Gender and electives differences in the study approaches of Hong Kong teacher education students

Man Tak LEUNG, Kwok Wai CHAN

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Research in the area of student's learning approaches has been conducted by numerous educators since the late 1970's (e.g. Marton & Saljo, 1976; Ramsden & Entwistle, 1981; Biggs, 1985, 1987). Marton & Saljo (1976) have suggested two basic approaches to learning, viz. "surface" and "deep" approach. A surface approach describes the intention to reproduce information in compliance with externally imposed task demands while a deep approach involved an intention to understand. Biggs (1985, 1987, 1993) added a third one, the "achieving" approach. According to Biggs (1993), the achieving approach is based on the ego-enhancement aiming at the achievement of high grades. Similar to the surface approach, the focus is not task-centred but on the recognition gained from top performance. The strategy is to organize time, workplace, and syllabus coverage cost effectively, with much use of cue-seeking, systematic use of study skills, planning ahead, allocating time according to task importance. Biggs (1985, 1987) has developed two different versions of questionnaires in his survey study with Australian tertiary and high school students, viz. "Study Process Questionnaire" (SPQ) and "Learning Process Questionnaire" (LPQ) respectively. Many of these studies of learning approaches were conducted with university / college students in western countries to identify what kind of study approaches were adopted and to relate the chosen study approaches with other variables such as academic achievement. Judith's (1992) study of the learning processes in distance learning students concluded that deep motivation was a way to success, but to succeed in gaining credit and good grades, deep strategy, achieving motive and achieving strategy were also needed. This was in support of the meaning assigned by Biggs to achieving approach. Studies employing Biggs' instruments have also been replicated in various situations and contexts, (e.g. Biggs, 1992; Watkins & Hattie, 1981, 1985; Watkins & Ismail, 1994). For example, in a comparative study of Hong Kong and Australian students, Kember & Gow-Lyn (1991) reported similar study processes tendencies toward reproductive study approach was identified in the university / college students of both culture, and this might be a function of teaching practice rather than an innate tendency. As teacher educators for many years, the authors are interested to understand the kind of study approaches prevailing among prospective teachers. It is expected that the learning approach adopted by a student teacher possibly affects how he/she acquires and integrates knowledge and experience from the teacher education program. In turn this will have an impact on the conception of the prospective teacher about learning, subsequently influence the way he/she teaches and his/her expectations of the pupils. Consequently a study was conducted to investigate the study approaches adopted by the Hong Kong student teachers. Purposive sampling method was used and the subjects of study came from the Hong Kong Institute of Education. The subjects consisted of 358 students enrolled in the Full-time Certificate of Education Course of the Hong Kong Institute of Education at the Northcote campus. The Certificate of Education Course is a two year full-time preservice course for "A" level matriculates to be educated as non-graduate teachers. Despite the CE course is a subdegree course, the teacher education students can be taken as equivalent to undergraduates of college and universities based on the "A" level entry requirement. Like other higher institutions, the CE course students take a variety of subjects, including Arts & Languages, Science & Maths; Business & Technology; Social Sciences; and Cultural subjects as their electives. The objectives of this study was threefold. The first two was to identify the study approaches prevailing in the Hong Kong teacher education students of the Institute. The second one was to examine if there was any significant differences in the study approaches between gender and the third one was to investigate if there were any significant electives difference in the study approaches of the student teachers. The findings would suggest implications on the planning and development of teacher education program in views of the study approaches adopted by student teachers as related to different gender and electives. Principal Axis Factoring analysis followed by varimax rotation of the data (setting eigenvalue greater than I as cut-off) yielded two factors of cumulative percent variance of 0.67. Factor One has very high loading values from the subscale "deep strategy" (0.80) and "deep motive" (0.72) and with one high loading (0.63) from subscale "achieving strategy". Factor Two has high loading from subscale "surface strategy" (0.62) and "surface motive" (0.75) and one fairly high loading (0.50) from subscale "achieving motive". In short, two dimensions of study approaches have been identified with the group of Hong Kong teacher education students in Hong Kong Institute of Education. The two dimensions of study approaches were "deep" and "surface" despite there were some association of "achieving" elements with the deep approach - so perhaps, it might have been taken as "deep-achieving" and "surface" approach. A 2 (Gender) x 5 (Electives) multivariate analysis of variance analysis was used to test for any significant differences in the study approaches of teacher education students of different gender and electives. The result indicated that there was no significant multivariate main effect for Gender [Wilk's = .9936, F(l,306) = .9898, p > .05], no significant effect for Electives [Wilk's = .9590, F(4,306) = 1.614, p >,05] , and no significant Gender x Electives interaction [Wilk's = .9712, F(4,306)= 1.123,p>.05].
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1997


Leung, M. T., & Chan, K. W. (1997, November). Gender and electives differences in the study approaches of Hong Kong teacher education students. Paper presented at the Hong Kong Educational Research Association (HKERA) 14th Annual Conference: Compulsory Education and Beyond, The Hong Kong Institute of Education, China.


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