Factors Influencing Teaching Approaches Of Lecturers Education Essay

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4.1 Introduction

In the past decades changes in South Africa have spread into the educational sectors, transforming teaching and learning. Examining the current situation of teaching and learning in educational institutions in South Africa is a challenge (Bransilal, James & Naidoo, 2010:162). South Africa needs employable qualified students who have been trained by skilled lecturers. Policies for the further education and training (FET) sector aim to develop a structure to establish macro-economic, industrial, labour market and human resource development (Jacobsz, 2004:15). The success of this aim depends on lecturers as the instruments that will ensure the quality of teaching and learning.

The aim of the chapter is to research the teaching approach of lecturers. The situational factors in the teaching-learning situation that influence lecturers' teaching and students' learning will be identified. Contextual factors to investigate include the different variables in the teaching-learning situation such as the lecturer, learner, learning content and learning environment.

4.2 Deep and surface learning

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Researchers were challenged to distinguish between different ways of behaviour in students' approach to learning. Two approaches to learning were distinguished, namely deep and surface learning (Trigwell, Prosser & Waterhouse, 1999:57).

Arbor (2006:2) states that students, who have an aptitude for and therefore enjoy a given discipline more, are more likely to prefer a particular learning approach. In other words, the student will put in more effort and apply a deeper approach of understanding in the discipline he/she prefers.

Different approaches to learning were originated in the 1930s, Howles, (2007:2). Learning approaches were consistent in a variety of learning situations. In the late 1990s researchers found that individuals would show superior learning of and memory for material presented through their preferred sensory and representational modality.

Marton (1975) (cited in Campbell, Smith, Boulton_lewis, Brownlee, Burnett, Carrington & Purdie, 2001:173) investigated the students' approach to a particular task. Students were asked to read the text and answer questions afterwards. Two different approaches were adopted by the students. One was to comprehend the main ideas in the text. The other was to remember the facts and details of the text to recall afterwards. The first group was characterized as the students who adopted a deep approach to learning. The second group demonstrated surface learning. The deep approach testified to a fuller understanding and recollection of what they had read than the surface approach.

4.2.1 Description of deep learning

Concepts that stand out in a deep approach to learning are meaning, understanding, and relationships between previous knowledge and new ideas. In other words, a deep approach to learning involves the development of the students' own understanding. Entwistle (2000:3) states the purpose of deep learning to be the extract of meaning from products that involve relating ideas and looking for patterns with principles on the one hand and using evidence on the other hand.

Grauerholz (2001:2) quotes McLeod (1996) and argues that during the 'deep learning state' both the right and left brains are engaged. The assumption therefore may be made that the logical and rational cognitions are companioned by emotions and intuitions. Therefore, students with a deep learning approach tend to have a better understanding of the relationship between theory and practice. Students may resist a deep learning approach because it is hard work and they have to be motivated to apply this learning approach. Grauerholz (2001:46) maintains that learning that conflicts with students' basic principles, thoughts and ideas may be found to be intimidating, especially to students whose background does not place a high value on education and learning.

In the process of learning, students are encouraged to ask questions and examine their own understanding of the content to ensure a change in development of their knowledge. A deep level of learning may be characterised by a response that uses multiple independent details about the causes and effects of specific conflicts to support a general understanding of how such conflicts have affected our nations and our world (Smith & Colby, 2007:207). A study done by Entwistle (2002:2) found that tertiary students began to recognise that learning was more rewarding when they sought personal meaning by transforming information and ideas in terms of their own previous knowledge and understanding. According to Wilding and Andrews (2006:172) deep processors demonstrate a more complete understanding and memory of what they have read than surface processors. For example, deep processing of text involves a search for what the discourse is about (what is significant) while processing focuses on the discourse itself.

4.2.2 Description of surface learning

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Students with a surface approach to learning often fail to appreciate the learning potential of activities. In the surface approach the intention of the learner is only to cope with the task. The learner sees the course as unrelated bits of information which lead to a much more restricted learning process, in particular to routine memorization (Entwistle, 2000:3).

Wilding and Andrews (2006:173) categorize these students as 'cue seekers'. The 'cue seekers' work hard to create a good impression on the lecturer but frequently do not understand the explained work.

4.2.3 Deep learning versus Surface learning

Houghton (2004:2) adopted the following table from Biggs (1999), Entwistle (1988) and Ramsden (1992) to compare the characteristics and features that support deep and surface approaches to learning.

Table 4.1: Comparison of characteristics and features of deep and surface approaches to learning

 

Definition:

Deep Learning

Surface Learning

Examining new facts and ideas critically, and tying them into existing cognitive structures and making numerous links between ideas.

Accepting new facts and ideas uncritically and attempting to store them as isolated, disconnected, items.

Characteristics

Looking for meaning.

Focussing on the central argument or concepts needed to solve a problem.

Interacting actively.

Distinguishing between argument and evidence.

Making connections between different modules.

Relating new and previous knowledge.

Linking course content to real life.

Relying on rote learning.

Focussing on outwards signs and the formulae needed to solve a problem.

Receiving information passively. Failing to distinguish principles from examples.

Treating parts of modules and programmes as separate.

Not recognising new material as building on previous work.

Seeing course content simply as material to be learnt for the exam.

Encouraged by Students

Having an intrinsic curiosity in the subject.

Being determined to do well and mentally engaging when doing academic work.

Having the appropriate background knowledge for a sound foundation.

Having time to pursue interests, through good time management.

Positive experience of education leading to confidence in ability to understand and succeed.

Studying a degree for the qualification and not being interested in the subject.

Not focussing on academic areas, but emphasising others (e.g. social, sport).

Lacking background knowledge and understanding necessary to understand material.

Not enough time / too high a workload.

Cynical view of education, believing that factual recall is what is required.

High anxiety.

Gorden and Debus (2002:486) emphasize that the capacity to increase analytical problem-solving skills is significantly enhanced through the use of deep approaches to learning and severely limited by the use of surface approaches.

Cassidy (2007:317) concludes that students with a surface approach to learning indicate a preference for multiple-choice formats while students with a deep approach prefer free-format assessments such as essays or reports. Wilding and Andrews (2006:173) identify assessment methods such as short-answers, multi-choice tests and vocabulary learning as a surface approach to learning.

4.2.4 Founder(s) of the concepts deep and surface learning

4.2.4.1 Biggs

Biggs, an Australian lecturer in Higher Education, developed the Study Process Questionnaire for tertiary students. He argued that the learning approach of students was influenced by motivation for a specific task. The different strategies of motivation form a learning approach. Biggs developed the achieving approach to learning shown to be optimistically related to academic performance. The achieving approach is stronger in students with a stronger aspiration for success and status. The aspiration and motivation for success may, therefore, improve the achieving approach. The motivation of students may also have a negative influence on academic success because the two components are conflicting. If the motivation approach is absent the consequences will be negative (Biggs, 1979:382).

Biggs developed a questionnaire which could determine the extent to which approaches to study related to wider attitudes in life. Biggs's hypothesis was based on the facts that students who expected wealth and achievement adopted a surface or achieving learning approach. Students who were motivated by intrinsic values adopted a deep learning approach. In higher education Biggs (1999) as cited in Entwistle (2000:8) argued for the importance of constructive alignment, and active integration of new information. Biggs is a supporter of personal understanding of the curriculum and teaching-learning environment.

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Biggs and Collis (cited in Smith & Colby, 2007:206) developed the Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome (SOLO) taxonomy that illustrated a scale from surface to deep learning. The SOLO taxonomy is divided into five hierarchical levels to represent the quality of learning of a particular occurrence or task and is described in Table 4.2.

Table 4.2: Characteristics of possible student responses corresponding to the Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome (SOLO)

SOLO LEVEL

RATIONALE FOR SOLO RATING

SURFACE

Pre-structural

The learner misses the point and generates a response that merely repeats the question.

Uni-structural

The response focuses on only one aspect of the task. The learner has defined the task in a limited way, focussing only on one specific twentieth-century conflict.

Multi-structural

The learner has provided multiple relevant details but has not discussed the relationship among those details. The lecturer knows that the student used a recall strategy to generate the response because all cause and effect pairs have been discussed in class.

DEEP

Relational

The learner has identified multiple relevant details and has discussed the relationship between these details.

Extended abstract

The learner has identified multiple relevant details, discussed the relationship among these details, and has constructed principles about conflict that he or she has used to develop hypotheses about global conflicts that might not have been explicitly studied in the twentieth-century conflicts unit.

Biggs (1985) (cited in Wilding & Andrews, 2006:172) believed that study approaches were influenced by personality characteristics that corresponded with a learner's locus of control.

Campbell (1998:1) summarizes six factors to promote deep learning:

Table 4.3: Factors promoting deep learning

Good teaching

Faculty is well prepared, confident

Openness to student

Faculty is friendly, flexible and helpful

Freedom in learning

Students have choice in what they study

Clear goals and standards

Assessment standards, expectations are clearly defined

Vocational relevance

Courses seen as relevant to future careers

Social climate

Good relationship among students (social, academic)

4.2.1.2 Marton and Saljo

When one considers deep learning fundamentals such as the combination and transformation of knowledge, require attention. Marton (1975) (cited in Campbell, Smith, Boulton-Lewis, Brownlee, Burnett, Carrington & Purdie, 2001:173) is the founder of the concept of deep and surface approaches to learning.

Marton and Säljö (1976) as cited in Campbell et al (2001:173) placed a greater emphasis on the preference of the individual when he or she selects an approach to a learning task

4.2.5 Academic achievement and learning approach

Academic achievement is rewarding and for the students academic achievement means grades in terms of results. They do not have the vision to apply knowledge in the workplace because they have not yet been exposed to working conditions. Entwistle (2000:2) supports this theory and describes students' view of learning as memorising and the reproduction of knowledge in suitable ways for the lecturer. Subsequently students discover that learning may be rewarding when transformation of knowledge and ideas takes place and understanding ensues which, in turn, will lead to high levels of academic achievement.

In addition, Cassidy & Eachus (2000:307) conclude that deep learning approach have been acknowledged as the two aspects contributing to academic achievement. A possible reason is that students who followed a deep approach to learning have a more positive and rewarding academic practice. The logical conclusion is, therefore, that the lecturer, through deep teaching, should stimulate the drive in students' emotions to achieve good results and maximize their potential. The ideal would be to move the students even further ... beyond the good results.

4.2.6 The advantages of deep learning

Deep learning generates deep understanding and a deep understanding produces the ability to apply the skills and knowledge in practice. To establish deep learning, emotion is involved (Gibbens, 2007:254). The author continues can state that emotion is the key component associated with deep learning because emotion stimulates chemicals and neuronal networking in the brain that enhance a deep understanding, a quality not found in surface learning experiences. The opposite is true when knowledge is fragile, for example the student does not use the gained knowledge or does not have enough knowledge to apply it in a given situation. Students who adopt a deep approach to learning connect new information to their previous knowledge and develop an understanding. According to Wee (2010:2) students with deep approach to learning will engage with the new ideas and concepts and ask questions such as: "How does this fit in with the explanations"? Lecturers can encourage a deep approach to learning in students by demonstrating personal interest in the discipline (Wee, 2010:1).

4.3 Factors that influence the learning approach of students and teaching approach of lecturers'

To differentiate between teaching approach and teaching style the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary (2005:63) describe approach as a way of dealing with something; a way of doing or thinking about something such as a problem or task. A style on the other hand is a particular way something is done. In other words a teaching approach is an outlook over the teaching situations and then to decide which teaching style to implement for deep learning.

A learning style is the preferred way a learner processes the information (Arbor, 2006:1). Howles (2007:4) defines a learning style as an outline of thinking, perceiving, problem solving and the recall when featuring a learning task. In other words, students behave differently during the absorption and processing of information.

The learner is an individual with background, personal problems and preferences that affect the learning process. All aspects should be acknowledged and accommodated in the learning process. Life circumstances and the way every learner experiences external factors of life have an influence on his/her approach to learning. Grauerholz (2001:45) affirms that the lecturers' knowledge of the learners' background is important because personal experiences of the learner may help the learner to understand and engage more meaningfully with the context. Groves (2005:321) states that conceptual understanding enables learners to build on their individual knowledge framework that may be implemented in clinical situations. All these factors above should affect the lecturers approach to teaching.

Students' learning is influenced by their characteristics and instructional strategies. As the learner gains in knowledge and skills, different strategies and techniques may be applied in teaching. Instructional strategies also affect learner characteristics; the learner who is required to be self-directed for example, will adjust from being instructor-dependent to instructor-independent (Cranton & Knoop, 1991:102). Therefore the learner who has gained knowledge and skills and who has become instructor-independent, will benefit remarkably by a lecturer who applies a deep approach to teaching.

Cano (2007:132) argues another dimension of learning, namely time management of the large work load for the course. The learner who wishes to achieve deep learning should employ effective time management techniques and should develop meaningful study skills.

Every individual learns and memorizes subject content differently. New information the learner receives is filtered through his/her personal construction system and becomes meaningful in terms of what is important to him/her. Learning is a consequence of thinking (Abbott, 1999:2).

Approach to learning may be divided into two categories, namely deep and surface learning. Another division in learning is learning for short term as opposed to learning for long term. It is important to identify and address individual learner differences. Students are comfortable with their learning approach and a degree of tension must stretch them to learn. Learning is the lifelong process of transforming information and experience into knowledge, skills and habits. According to Cobb (2009:1) learning may be described as an action, process or understanding of gaining knowledge or ability. Entwistle (2000:4) refers to learning as an interaction between the learner and the context.

The learner connects to a specific teaching approach and extends knowledge to implement deep learning. The aim is to accommodate the different learning approaches and incorporate them into a teaching approach. Students associate learning with the context of the discipline and the presentation of the context. According to Costa et al (2007:215) the majority of learners rate their lecturers on both context and presentation in the classroom. The presentation ratings, however, from the debate group were extensively higher than those from the lectured group.

Learning may also be described as a process whereby the learner connects and accepts the new information. The learner must make the information his/her own, grow in knowledge and take responsibility for humane education.

The evidence of the study done by Groves (2005:324) indicates that the learning approach is influenced by different factors other than the curriculum, namely:

teaching quality

type of assessment

learner characteristics such as personality type, age and previous academic experience.

Wilding and Andrews (2006:172) state that little research has been done on learning strategies and additional factors implicit to the individual.

4.3.1 Teaching practices

The American Association of Higher Education published in March 1987 the seven principles of good teaching practices under the direction of Chickering and Gamson (1987:1).

Use active learning techniques

The lecturer should talk to the students about what they are learning, relate it to past experiences, engrave reflectively about it and apply it to their daily lives.

Give feedback

Assess the students existing knowledge. Create frequent opportunities to give feedback of performance to indicate where change is needed.

Encourage interaction between faculty and students

Contact in and out of class is important for student involvement and motivation.

Respect diversity (ways of learning, experience and talents)

Many roads lead to learning. Different students bring different learning approachs and talents to the classroom.

Encourage collaboration and interaction between students

Learning is improved when it is a team effort rather than a lone event.

Emphasize time on task

Time plus energy equals learning. Allocate realistic amounts of time to promote effective teaching and learning.

Communicate high expectations

Expect more and you will get more. Expecting students to perform well becomes a self-fulfilling prediction.

When a lecturer is able to keep all of the above in mind in his/her preparation, a deep teaching approach should be the result, and deep learning for his/her students will ensure.

4.3.2 Attitude towards learning

The attitude of learning may be determined by the will, mind-set, thoughts and feelings and experience of the student to find meaning for the new information. The student must be challenged to understand the new concepts, to solve problems and to apply prior knowledge. According to Wee (2010:3) the attitude of the student may be promoted by the powerful learning tool of feedback. Through feedback the student experiences a supportive environment and develops critical understanding of new ideas.

Learning means connecting the discipline to problem solving in the real world and making sense of abstract meanings. The challenge of changing an attitude to establish learning is the responsibility of both the student and lecturer. The lecturer can apply encouraging teaching principles and create a positive learning environment but the student should make a conscious effort to open the mind and create a will to learn.

4.3.3 Learning content

According to Lindeque and Vandeyar (2004:126) effective teaching and learning are only made possible through the use of appropriate learning content. As such, the nature and extent of the learning content selected to fulfil a specific need and function, and the way in which content is ordered to facilitate the mastery of the stipulated learning outcomes are crucial in any learning context.

The learning material is an important factor that is discussed during class time. Crook (2002:558) summarized principles the learning material should accommodate for the development of learning.

Table ___

Individualization

The educational material should accommodate the different learning approachs between students

Entertainment

The material should be presented in a manner entertaining to the target audience.

Personalization

The material should be relevant to the students' lives.

It therefore becomes clear that with a deep teaching approach the choice of learning content (according to the guidelines stipulated in the above table) is of prime importance for deep learning to be the result.

4.3.4 Learning environment

The atmosphere of the educational institution has an effect on learning and the emotional state of the students. The emotional state of the students on the other hand has an influence on the educational institution. The institution, therefore, must strive to create a learning environment that stimulates learning. Cranton and Knoop (1991:108) state that a considerable rise or decline in teaching effectiveness affects the institution just as much as maintenance by the institution affects the collision and success of teaching improvement.

In dispute with the above statement Wilding and Andrews (2006:172) state that the institution may promote a surface approach to learning. The aim of the institution for academic study is critical thinking and evaluation of material but the message is in conflict with the message the students receive. Rote learning takes place because it is required of students by the educational institution. The students are anxious and don't have confidence to learn effectively.

Keith et al (1999:60) state that if the learning environment is intimidated, information is quickly forgotten. Khan and Gee (1999:290) support this view maintaining that the opportunity for learning and understanding is lost in an intimidating learning environment. An intimidated class environment is one in which students experience emotions of anxiety that lead them to become demoralized. An example of an intimidated class is when the content is presented by the lecturer in such a way that the learner feels incapable of dealing with it.

Entwistle (2002:4) supports a teaching-learning environment where there is interaction between the lecturer, learner and the content. An ability to interact with the content indicates that the learner can relate to his/her own experience and background. According to Arbor (2006:1), students respond well to explanations of the relationship between course material and their experience, their interests, and their future careers.

Groves (2005:321) states that a learning approach is likely to be determined more by the learning environment than by an inherent trait in the students themselves. Campbell (2001:186) explains another characteristic of constructive learning environments that facilitates change in the learner's approaches to learning, is the acknowledgement that students learn in different ways and at different rates, and the accommodation of classroom practice to cater for these differences. The lecturer who is sensitive to the variety of students and their different abilities, preferences and knowledge, and who can accommodate all of these factors, in his approach to teaching will motivate students and stimulate a deep learning approach among them.

4.3.5 Classroom situation

Class time involves more than the physical facilities and the time the learner spends in the class. Class time refers also to the class climate or atmosphere, the available resources and the lecturer's relationship with the students. Opdenakker and Van Damme (2006:2) describe class time as the learner and lecturer interaction in the orderly and safe classroom atmosphere conducive to effective learning. Class time should establish high level of learning rather than just content exchange. To achieve the goal of higher order learning, it is necessary for the lecturer to free up class time to engage students in activities that require them to apply their knowledge, analyse data, evaluate practice-related scenarios, and/or solve problems (Persky, 2008:2).

The physical learning environment affects the performance of the lecturer and the learning process. Cranton and Knoop (1991:107) confirm that teaching that under normal circumstances would be regarded as valuable will not lead to a richer sense of fulfilment by the lecturer if the room is too hot or overcrowded. Other aspects that have an influence are the size of the class, the level of teaching and discipline of the subjects educated. Students who have to sit on the floor and cannot take sufficient notes may give the lecturer positive ratings but feel that part of the material has eluded them. The lecturer who experience discomfort, who feels ineffective owing to students' lack of concentration and lack of discipline, may lose his sense of focus and the inspiration to apply a deep teaching approach. The tragic result is surface teaching which triggers a vicious cycle of surface teaching aggravates lack of concentration and resulting increased disciplinary problems.

Outcomes-based education requires group activities as stated in the "Facilitating Outcomes Based Learning and Teaching guide for Trainers and FET College Lectures Policy". The purpose of group activities is to develop independent learning and research skills in each participant in a group, and enhance self-confidence among learning. For deep teaching to be the instrument, a lecturer has to be comprehensively prepared with meaning assignments and subsections, and has to be actively involved with every group so that each member is meaningfully involved, and does not merely lean on the intellectually advanced member of the group. Ideally each group should consist of equally talented members. However, in the current education set-up, this is not feasible, as some students are dramatically inferior to others. Deep teaching is the result when each member of each group has acquired skills that will promote successful learning of material and activities, and that will enhance self-confidence. Unfortunately for many lecturers who arrive unprepared, group activities have become a way out. It has also become a means of alleviating the administrative load on their shoulders. The tragic result is surface teaching and learning. This, in term, contributes to disciplinary problems.

Group activities may be a challenge if resources are limited. Costa, Van Rensburg and Rushton (2007:216) address the financial and resource outlay of providing interactive group-discussion gatherings because this sort of teaching can only be accomplished with relatively small groups, the resources required to teach a large cohort of students would be estimated to be superior to those required for didactic lectures.

In order to use class time optimally, Persky (2008:2) suggests the lecturer should free up some class time to engage students in actions that require them to apply their knowledge, do data analysis, to evaluate scenarios and to apply problem solving techniques. Everett (2005:2) agrees with instructional methods to promote deep learning and suggests learner interaction, peer tutoring, planned projects and linking the classroom to the workplace. Once again, thorough prior planning is the key to successful deep teaching.

4.4 Description of deep teaching and definition

An explicit definition of deep teaching could not be found in the literature study. Elements of deep teaching are found in the presence of a relationship between the student's intelligence and emotions with the content and the ability to find a link to apply the knowledge to the real world. When the student's emotions are involved enthusiasm rises and the student develops a will to understand and learn (Gibbens, 2007:254). According to Campbell et al (2001:2) deep teaching is achieved when the lecturer looks at the broader content and makes learning fun and interesting for the student and when he accommodates individual rates of learning. According to Dillion (1998:503) teaching as such combines various models of teaching. The result of such a combination of the teaching models is deep teaching. The models consist of (1) informational teaching (2) social teaching (3) personal teaching and (4) behavioural teaching.

Lecturers that apply a deep approach of teaching are passionate and enthusiastic about their subject. Possible reasons are their complete mastery of their field of study and sufficient teaching experience to know what examples would make the new information easily remembered by the students. They might also have the personality type that inspires students to learn, promotes an excitement about the new learning material and a desire to achieve superior results. Approaches to teaching imply ways to influence, guide, encourage and inspire students to learn. Keith, Prosser and Waterhouse (1999:58) describe a lecturer who applies a teaching approach that encourages deep learning as a lecturer who encourages self-directed learning, interacts with students and discusses difficulties they encounter, who assesses to reveal conceptual change, provokes debates and takes time to question the learners' ideas.

It may, therefore, be safely concluded that deep teaching will result when a student who has acquired new information, is able to retain it, and knows when ad how this information would be applied effectively once he/she is employed.

4.5 Factors that influence lecturers' approaches to teaching

My research and experience have led me to the inevitable conclusion that in a situation where a surface teaching approach is implemented several variables will be present, for example:

Lecturers may have a time limit for a syllabus to be completed,

Lecturers may have administrative work and extra-mural activities;

It may also be expected of lectures to teach outside their field of study;

For both lecturers and student language may be a barrier;

Especially in rural areas a lack of resources may constitute an obstacle is;

Lecturers' diverse personalities may also lead to having a surface approach of transferring the information.

Having explored the reason for the existence of so many models Dillion (1998:503) explains that models of teaching are clustered into distinct types: relations-informational teaching, social teaching, personal teaching and behavioural teaching. The lecturer will probably teach with the background of his/her own personal teaching approach and preferred methods and assume that the students would learn in the same approach. A lecturer who experienced successful learning with surface teaching methods would be more likely to employ similar methods in his own teaching procedure. A person, for example, who found it easier to learn by using graphical images, would tend to make use of pictures when teaching; whereas someone, whose learning was facilitated by the logic of his learning material, will apply logical arguments when he needs to teach.

Cranton and Knoop (1991:107) confirm this view, stating that a lecturer with a cognitive personality and uses a cerebral teaching approach with emotional students, is not likely to be perceived as efficient.

My conclusion is therefore that an all-purpose structure for teaching does not exist. The lecturer should cover a variety of models and employ new methods and procedures to improve teaching.

4.5.1 Different experiences

Arbor (2006:2) affirms that a deep approach to teaching and learning entails looking for meaning in the matter being studied and relating it critically to other experiences and ideas. This author also believes that students respond well to explanations of how course material relates to their experience, their interests and their future careers. The lecturer's comments and interpretation of the content are based on his/her personal experience and opinion, which usually are methodologically unsound. If the lecturers' existing knowledge or experience is not brought to bear in the process, the opportunity to build on existing concepts is lost.

4.5.2 Preferences of learning content

Higher educational institutions occasionally require lecturers to teach outside their field of study, especially in rural areas, because qualified lecturers are not readily available, as experienced at Ikhala FET College, Aliwal North. This may have a negative influence on the lecturer as well as the students because the lecturer has no background knowledge and he will not be able to link examples with existing knowledge.

Too often lecturers' teaching fails to move students beyond the cognitive level, leaving them with no sense of connection between the course content and their personal lives (Grauerholz, 2001:44). Learning is most effective when the content has some personal relevance. Lecturers seek personal relevance for their students in the material they teach. Equally, for effective learning to take place, students should be trained to seek the personal relevance in material with which they are presented. Because strategy placed high value on authority which did not identify personal relevance, effective learning is not achieved. There was is no evidence of deep teaching in the traditional approach (Khan & Gee, 1999:289).

4.5.3 Perception of learning content

Programs which foster deep learning approaches should develop opportunities for active, co-operative learning which develops students' own responsibilities for learning, promotes choice and flexibilities and assesses students' learning through outcomes (Gordon, Lim, McKinnon, Nkala & Parker, 1998:2).

Gordon and Debus (2002:505) certain that specific teaching techniques may not be applicable in practical subjects. Teaching practices and assessment systems require further development and modification to be made suitable for practical courses such as computer application technology, hospitality studies and tourism studies.

A course in which the students adopt a surface approach to learning contains certain characteristics, such as, according to Gordon et al (1998:2), heavy workload, relatively high class-content hours, excessive amounts of course material, lack of opportunities to pursue subjects in depth. Students also apply a surface approach to learning when there is a lack of choice over subjects, lack of choice of method to study and an intimidating and anxiety- provoking assessment system.

Groves (2005:321) supports the view that a large amount of knowledge that needs to be assimilated in a short space of time leads to a surface approach to learning. Campbell (1998:2) includes an extra component, namely the exclusive use of formal teaching methods such as lecturing, which detracts from deep learning. Reasonable workload for students and restriction of lecture time will extend individual study time for the students.

4.5.4 Classroom practices

Teaching methods are instructional strategies that the lecturer implements to encourage learning. As was previously mentioned, a lecturer may follow an approach of teaching on a deep or surface level or follow a combination of the two.

Lecturers teach according to their preference and personality. When the lecturer decides on teaching methods, the learners' background knowledge, environment and learning ability should be taken into consideration.

An investigation of the features of a lecturer with a surface approach in the classroom will reveal the following: This lecturer uses speech in his teaching, reading and explaining from the textbook. The lecturer will not incorporate other teaching strategies and will ask questions (similar to testing) to discern what students have learned. Lecturers with a surface approach to teaching focus mainly on the examination and results, with the main resource as old question papers. These lecturers work strictly according to a year plan and leave no flexibility for the slower student. Students have different ways of absorbing information.

The lecturer with a surface approach does work for the student and leaves little room for involvement by the student. A method of learning constitutes observation, taking part in activities and making the new information their own. It is the responsibility of the lecturer to adopt an appropriate teaching method to accommodate all students. A limited number of other resources are used by a lecturer with a surface approach. For the lecturers of Ikhala College this may be true, because sufficient resources are not available owing to demographic circumstances.

In a deep teaching approach the lecturer will demonstrate and involve the student to explore new information. The lecturer will explain different learning methods to the student and incorporate the learner's ideas. The lecturer will create the big picture, explaining the need for the new information to be learned and the application of the acquired knowledge in the workplace. The lecturer with a deep approach to teaching will also use additional resources to make the new information more understandable because the students' current development of knowledge may have a direct influence on the planning and preparation of the lecture.

Calfee (1995) as cited in Rickford (2005:115) discusses the CORE model that helped lecturers to develop techniques that reflect positive teaching pedagogy. The model gave the lecturers freedom of movement while progressing towards a definite goal.

Fig __

C

Connect with the students

O

Organize learning by structuring and instruction

R

Encourage reflection

E

Help students explain and absorb what they have learned and to apply the knowledge to new situations

The summary: Efficiency in the classroom results with teaching methods in which the lecturer has successfully inspired and implemented methods to stimulate the students' independence in learning. In efficiently managed classrooms students are influenced and the students' intellectual curiosity is stimulated. The lecturer who employs deep teaching methods will successfully inspire and implement methods that stimulated the students' independence in learning. Deep teaching in the classroom may thus be said to be the outcome of deep teaching methods.

4.5.5 Teaching improvement

Lecturers who want to perform and improve their teaching are evaluated by students, peers and management. The new evaluation system of the Department of Education for lecturers is the MQS system. According to the system lecturers evaluate their own performance. Peers and supervisors evaluate one another's performance as well. Lecturers' promotion is based on learners' ratings and peer reviews.

The starting point for improvement is most often an evaluation of teaching effectiveness, but any single, standard rating form is unlikely to be appropriate for every individual. Cranton and Knoop (1991:103) state that lecturers should have the opportunity to select items for evaluation that are relevant to their own settings and strategies. To ensure that evaluation is comprehensive and will lead the lecturer, towards deep (or even deeper) teaching, consultation during post-assessment meetings is mandatory. Assessment should never be merely an administrative exercise, whereby assessments results are either filed or merely refereed to higher levels of management. If the lecturer or student is not shown the reasons for poor assessment, teaching or learning will not improve, so that deeper teaching or learning cannot ensure.

Lecturers should have opportunities to select items that are applicable to their own situation, approach and students. Costa et al (2007:216) state that a discussion method of teaching rather than didactic techniques promotes a deeper approach to learning.

4.5.6 Assessment and outcomes

The concept assessment refers to evaluation and the concept outcomes refers to what the learner should be familiar with and accomplish at each grade level. Assessment involves tasks, exercises, tests and examinations to determine the extent to which the learner has achieved the required outcomes (Sieborger & Mcintosh, 2004:5). In other words, in the context of this study, the learners' learning should be analysed to discover if deep learning was achieved. According to Smith and Colby (2007:208) examining students' learning is essential to understand the results of the lecturer's efforts and to support the learners in achieving deep learning. Persky (2008:5) also indicates that as a result of students' experience more teaching and learning innovations should be implemented because the students have a new level of skills and understanding. The new level of skills and understanding which results from effective deep teaching demands a higher level of assessment to be developed to determine the level of the learner's performance, and to determine the level of deep teaching achieved.

Assessment constitutes the method by which the students' understanding of the course content may be evaluated, but often assessments involve only the answering of a few questions. Answers to assessments are limited if overall learning is examined. Persky (2008:5) states that the approach to the course is important to the lecturer because examination and assessment scores may only be answers to a number of questions about the learning process, which does not asses the level of deep learning employed. Assessments do not represent the entire learning process; therefore, frameworks for the communication of expectations and the results of rubrics should be used to assess the learner's effort and learning, but should be compiled that the level of deep learning and also deep teaching will be measured.

Lecturers find the 'outcomes-based' approach to be less effective and less encouraging because only one dimension of learning is developed (Wilson, 2003:25).

Campbell (1998:2) suggests the following assessment methods when teaching for deep learning:

Define the goals and tasks for the assessment clearly

Allow choice of different assessment tasks

Allow enough time to gather information

Support collaborative projects

Require tasks that involve integration of information

Give feedback on assignments and tests

4.6 The importance of practices that encourage deep teaching

An ancient Chinese proverb "Tell me and I will forget; show me and I will remember; let me do it and I will understand", says it all ………

In order to apply a teaching approach that will encourage deep learning, the aim of the lecturer must be to get the learner excited about the contents of the discipline and to develop deep learning. Lecturers should examine their own teaching approachs to explore and discard non-efficient methods, to ensure improvement and enhance deep learning. According to Smith and Colby (2007:207) lecturers should be aware of the quality of student learning through dialogue. Campbell (1998:1) agrees that a good lecturer directs students along the route of learning so that they have an understanding of the way to approach the content and actually learn (deep learning approach) instead of just memorizing (surface learning). Teaching encouraging deep learning should therefore empower students to think, change, connect and grow. Grauerholz (2001:4) states that lecturers often fail to move students further than the cognitive level, leaving them with no sense of connection between course content and their personal lives.

Teaching encouraging deep learning will therefore result in developing the skills of the learner to solve global problems through the subject or discipline. Groves (2005:316) states that it is the nature of the problem that encourages students to extend to a complete understanding of the fundamentals required for its solution. Wilson (2003:26) explains teaching enhancing deep learning is the result when learning goes beyond definitions and facts.

In order to foster deep learning through teaching, Smith and Colby (2007:207) recommend creating an awareness of deep learning to which all members should contribute. Thoughts and questions should be formulated by lecturers to solve current global conflicts. The instructional materials should be designed to develop the understanding of concepts, relationships, deep learning outcomes, and inter-connect various facts. Grauerholz (2001:44) indicates that it is possible to facilitate deep learning by what and how we teach. Deep learning focuses on Bloom's higher order cognitive thinking skills, such as analysis and synthesis (Everett, 2005:1)

Another approach of teaching which will encourage deep learning is teaching holistically. For Grauerholz (2001:46), teaching holistically means providing structure to the course, developing assignments, applying classroom activities, improving teaching strategies and taking advantage of out-of-class activities. For Persky (2008:1) learning activities such as games and feedback on assessments should be incorporated in the learning environment because it promotes communication between lecturer and learner and it develops critical and creative thinking. In this regard Bansilal et al (2010:162) reveal that essential tools in order to improve the education quality and students' skills are for teachers to use effective assessment feedback and for students to be empowered to voice their experiences of this feedback.

4.7 Conclusion

It is the aspiration of lecturers to apply a teaching approach that will implicitly encourage a deep approach to learning, but the workload, target dates and administration responsibilities more often than not make this an unrealistic dream, very difficult to achieve.

Students tend to employ methods that lead to surface because of the workload in limited time and personal circumstances that impact their performance. When things are difficult students learn only to pass.

Teaching is affected by different ways of thinking about the same thing. In conclusion, there is no definite teaching approach which will determine the principle of teaching. The lecturer should evaluate the students in the class and apply a combination of various teaching approaches. Lecturers should constantly evaluate their own beliefs about their ability to teach and to affect students' performance so that at all times they may be sure that they are employing a deep teaching approach.

Whereas Dillion (1998:507) affirms that all approaches should be employed by lecturers, he (1998:507) argues that implementing all approaches is impracticable. He maintains that teachers can neither conceive nor employ the different approaches of teaching because there are diverse ways and techniques to teaching within the same structure or model or approach to teaching.

Students prefer a teaching approach which relaxes them, which makes no demands (Costa et al, 2007:216). A surface approach to learning aims to emphasize meeting with assessment criteria and reproduction, and memorizing content or isolation of ideas, without the understanding the purpose and or meaning of the learning material. Students will choose a learning approach which demands the least effort such as watching a lecturer overly dramatising a lesson.

A surface teaching approach is inevitable in laying the groundwork for further learning, deep learning to occur. E.g. the basic principles of arithmetic are encompassed by the thorough knowledge of tables, but deeper teaching will be required to develop and understanding of using those tables effectively.