gms | German Medical Science

Learning through Inquiry in Higher Education: Current Research and Future Challenges (INHERE 2018)

08.03. - 09.03.2018, München

Empirical assessment of approaches to learning methods in psychology

Meeting Abstract

Learning through Inquiry in Higher Education: Current Research and Future Challenges (INHERE 2018). München, 08.-09.03.2018. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2018. Doc49

doi: 10.3205/18inhere49, urn:nbn:de:0183-18inhere498

Published: March 1, 2018

© 2018 Seehoff et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. See license information at



Introduction: Research Methods is a mandatory course in any Bachelor of Psychology program in Germany. We use a research-oriented, student-based teaching approach to promote active learning and a deep understanding of the material. This study aims to assess the learning approaches used by students in our course.

Methods: Following a written informed consent, 84 third-semester psychology students (80% female, mean±SD age of 23±4 years, 56%<22 years) enrolled in Research Methods participated in the study. The learning approaches (deep, DA; strategic, SA; surface, SAA) were assessed using a 24-item pen-and-paper Approaches and Study Skills Inventory for Students (ASSIST-24-German) on a 5-point Likert scale (1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree). Self-rated performance in the course was assessed on a 9-point scale (1=poor to 9=excellent).

Results: Learning approaches differed statistically significantly among the students (repeated measures ANOVA, F(2; 164)=8.61, p<.01, p2=10%). DA (13.60±2.39) was used significantly more than SAA (12.04±2.50; p<.01). Learning approach depended on age. DA was used more by older (≥22 years) than younger (<22 years) students (p=.042). Younger students used more SA than SAA (p=.007) while older students used more DA than SAA (p=.002). Higher performance rating was related to significantly higher SA (r=.44, p<.01, n=84). The reliability of ASSIST-24-German was acceptable (Cronbach’s α of .74 for DA, .80 for SA, .64 for SAA).

Discussion: When confronted with research in teaching, students use the deep rather than the surface learning approaches although the differences in approaches were small in the current study. Deep learning is more common in older students while younger students learn predominantly strategically. Strategic approach is related to higher satisfaction with own performance because it could be helpful to pass the course. Future research should investigate if and how learning approaches change over time if research is incorporated in teaching in psychology.