On 26 November 2019 at 14.00 Kaire Uiboleht will defence her doctoral thesis „The relationship between teaching-learning environments and undergraduate students’ learning in higher education: A qualitative multi-case study“.
Associate Professor Mari Karm (PhD; University of Tartu)
Adjunct Professor Liisa Postareff (PhD; Häme University of Applied Sciences; University of Helsinki)
Adjunct Professor Telle Hailikari (PhD; University of Helsinki)
The last ten years have been challenging for the graduates’ of higher education. In addition to acquiring a deep understanding of disciplinary knowledge, students are also expected to develop generic skills. These expectations challenge university teaching. The aim of this dissertation was to explore the relationship between teaching (i.e. the teaching-learning environment of the courses developed by teachers) and: (i) the students’ perceptions of the elements of the teaching-learning environment that enhance or hinder their learning; (ii) the students’ approaches to learning; (iii) the quality of learning outcomes. To capture the relationship between the teaching of the courses and the students’ learning more deeply, this study used a qualitative comparative multi-case research design. The results of this study showed that the greater the teachers’ approach to teaching is learning-focused, the more likely are students to adopt deep approaches to learning and gain high-quality learning outcomes. The reverse is also valid. The greater is the teachers’ adoption of content-focused approach to teaching, the more likely are students to adopt the surface-approach to learning and obtain low-quality learning outcomes. The quality of learning outcomes was interpreted as high when the students’ descriptions of theoretical knowledge were at least on the level of understanding and they also described a variety of learning outcomes. In addition, this study found that the greater the teachers’ adoption of the content-focused approach to teaching, the more did students report elements of the teaching-learning environment that hindered their learning. In general, the results of this study suggest that it is insufficient to adopt elements that are inherent to the learning-focused approaches to teaching (e.g. enthusiastic and interesting lectures, variety in the teaching methods, a pleasant atmosphere, authentic and challenging course tasks) to support students’ learning. Still, the teachers’ guidance, and the teaching structure and support for learning are also crucial. Therefore, it is not enough to just change the method of teaching or assessment to support the adoption of deep approaches to learning or the development of high-quality learning outcomes. It is also important to develop a constructive alignment between the elements of the teaching-learning environment, the formulation of the instructions of the tasks and the quality of interaction.