Action research and reflection on student approaches to learning in large first year university classes

Carmel Herington*, Scott Weaven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents an action research approach to exploring methods of improving the learning styles and outcomes of first year university students within large class environments. The genesis of this project stemmed from an observation that entire tutorial groups were often lethargic in their approach to learning. Following a survey of learning styles, students were exposed to more student-centric teaching styles within tutorial groups, with a view to encouraging deeper student learning and self-regulated learning behaviours. Although the project was successful in motivating students' participation in class activities, no noticeable change to a sustained deeper learning style became evident. The findings suggest that simply motivating students to participate in class does not necessarily alter overall learning styles, at least in the short term. This suggests that the process of "unlearning" previous learning styles may pose a significant problem for instructors and it appears likely that the process of changing from surface to deep learning may require more than a single course intervention. However, there is some evidence that student-centred and self-regulated learning results in a more positive learning experience for both students and teachers. The article concludes with a model of proposed relationships uncovered by the research which deserve further exploration in the quest to provide greater levels of student satisfaction with their higher education experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-134
Number of pages24
JournalAustralian Educational Researcher
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


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