Learning Conceptions and Studying Approaches among Graphic Arts Students in Technical Training Institutions in Nairobi, Kenya
Ogol, Lucy Achieng‘
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Research in Europe and the Far East reveal that contrasts in learning conceptions (surface and deep) and studying approaches (surface, strategic and deep) depict the future learning orientations among students in higher education. According to that research, the students who adopt the ‗deep‘ contrast interpreted as transformative learning are more successful learners than those who adopt the ‗surface‘ contrast, interpreted as passive, rote and rarely sustainable learning. Some students found to adopt ‗strategic‘ learning focus on the current achievement of high grades, rather than the futuristic benefits of learning. Similar research is neglected among Technical Education (TE) students, yet, the rapid 21st century uncertainties and technological changes affect these students‘ learning and future employability. Establishment of the learning conceptions and studying approaches that Technical Education Graphic Arts (GA) students adopted, were the paramount objectives of the study. Data was collected from an equal size random sample of 120 Technical Education GA students (90 male and 30 female), obtained from a target population of 278 students, studying at Kenya Polytechnic University College and Buru Buru Institute of Fine Arts, training institutions in Nairobi, offering government GA developed Diploma level courses. An exploratory quantitative research design was utilised. Two close-ended questionnaires and an observation schedule adapted from the Approaches to Study Skills Inventory for Students (ASSIST, 2006), were used to collect data. Cronbach alpha was 0.707 for Learning Conceptions and 0.64 for Deep Studying Approaches. Data were analyzed using ANOVA test and the independent sample t test and statistical difference set at p < .10. There were no statistically significant differences found in the means of students‘ learning conceptions by year of study. The mean scores nonetheless indicated that third-year students exhibited deep learning conceptions more than the other two years. Both female and male students exhibited mixed combinations of learning conceptions. Significant statistical differences were found in the memorization (p<.019) and experiences (p<.004) responses. Female students scored higher means in learning conceptions. The students studying approaches means by year of study, showed no statistically significant differences, however second-year student scores tended to be higher in the strategic approach than the other two years. The means by gender also indicated significant statistical differences, found in the uncertainty (p<.009), focus on minimum requirements (p<.028), linkages to prior knowledge (p<.019), and critical assessment of validity (p<.012) responses. The female students mean scores were more favourable towards the strategic studying approaches. The conclusion was that the students training tended to encourage the strategic studying approaches and not deep transformative learning. The study signifies failure of the students, curriculum developers, implementers and evaluators to inculcate learning conceptions and studying approaches that encourage, transformative innovation and creativity, for sustainable development and lifelong learning. It is recommended that vigilant review of the TE curriculum, be conducted at least every five years, in line with the changing career demand. Further studies to diversify TE curriculum instruction designs and gender sensitive pedagogy would transform the quality of learning and ensure study success among the students.