What are the social influences on how students learn?

Team: Dr Lillian Smyth, Dr Ken Mavor, Prof Michael Platow, A/Prof Diana Grace & Prof Katherine Reynolds

Photo by Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash

There is now quite a bit of literature looking at what shapes the approach students take to a particular learning task. Learning approaches are characterised in two broad types: the “surface approach” that looks at new information in isolation and focuses on meeting the task requirements (think ROTE learning or night-before-the-exam cramming); and the “deep” approach that looks at new information in the context of existing knowledge, engages with what the material means and draws links between new concepts (think problem-based learning or mind-mapping).

The existing literature has covered the impact of individual factors, like personality, and also context factors, like workload or field of study. We asked ourselves: what about the impact of other PEOPLE? Anecdotally, other students are one of the strongest influences on how students learn and this would be in line with a social identity understanding of behaviour- do the data agree? (spoiler: yes)

Smyth, Mavor, Platow, Grace & Reynolds, 2015

Smyth, Mavor, Platow, & Grace 2017

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