, a prove-yourself directed pattern was reported by first and third year students, while a passive-idealistic pattern was indicated by second year students. The other two patterns reported in each group were variations of the reproduction and undirected patterns. The meaning directed and application directed learning patterns were not clearly distinguishable among the undergraduates. Sub-scale scores related to deep processing and self regulation strategies were not significantly higher in the second and third years, while scores for stepwise (surface) processing and external regulation were not lower. There seemed to be insufficient evidence to indicate that the changes in the curricula by the Singapore Ministry of Education and the polytechnic were effective in fostering the desired learning patterns.

Among the Professionals, the meaning and application directed learning patterns were more clearly distinguishable. Subscale scores related to the use of knowledge and vocation were significantly higher than for the undergraduates. Working adults appear to have a stronger conception that learning was for the useful application of knowledge, and were clearer in their motives to enhance their vocation through their studies compared with the undergraduates. This suggested that learning patterns could be modified if learning conceptions and motives could be changed.

This study has extended the understanding of learning pattern development particularly in a Singapore context, and generally in the wider Asian context. Cultural and educational contexts appear to play a role in influencing students’ learning conceptions and motives which, in turn, shape their learning patterns. Interventions that superficially manipulate the learning environment have limited effect in changing learning patterns. To bring about desired changes, all four domains of a learner – learning conceptions, motives, regulation and processing strategies, need to be addressed. This remains a challenge for institutions of higher learning and has implications for educational policy, curricula design and delivery, instructional approaches, assessments and other factors that impact the learner and the learning environment.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Education
Keywords:Learning patterns, learning styles, learning approaches, Vermunt, Engineering
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Education, School of
Thesis Date:2012
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:21 Sep 2012 12:26

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