Learning Approach

Learning Approach

The distinction between deep approaches and surface approaches to learning is particularly useful for academics who want to understand their students' learning and create learning environments which encourage students to achieve desired learning outcomes.

Deep Approach

When our students are taking a deep approach they

  • Develop understanding and make sense of what they're learning
  • Create meaning and make ideas their own

In their learning strategies they

  • Focus on the meaning of what they're learning
  • Try to develop their own understanding
  • Relate ideas together and make connections with previous experiences
  • Ask themselves questions about what they're learning, discuss their ideas with others and enjoy comparing different perspectives
  • Are likely to explore the subject beyond the immediate requirements
  • Are likely to have positive emotions about learning
Rockford International CBSE school
Rockford International CBSE school

Surface Approach

When our students are taking a Surface approach they

  • Aim to reproduce information to meet external (assessment) demands
  • May aim to meet requirements minimally, and appear to be focused on passing the assessment instead of (rather than as well as) learning

In their learning strategies they

  • Focus on pieces of information in an atomistic way, rather than making connections between them and seeing the structure of what is being learned
  • Limit their study to the bare essentials
  • May rote learn information for the purpose of reproducing it
  • Are likely to have negative emotions about learning

A key distinction is that a deep approach involves the intention to understand and create meaning from what is being learned, whereas a surface approach involves an intention to reproduce. Strategies such as memorising can be part of either a deep approach or a surface approach, depending on the intention.

Achieving Approach

There is also a third approach, called an achieving approach. When our students adopt an achieving approach they

  • Enhance their ego and self esteem through competition
  • Obtain high grades and other rewards

In their learning strategies they

  • Identify the assessment criteria and estimate the learning effort required to achieve a particular grade
  • Follow up all suggested readings and/or exercises
  • Schedule their time and organise their working space
  • Behave as a model student
  • Operate strategically in their selection of peers
Rockford International CBSE school