Entwistle’s theory

Entwistle (Entwistle et al., 2001) has conducted similar research to the Gothenburg study. On the basis of this, he modified Säljö’s original ideas and suggested that there are three different approaches:

  • Surface learning, which is associated with the idea that learning is about acquiring facts. For example, students may try to pass a course by memorizing what they are told. When engaged in surface learning, students prefer to be told what to read and what notes to take. The ideal exam for someone who has based learning on a surface strategy would be one based only on the information that a course has provided. Such students are also liable to feel that they are drowning in information that contains many separate elements, which seem to have few, if any, connections with each other. They struggle to make sense of these ideas.
  • Strategic learning, which involves those who are trying to get a good grade in a course by organizing their time well, by finding the right conditions for studying, and by putting consistent effort into their studies.
  • Deep learning, which occurs when people are more concerned with their own development—they are interested in what the course is about and are excited by and like sharing new ideas. People engaged in deep learning are looking for meaning in what they study rather than trying to memorize it. They are curious and questioning, and are constantly examining whether what they are told makes sense in the light of their past experience. In fact, by drawing links between different aspects of their learning, they are better able to make sense of it and therefore more likely to pass the course, as well as developing more fully as human beings. Background to Entwistle’s theory Approaches to Learning