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Cross-cultural perspectives on the creation of effective learning environments for undergraduate students.

Author Dr Della Fazey
Abstract According to Self Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985), individuals are most likely to demonstrate achievement behaviours such as persistence, application of effort, challenge-seeking and curiosity when their motivation can be described as self-determined. Self-determined motivation is characterised by the internalised valuing of an activity by the individual and differentiated from externally-motivated behaviour where the activity is not valued. Whilst Self-Determination Theory can be applied to both teachers and students in University this paper will focus on the students and ways in which courses can be designed, structured and taught to enhance their learning. A second theoretical perspective will also be discussed that of alignment of teaching and learning (Biggs, 1996; Trigwell & Prosser, 1999). This theoretical perspective supports the notion that, to be effective, the course construction and presentation (content, structure, teaching approach, assessment method, criteria for marking etc.) must be closely aligned with the teacher's intentions for student learning outcomes. It is proposed here that, in a high quality learning environment, an additional alignment must exist. Students' understanding of what is required must be congruent with what it is that the teacher is intending (O'Donovan, Price, & Rust, 2004). For this to occur there must be constant checks that the teacher-student communication channels are functioning effectively. Experiences in programme and module design and implementation in Bangor University in Wales and in the University of the West Indies, Trinidad are discussed in relation to the self-determination and alignment perspectives described above and supported by research evidence. It is argued that self determination and alignment are generic features of an effective learning environment and are cross-culturally valid, as a discussion of the similarities and differences between the two Universities will indicate.
Keywords Self-determination; Approaches to study; Constructive alignment; assessment criteria; cross-cultural comparisons.
Published In ICEP Proceedings
Year 2008
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