Background to Entwistle’s theory

Entwistle’s ideas draw on those of Roger Säljö (1979). In what became known as the Gothenburg study, Säljö interviewed 90 people about their approaches to learning. He found that there were important differences in how people saw their own learning. He suggested that some had a “taken for granted” perspective in which learning was seen as a “[memorizing] activity where the task of the learner is seen as that of ’getting all the facts into your head’” (Säljö, 1979, p. 446). This perspective contrasted with one in which people in the study said that they were “becoming aware of the influence of the context of learning on what you should learn and how you should set about it … they started to try to adapt their learning to various kinds of demands (teachers, tests …)” (Säljö, 1979, p. 448). Säljö also points out that learners who use this thematic approach to learning also thought that there was a difference between “learning for life” and “learning in school.” Many saw learning in school “as an activity which to a large extent has become stereotyped and routine … a particular type of learning … that is not perceived of as being … related to anything outside the school situation” (Säljö, 1979, p. 449). These thematic learners also reported that they had started to think about what they learned. As Säljö comments:

As introduced by the people we interviewed, this is a distinction between either learning and real learning or … between learning and understanding … [The] main feature [of “real learning”] is that it in some way involves the abstraction of meaning from learning materials rather than a mere reproduction of them. … the nature of what is learned is seen as more complex and more holistic; it is a perspective, a point of view, an interpretation, a general principle … rather than the plain “facts” which people previously report having perceived as what is to be learned.

(Säljö, 1979, p. 449)

3.2.8 Entwistle’s Theory of Student Approaches to Learning Entwistle’s theory