Theses

Doctoral theses

ABSTRACT

Work continues to be an important educational measure in higher education. It has received increasing focus both among policymakers, educators, and in educational science research as a valuable addition to campus-based, and often lecture-based, education. In biology, work placements are rarely employed, and the workplaces that are available to students are multifaceted and the distinction between practices at campus and practices at work may seem oblique at the outset. Both include sampling, analysis, and reporting of results. In other words, work as a learning measure in scientific disciplines is different from work in professional educations.

In this thesis, I investigate learning through work in higher education, principally among biology students. The investigation is performed through three independent studies. In the first study, I examine students’ working practices in a field excursion using ethnographic techniques. The second study focus on a work placement course for biology students, and data was gathered through their blog entries. The third study consists of focus group interviews of students in Teacher education, Music Performance, and Aqua Medicine, a sub-program in biology that employs work placements. The third study allowed for a broader overview of other iterations of learning through work in several programs. In all studies, the aim was to gather students’ accounts of their knowing in enacting practices. Furthermore, the analysis focused, at various levels, on students’ accounts of personal epistemologies inside a sociocultural practice.

The analysis of interviews, focus group discussions, observations, and blog entries reveal important similarities between the way students enact biology through working practices in different contexts. These similarities concerned epistemological perception of learning in campus and complex learning in practices, such as those in workplaces and the field. At different levels, these complexities require students to make decisions whether in their sampling, and to gather necessary information to be able to complete their work. Furthermore, the different studies revealed different levels of engagement between students, teachers, supervisors, and others. In field excursions, students engage continuously with teachers, while they engage more continuously with supervisors and co-workers in work placements. Nevertheless, on the basis of students’ accounts, I argue that the role of teachers is crucial for the students’ experiences. Whether this is direct engagements between teachers and students, or their overall facilitation of learning at campus and how it interacts with students’ experiences and personal epistemologies in work.

By using varied expressions of knowing in the analysis of students’ accounts of knowing in working practices, we found that dispositions, procedures, and concepts interact throughout students’ work. This indicates that practices involve important experiences that affect students’ outlook towards their own engagement with biology, and the disposition to pursue particular methods, careers, and otherwise intersect their working practice with their values. On its own, these are important contributions of work placement- and field excursion practices in biology students’ education.

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ABSTRACT

Higher education has traditionally rested on teacher-centred education. Recently, there has been a shift towards learner-centred education. Innovative teaching tools, active teaching methods, and teachers that encourages a deep approach to learning, are examples of how to facilitate learner-centred education. Central to learner-centred education is increasing student motivation for learning. Moreover, recent systematic reviews and meta-analyses suggest that learner-centred education, compared to teacher-centred education, increase student achievement. Guided by the framework of Self-Determination Theory, this thesis investigates different antecedents for student motivation, and how in turn, autonomous motivation relates to achievement. It is hypothesised that the extent that the environment (i.e., teacher, innovative teaching tools, active teaching methods) promotes a sense of choice and volition in the learning activity, a sense of optimal challenge and feedback, and a sense of caring and nurture, will increase student autonomous motivation and achievement. Three independent studies were conducted and written up as three papers. Paper I is a national representative cross-sectional investigation of biology students´ prospective achievements and dropout intentions. Results from a Structural Equation Model show support for the proposed hypotheses. Moreover, multi-group analyses show that there are significant differences for level (i.e., BA vs MA) for four paths, but are invariant across genders. Specifically, we found need-support, relatedness, and intrinsic aspiration to be positive predictors of perceived competence and autonomous motivation. Perceived competence and autonomous motivation are positive predictors of achievement and negative predictors of dropout intentions. Extrinsic aspiration is a negative predictor of achievement and a positive predictor of controlled motivation. Controlled motivation is a positive predictor of dropout intentions. Paper II concerns a randomised experiment testing the effect of a mobile-application tool to identify species. Students in the mobile-application condition, relative to students using a traditional textbook, scored higher on intrinsic motivation, perceived competence, and achievement. A path-analysis shows that the mobile-application positively predicts intrinsic motivation and perceived competence. Intrinsic motivation in turn, positively predicts achievement. An indirect effect of the mobile-application to achievement through intrinsic motivation was found. Paper III is a quasi-experiment testing the effect of Team-Based Learning (TBL) relative to traditional lecture-classes. The study is a one-group pre-test/post-test design. Measurement after four weeks of lectures and then after four weeks of TBL shows that the students increased their intrinsic motivation, identified regulation, external regulation, perceived competence, engagement, autonomy-support, need-satisfaction, and perceived learning. The students decreased in amotivation from pre-test to post-test as a function of TBL. A path-analysis using the change scores shows that increases in intrinsic motivation, identified regulation, and perceived competence positively predict engagement, which in turn, positively predicts perceived learning.

In conclusion, the results show that active learning, compared to passive learning, is positively related to achievement. However, the findings also show that it is important to consider the underlying motivational processes that either support or thwart student autonomous motivation. That is, active learning promotes autonomous motivation and increases learning when the students´ basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness are supported. In accordance with Self-Determination Theory, a socio-context could be perceived as informational (need-supportive), controlling (need-thwarting), or amotivational (incompetence), thus teachers and institutions are recommended to consider the need-supportive vs need-thwarting elements within learner-centred approaches. The results from this thesis contribute to the knowledge on what increases student autonomous motivation and how active learning methods impact student motivation. Specifically, the use of a prominent metatheory of motivation allows for an analysis of which factors facilitate motivation and what the consequences might be. The use of diverse student samples, study design, and statistical analyses provide strong support for the external validity of the thesis.

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Master theses

ABSTRACT

This thesis examines the assessment practices of biology courses at the University level that feature a fieldwork component (field course). Seven professors who teach and administrate such courses were interviewed about two primary areas of research relating to field courses: How they are led, and how the professors assess student mastery of the course’s Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO) that pertain specifically to practical skills associated with field work. The study uncovered several original arguments in favor of field courses as a method of teaching, but the most significant finding is a number of discrepancies between what the students were expected to learn in terms of practical skills, and the ability of largely theoretical and written forms of assessment to properly evaluate mastery of these skills.

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ABSTRACT

Denne studien tar sikte på å gi innsyn i hvilken tenkemåte som preger biologistudentene ved UiB. Tenkemåte i denne studien blir sett ut fra hva studentene tenker om formbarheten til intelligens og evner, og hvordan de håndterer nederlag og motstand. Dette er en kvalitativ studie, og resultatene baserer seg på svar fra fem studenter som går på et introduksjonsfag i biologi ved Universitetet i Bergen. Resultatene viser at biologistudentene som ble intervjuet i hovedsak er preget av å ha en vekstbasert tenkemåte. En student gav svar som i større grad kan knyttes til en fastlåst tenkemåte. Resultatene er ikke entydige, da mange studenter henter elementer knyttet til begge tenkemåter når de snakker om innsats og motivasjon. Det er indikasjoner på at tenkemåte er knyttet opp mot arbeidsmetode. Studenter som gir svar som kan knyttes til en vekstbasert tenkemåte, viser større vilje til å lære av sine feil. Alle studentene, uavhengig av tenkemåte, ser ut til å primært jobbe for å få gode karakterer

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ABSTRACT

Studenter har ulike måter å tilnærme seg læring på, og dette kan avhenge av for eksempel personlighetstrekk eller hvilken hensikt man har med læringsprosessen. En person som er åpen for nye erfaringer vil gjerne ha en større interesse for å utforske nye perspektiver innenfor et tema. Både som student og som arbeidstaker vil det være viktig å ha gode strategier for å lære. Denne oppgaven er en kvantitativ pilotstudie som undersøker sammenhengen mellom personlighetstrekket åpenhet for erfaring og læringsstrategien dyp prosessering blant førsteårsstudenter i biologi ved Universitetet i Bergen. Spørreskjemaene International Personality Item Pool (IPIP-NEO-120) og Inventory of Learning Styles (ILS) har blitt oversatt fra engelsk til norsk og benyttet i denne studien. IPIP-NEO-120 er en målestokk for femfaktormodellen, som tar for seg de fem overordnede personlighetstrekkene åpenhet for erfaring, planmessighet, nevrotisisme, ekstroversjon og medmenneskelighet. ILS er utviklet for å undersøke læringsmønstre blant studenter, og tar for seg fire ulike aspekter ved læring: prosesseringsstrategier, reguleringsstrategier, læringsmotivasjon og læringssyn. Spørreundersøkelsen ble utført av 64 studenter som tar et obligatorisk innføringsemne i biologi ved Universitetet i Bergen, og majoriteten av disse er på sitt første år innen høyere utdanning. Studiens resultater tilsier at biologistudentene benytter seg av er relatering og struktureringstrategier, men at de ikke er like erfarne med å møte nytt lærestoff med et kritisk blikk. Innenfor faktoren åpenhet for erfaring skårer studentene høyest på emosjonalitet, fantasi og intellekt. Videre tyder korrelasjonsanalyser på at det finnes en sammenheng mellom høy grad av åpenhet for erfaring og dyp prosessering. Spesielt sterke er korrelasjonene mellom intellekt og dyp prosessering, og mellom kunstneriske interesser og relatering og strukturering. Det er kun 64 deltakere i denne studien, men funnene indikerer at det vil være interessant med fremtidige studier som undersøker sammenhenger mellom personlighetstrekk og læringsstrategier. Disse studiene kan ha nytte av å inkludere personlighetstrekkene planmessighet og nevrotisisme. Resultater fra reliabilitetsanalyser tyder på at enkelte deler av undersøkelsen burde revideres, og her kan man stille spørsmålet ved noen av påstandene ikke egner seg i norsk kontekst. Studien har fått økonomisk støtte av BioCEED.

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ABSTRACT

For studenter er det viktig å ha gode strategier for å lære, ikke bare i studiehverdagen men også for senere deltakelse i arbeidslivet. Innsikt i studenters bruk av læringsstrategier kan danne et grunnlag for utvikling av undervisning, slik at den på best mulig måte bistår studentene i deres utvikling av å lære å lære. Denne oppgaven er en kvantitativ pilotstudie som undersøker læringsmønstre blant førsteårsstudenter i biologi. Spørreskjemaet Inventory of Learning Styles (ILS) ble oversatt til norsk og benyttet. ILS tar sikte på å måle fire aspekter ved studenters læring: prosesseringsstrategier, reguleringsstrategier, læringssyn og læringsmotivasjon. Spørreundersøkelsen ble gjennomført av 64 studenter i et innføringsfag i biologi ved Universitetet i Bergen. Dette faget er obligatorisk for studenter ved fire ulike studieretninger: bachelor i biologi, havbruk og sjømat, lektorprogrammet i biologi og fiskehelse. De tre sistnevnte er profesjonsstudier. Resultatene indikerer at biologistudentene benytter seg av memoreringsstrategier, men at de også elaborerer og konkretiserer. Videre vitner resultatene om en høy yrkesrettet læringsmotivasjon, noe som kan tyde på et anvendelsesorientert læringsmønster. For studenter med et anvendelsesorientert læringsmønster er koplingen mellom teori og praksis viktig. En mulighet for videre studier er å gjennomføre en tilsvarende undersøkelse med et større utvalg slik at det kan gjennomføres en faktoranalyse. Det kunne også vært interessant å undersøke om et anvendelsesorientert læringsmønster er like vanlig blant bachelorstudenter innen andre fagretninger. Forskjeller mellom bachelorstudenter og studenter ved profesjonsstudier ble også undersøkt. Resultatene viser en signifikant høyere skår på personlig interesse som læringsmotivasjon hos bachelorstudentene enn hos profesjonsstudentene. Et lite utvalg problematiserer generaliserbarheten, men funnene kan indikere at dette kunne vært interessant å undersøke videre. Reliabiliteten til den oversatte versjonen av Inventory of Learning Styles (ILS) ble også undersøkt. Her ble det avdekket flere problematiske deler av måleinstrumentet. Resultatene kan brukes til å utbedre den oversatte versjonen av ILS.

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ABSTRACT

In a self-determination theory perspective (Deci & Ryan, 1985), the quality of the interaction between students and the context can be a crucial factor for the student’s well-being and motivation. Central to the theory are the three basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness. Self-determination theory argues that the satisfaction or thwarting of these needs may have a significant impact on well-being and autonomous motivation. To investigate factors in the learning environment that may interact with the satisfaction of the basic psychological needs in students may therefore be important. In this study, I aim to examine how students perceive their everyday life at the university, by shedding light on the students own account of their well-being and motivation.

To solve the research question, I conducted a series of qualitative semi-structured interviews. This interview method is often used in qualitative research because it provides the participants and researcher the opportunity to have a relatively open discussion, with an already established theme. The interview participants were all students who (1) were freshmen at the university, and (2) were participating in a bachelor program in biology. The interviews were recorded on an audio device, and later transcribed. The transcribed data was deductively analysed, and later broken down to smaller segments and put into categories. The categories were subsequently linked to central assumptions in the theoretical framework. The categorization of the comments provided a base for further discussion and reflection. In the discussion, basic psychological needs theory was used in interpreting the participants comments according to the degree they felt their need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness was being satisfied or thwarted. In many ways, the discussion reflects my own interpretation and understanding of the link between the theory and the data material. By interpreting the data material in light of self-determination theory, it was possible to observe different processes and factors that may be paramount in student well-being and motivation. According to my own interpretation, all the participants in the study expressed that they enjoyed, and felt connected, to their academic environment. Some of the participants also conveyed that they felt competent and felt a steady progress in their studies. Furthermore, the participants indicated that the learning context felt autonomy-supportive. Satisfaction of the need for autonomy is, according to self-determination theory, crucial for intrinsic motivation.

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ABSTRACT

The lack of, or low, motivation and perceived competence have previously been shown to be paramount in students’ decision to drop out of their education. However, recent studies have shown that psychological issues, such as anxiety and depression, is the leading cause of dropout amongst high school students. This study aims to shed light on ill-being and the dropout phenomenon in higher education. 174 biology students from a university in Norway participated in this quantitative survey. A theorized model in accordance to Self-determination Theory, based on previous research and motivational models, was proposed. First, it was assumed that a controlling teaching style would predict a lack of motivation in the students and frustration of their basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Second, it was expected that need frustration would positively predict amotivation and ill-being, and negatively predict perceived competence. Finally, it was assumed that amotivation and psychological ill-being would have a positive prediction on dropout intentions, and that perceived competence would negatively predict the students’ intentions to drop out. Two path analyses were conducted to test the hypothesized model and an alternative model. It was further assumed that there was a significant correlation between the variables in the study. A bivariate correlation analysis was performed to investigate the relationship between the variables. Lastly, it was presumed that teacher control and need frustration had significant, indirect effects on dropout intentions. The results show that the hypotheses in the study are supported. The assumptions in the theorized model are supported by the results; teacher control, need frustration, amotivation, and perceived competence had a significant prediction on students’ ill-being and their dropout intentions. Further, there were significant correlations between the studies variables. Lastly, teacher control and need frustration had significant, indirect effects on dropout intentions through the full mediation of amotivation and perceived competence.

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ABSTRACT

It has been a tradition for practice within professional studies at university and college during the education for a far time. Although there is much research on what characterizes good practice, there has not been researched enough on how practices can help increase the professional competence of students. By focusing on this, we can get a better understanding of the importance of practice, and how to use the practice in other programs to increase students' competence, when they graduate. This study look at the experiences and learning in practice among students who attend to the integrated master programme in aquamedicine, and how practice contributes to the development of professional competence of these students. This is a qualitative study. The data were collected using a focus group interview with six students who go on integrated master programme in aquamedicine, and who had already completed at least one practice period during their studies. The interview was meant to catch students' experiences from practice, and what kind of learning they experienced. All data got collected with audio recordings, and then transcribed and analyzed into categories that could explain how practice contributed to the development. This study suggests that practice is an important arena for learning, and that the practice has a potential to contribute to the development of professional competence. The study shows that practice is good to acquire practical knowledge, often through firsthand experiences of authentic situations. Students also developed expertise in the procedures and methods, which they considered to be important for future employment. Students also expressed that they through practice had increased understanding and better idea of what it means to be a fish health biologist, and the students experienced the development of transferable skills as critical thinking and work ethic.

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ABSTRACT

Universitetet i Bergen ble i år 2014 i samarbeid med Universitetssenteret på Svalbard og Havforskningsinstituttet tildelt ett av tre nye sentre for fremragende utdanning med konseptet «Centre for Excellence in Biology Education» (BioCEED). BioCEED planlegger å gjennomføre en undervisningsreform, med overgang til lærende-sentrert utdanning, der fokus er på individets ansvar for å lære, deriblant selvregulering. I lys av denne tildelingen er det høyaktuelt å se på biologistudenters syn på egen motivasjon og læring. Denne oppgaven er en del av strategien for å kartlegge læring og motivasjon blant biologistudenter. Formålet med denne oppgaven har vært å undersøke om det finnes sammenhenger mellom biologistudenters motivasjon, læringsstrategier og bruk av studieteknikker, og om det finnes sammenhenger mellom trivsel, metodebruk og plan for studiene. Spørreundersøkelsen Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ), en selvrapporteringsundersøkelse, ble tilpasset dette formålet. Denne undersøkelsen inneholder utsagn om både motivasjon og læringsstrategier. Det ble gjennomført en faktoranalyse av utsagnene i undersøkelsen for å vurdere reliabilitet. Sumscore, gjennomsnittverdier og korrelasjoner ble brukt for å vurdere betydningen av faktorene. Biologistudentene som deltok i undersøkelsen vurderte indre og ytre verdi høyt, eller med andre ord at biologifagene både oppfattes som interessante og nyttige. Studentene indikerte evne og vilje til å tilegne seg kunnskap, også når materialet oppfattes som vanskelig eller lite interessant. Selvstendig lesing før eksamen ble vurdert til å være den viktigste arbeidsmetoden, men særegne metoder innen biologien som lab- og feltarbeid ble også vurdert høyt. Som en kontrast ble gjensidig læring og oppsøking av hjelp ble vurdert som mindre viktig. Faktorer som omhandlet ulike aspekter av motivasjon korrelerte sterkt med hverandre, og hadde også klare korrelasjoner med selvregulering. Undersøkelsen hadde en lav responsrate, som medfører at vurderingene er gjort på begrenset grunnlag. Resultatene er sammenlignet med tilsvarende forskning, med den konklusjon at resultatene virker troverdige og representative for biologistudenter. Det anbefales at fremtidige undersøkelser ser på spesifikke læringssituasjoner, som feltarbeid og kollokviegrupper. Dette bør inkludere andre metoder enn selvrapportering: observasjon av reelle læringssituasjoner kan gi nyttig innsikt. Fremtidige studier kan også med fordel undersøke ulike grupperinger, som mann/kvinne, ung/gammel, studert kort/studert lenge, for å undersøke om det forekommer ulike trender.

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