Learning Preferences Dependent on Context (Entwistle)

Learning Preferences Dependent on Context (Entwistle)

12342 views | Ruby | 31-12-2018

J. Entwistle and Ramsden (1983) have jointly built upon Martin and Saljo (1976)’s work to establish three learning approaches described below. Entwistle (1991) further refined his research to include that each of these learning approaches is used interchangeably by students according to the context of their learning. A teacher’s behaviour and attitude, the course being studied, and other environmental and situational factors form a large part of this context.

Approaches defined by Entwistle:

Deep learning approach: This is a more reflective approach where an individual like to explore and determine the meaning of what he/she has learned and shows interest in ideas and monitoring understanding. They are likely to extrapolate the exact meaning of the author while reading and find meaning and reason behind what they have learnt (Draper and Waldman, 2013). They also try to fit together and link what they learn in other subjects as well and dwell on new ideas. They are hard to impress by long tales, they like to see reason and logic and try to build a picture to fit in all the data. They are keen on details and take notes meticulously. Deep learners are often taken by some gripping ideas and may spend long periods of time thinking and researching them. The bottom line is that the Intention is to seek meaning for oneself.

Strategic learning approach: The individuals are systematic and organised. They show alertness towards assessment and continually monitor their studying habits or routines. They plan their week ahead either on paper or in their head or otherwise, and manage the readings and assignments well. They are pretty well organised and time themselves to manage their activities systematically. They work stealthily throughout and do not accumulate work for the last moment. Moreover, they also do not have trouble getting down to work as soon as they sit down to do it (Richardson, J. T. E. 2000). They are also smart when it comes to scoring marks because they recognise what the instructor wants or prefers and do their work accordingly to impress their teachers. They are determined to do well and if they are rewarded (by acknowledgement or good marks), they put in even more effort. Such individuals are careful of what they submit and review their work to see if it fulfils all the requirements and is of high quality. The bottom-line intention is to achieve the highest marks/grades, rewards or acknowledgement.

Surface apathetic learning approach: There is an evident lack of purpose in such individuals. Their syllabus-bound focus on fulfilling just the minimum requirements is because they often reconsider why they are studying what is being taught to them. And if they think that the course is not adding value to their learning, they lose interest and do not put in much effort. The reason could be that the course fails to capture their interest too (Draper and Waldman, 2013). Much of what they are studying seems less related, so they are inclined to do unrelated memorising. In a syllabus-bounded environment, learning is mostly centred on only what is necessary to pass with scarcely any further effort, and research for more knowledge. Individuals are usually complaining about the workload and being unable to cope with it. Their core Intention is to cope minimally with the course requirements.

Individuals’ motivation varies, the drive to work well or opt to go for any of the learning approaches mentioned above are triggered by the demands of the course and the instructor, along with how engaging the instructor makes the course and the expectations of the students themselves. (Tait, H., Entwistle, N. J., & McCune, V. 1998).


British Journal of Educational Psychology, 51, 368-383.

Draper, S. and Waldman, J. (2013). CERE12-13: Combined student wikis. [online]

Entwistle N. J, Tait, H. & McCune, V. (2000). Patterns of response to approaches to studying inventory across contrasting groups and contexts. European Journal of the Psychology of Education, (in press).

Entwistle, N. J. & Ramsden, P. (1983). Understanding student learning. London: Croom Helm

ENTWlSTLE, N. (1991). Approaches to learning and perceptions of the learning environment. [online]

Marton, F., & Säljö, R. (1976). On qualitative differences in learning. I. Outcome and process. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 46, 4-11.

Marton, F., & Säljö, R. (1997). Approaches to learning. In F. Marton, D. J. Hounsell, & N. J. Entwistle (Eds.), The experience of learning (2nd ed.). Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press.

Ramsden, P. & Entwistle, N. J. (1981). Effects of academic departments on students’ approaches to learning.

Richardson, J. T. E. (2000). Researching Student Learning. Buckingham: Open University Press & SRHE.

Tait, H. & Entwistle, N. J. (1996). Identifying students at risk through ineffective study strategies. Higher Education, 31, 99-118.

Tait, H., Entwistle, N. J., & McCune, V. (1998). ASSIST: a reconceptualization of the Approaches to Studying. Inventory. In C. Rust (ed.) Improving students as learners. Oxford: Oxford Brookes University, The Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development [Accessed 7 Dec. 2016].

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