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Personality, cognitive style and approaches to learning in university undergraduates

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posted on 2014-12-15, 10:46 authored by Andrew J. Flett
This thesis examines the experience of students in higher education and investigates the relationship between concepts of approach to learning, cognitive style and personality.;In March 1993 Entwistle and Ramsden's (1983) Lancaster Approaches to Studying Inventory and Saville and Holdsworth's (1990) Concept 5.2 Occupational Personality Questionnaire were administered to 378 first year undergraduate students from all subject disciplines at the University of Leicester. 311 of these participants returned to resit the tests one year later in 1994, and 116 also returned in 1995 to sit the tests for a third time. The data-set yielded through this core methodology was factor analysed in order to establish a conceptual framework which could be used to assess the determinants of deep and surface approaches to learning, and holist and serialist learning styles. Differences in learning characteristics between male and female students, mature and non-mature students and students of different subject disciplines were investigated and the development of these characteristics over three years was charted. In addition, the academic performance of the students was recorded and correlated with each of the personality and learning characteristics tested.;A consistent and conceptually useful eleven-factor model emerged which was used to inform all subsequent analysis. The findings suggest that in the first year of study, cognitive style is strongly linked to personality and only marginally related to approach to learning, but that over time approach to learning becomes associated with aspects of both cognitive style and personality, in particular conscientiousness, ambitiousness and abstract/holist orientation. The results also show that arts and science, and male and female students differ significantly in their respective cognitive styles and that mature students are more likely to seek meaning in their work than non-mature students. In addition, it was found that the personality trait 'conscientious' was highly predictive of academic performance at both first year and final degree levels.;The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed in terms of both cognitive theory and educational policy and practice.


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Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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    University of Leicester Theses