Active Learning in Higher Education

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Liz Mcdowell Active Learning in Higher Education 2000; 1; 95 DOI: 10.1177/1469787400001001008 The online version of this article can be found at: http://alh.sagepub.com

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Downloaded from http://alh.sagepub.com by Rajagopal K on April 1, 2008 © 2000 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

in comparison with the widespread knowledge of this research in relation to students and learning. A similar model is presented for the experience of teaching. but I think that this is especially valuable. The underlying message of the book is hopeful. not on the basis of any ‘objective’ reality or the perception that someone else would like them to have. must be among the most powerful ideas around in higher education teaching and learning in recent years. heightening awareness of the different ways in which other readers may approach the book! The published literature of student learning research in the phenomenographic tradition. It also contains new contributions to the research field from the authors. 1999. Michael Prosser and Keith Trigwell.com by Rajagopal K on April 1. and Entwistle (1997) did this very successfully and ran to a second edition. ISBN 0–335–19831–7. or relational student learning research as Prosser and Trigwell prefer to call it. However. stable learning approaches or learning styles. 0–335–19832–5. It is based on a model applied to both student learning and to teaching. 95 Downloaded from http://alh. The model on which the book is based systematically explores the linkages and relationships between students’ prior experiences of learning. All rights reserved. This book provides an upto-date overview of this research and its implications for the practice of learning and teaching. When offered evidence of the ways in which students perceive their learning situation many are inclined to say the students are simply ‘wrong’ or that they must be ‘weak’ students – end of story. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. I know from personal experience that lecturers frequently find this difficult to accept or to cope with. The importance of perceptions cannot be overstated: ‘the world is an experienced world’. which is not so widely known in its current form. Students and teachers act on the basis of their perceptions of the situation they are in. and their colleagues.sagepub. This type of approach is less well known and less used in respect of teachers and teaching. which stem from the phenomenographic tradition in student learning research. experience and behave in particular contexts. This is a rigorous approach which continually points to the underlying theme of the relational nature of learning and teaching. The list of references in this book runs to seven pages and even that must be highly selective. Only one of eight chapters is concerned specifically with the experience of teaching. This book offers a subtle and complex argument to shift such people away from the fixity which they often see in a teaching and learning situation: fixed levels of student ability. The notion of ‘relational’ emphasizes the importance of context and the situated nature of these activities. Buckingham: SRHE and Open University Press. prior experience which must be simply taken as a given. 2008 © 2000 SAGE Publications. this new book is a valuable addition to the field which adds something new in several ways. I found particularly interesting the chapter on learning outcomes which drew together a variety of research in a very useful way and is certainly a challenge to the rather mechanistic thinking which often dominates the learning outcomes discourse. students’ approaches to learning and students’ learning outcomes. students’ perceptions of their current situation. The ideas of ‘deep’ and ‘surface’ learning. Hounsell.BOOK REVIEWS Understanding Learning and Teaching: The Experience in Higher Education by Michael Prosser and Keith Trigwell. . The whole message of the book is about the variation in the ways in which people perceive. is vast and still growing. It includes new research and insights into both student learning and teaching. and learning outcomes which are virtually predetermined by these factors. The collection edited by Marton. This gives a reviewer pause for thought. Ramsden (1992) drew the strands of the research together in a book specifically aimed at practising teachers in higher education. This is not the first book to aim to ‘take stock’ and provide an overview.

there are other dimensions. While this is a vital component. which are not touched upon. 2008 © 2000 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. techniques or templates to learning and teaching situations’. Many courses in learning and teaching are offered mainly to new lecturers. In this sense. H O U N S E L L . F.sagepub. J . Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press. It would be much better used as a resource and drawn upon by those teaching the courses. It would interest ‘ordinary’ lecturers who do not consider themselves as mainstream educational researchers but who are involved in action research and investigating their own practice. This leads me to considering who are the audiences for this book? Researchers in this field will certainly get a lot out of it and it is a very valuable contribution to the research literature. and I am not sure that this is the book for them to read. P . such as the development of personal and interpersonal capabilities. (eds) (1997) The Experience of Learning Implications for Teaching and Studying in Higher Education. There is a growing number of courses and training programmes in learning and teaching in higher education and this book might provide a resource for those programmes. .AC T I V E L E A R N I N G I N H I G H E R E D U C AT I O N 1(1) in the sense that there is not only variation. capacities for problem-solving and professional practice. Each chapter offers examples of classroom research and practice based on the principles covered.com by Rajagopal K on April 1. London: Routledge. it does offer practical ways forward. a good understanding of the underlying research. and is probably only possible for those who already have a good grounding in the research field. The programmes themselves are. Perhaps the book should not be read as a whole but dipped into. but these are explicitly not ‘predetermined recipes. The model used in the book contains different facets of the learner or teacher experience which are ‘simultaneously present’ and ‘not independently constituted’. This book provides an excellent resource for their teachers and mentors to provide that support. there is always the possibility of change and development. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. (1992) Learning to Teach in Higher Education. References M A R T O N . Newcastle-upon-Tyne. To gain from them. This book certainly does not provide simple models of good or even ‘best’ practice. although that might lose the flow of the argument. N . UK 96 Downloaded from http://alh. R A M S D E N . & E N T W I S T L E . D. The problem is that there is a sense of repetitiveness when reading the book through. very varied in nature and intentions. evidence and principles is required and this is where I believe that new lecturers in particular will need help and guidance. of course. 2nd edn. L I Z M C D OW E L L University of Northumbria. This clearly then creates difficulties in presenting such a model which is not linear or staged in a sequence of chapters each foregrounding a particular element. . It is inevitably gives a partial view of contemporary higher education because it concentrates mainly on learners developing conceptual understandings.