Responsibility for learning : students' understandings and their self-reported learning attitudes and behaviours

Allan, Gary Mitchell (2006) Responsibility for learning : students' understandings and their self-reported learning attitudes and behaviours. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This study investigated a number of important research questions that were prompted by the existing literature relating to the concept of responsibility for learning. Such literature has highlighted the importance of promoting personal responsibility for learning to not only students as individuals but also to the direction of education and pedagogy in general. The literature has also shown a broad concern over students’ apparent lack of responsibility as well as a lack of consensus over the precise meaning of this concept. The present study addresses gaps in the literature by exploring the following specific issues: firstly, What are students’ understandings of the concept of responsibility for learning?; secondly, How have students reported their own learning related attitudes and behaviours?; and thirdly, What are the associations between students’ understandings and their self-reports? It was also intended that data collected for the first two research questions would enable the investigation of year level and gender differences.

With a methodology based on a written survey design, this study collected data from a sample of some 286 students from Australian schools in both the Primary and Secondary sectors (comprising Years 5, 7, 9 and 11). The process of data collection involved participants completing one open-ended question and two newly developed Likert-type response questionnaires that incorporated 40 individual descriptive items that were associated with six distinct subscales (i.e., Orientation Towards Schools and Learning; Active Participation in Learning Activities; Autonomy and Personal Control of Learning; Initiative; Management of Learning Resources; and Cooperation and Control of Classroom Behaviour). One scale (the SURLQ), along with the open-ended question, measured students’ understandings of Responsibility For Learning and the other scale (the SRLABQ) measured students’ perceptions of their own learning related attitudes and behaviours.

The data pertaining to the first research question was analysed in two distinct ways. Firstly, students’ responses to the open-ended question were analysed qualitatively by sorting and tallying their original responses according to a determination of the themes and descriptors offered. Secondly, the responses to the SURLQ were analysed quantitatively by calculating the mean and standard deviation scores for all 40 descriptive items and hence the six subscales. Similar quantitative statistical analysis procedures were applied to the data pertaining to students’ self-reported learning attitudes and behaviours (i.e., the SRLABQ). Reliability coefficients for the SURLQ and the SRLABQ were also calculated. Descriptive data for the subscales of these two measures were cross-tabulated by year level and gender to determine whether statistically significant differences were evident. Cohen’s Effect Size calculations were applied to such differences. Statistically significant interactions between these independent variables were determined by Multivariate analysis of variance techniques. The third research question was investigated by applying correlation analysis to the mean scores of corresponding subscales and by calculating the differences between the same sets of mean scores.

With respect to the first research question, it was found that according to both sets of data, students’ understandings of responsibility for learning generally supported a primarily behavioural perspective that emphasised a high degree of application to learning and relating sociably with others in the classroom. Although the SURLQ data also showed a greater acknowledgement of attitudinal components, it was noted that according to data from the two questionnaires, students did not readily associate responsible learners with being autonomous and having personal control of learning (as does the literature). With respect to the second research question, it was found that students reported themselves to be reasonably responsible learners as evidenced by the moderately high scores collected in all of the six responsibility for learning subscales. This finding led to the conclusion that the concerns expressed in the literature over students’ lack of responsibility in the classroom are not perceived by the students themselves. As the data pertaining to the third research question showed a reasonable correlation between students’ understandings of responsibility for learning and their self-reported learning attitudes and behaviours, it was concluded that students were likely to view themselves as responsible learners in a way that reflects their understandings of the concept.

It was concluded that this research has important implications for all stakeholders in education. Although this study makes a major contribution to defining and describing responsibility for learning, it is evident that a lack of consensus in understanding between key stakeholders groups (i.e., researchers, educators and students) still exists. The divergence of outlook between students and various elements of the literature reinforces the need for further research to be conducted to determine the relative acceptance of behavioural compliance (and/or prudence) in the classroom versus personal control and accountability with respect to learning. It is also argued that such work would be integral to educators having a clear and unambiguous understanding of responsibility for learning so that the enhancement of this quality in students may take place in classrooms of the future.

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ID Code: 16209
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Millwater, Jan
Keywords: personal responsibility for learning, autonomy, self-directed learning, self-regulated learning, choice and personal decision-making, intrinsic motivation
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Gary Mitchell Allan
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:58
Last Modified: 12 Apr 2012 00:43

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