Researchers studying the subject of research on students’ learning would ultimately find themselves faced with a variety of studies examining the experiences of students with respect to studying and understanding from the perspectives of the learners themselves. The identification of personal studying experiences of students might offer valuable facts for comprehending the nature of student perception and understanding.
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The syllabus and instruction specialization entail numerous areas that teachers and researchers explore and discuss with the intention of changing instructions and bettering classroom learning. The major responsibility of teacher-researcher is to check the features of such practices as teaching and erudition and to center on the situations for bettering the circumstances within the specific field (Muir, & van der Linden, 2009, pp. 169-170).
A major topic discussed with respect to the program of study and instruction specialization is the perception of students and their comprehension of the material offered by the teacher. The subject of perceiving and comprehending the material associates with the learning activities of students, and there exists a lot of problems that are related to the topic since the perception of students and their understanding could be anchored in many aspects. In addition, teachers’ mission is to check all the aspects in order to give the policy with the aid of which it is probable to triumph over the challenges.
Statement of the Problem
This paper endeavors to contribute to the ongoing debate on students’ perception and understanding by investigating experiences of perception and understanding with respect to first-year students’ familiarities in engineering course. The study centers on experiences of understanding by students and especially on their difficulties in comprehending with regard to perceived course stipulations.
The study hinges on analyses of interviews and questionnaires with students taking electrical computer science, as well as engineering courses in a Swedish institute of technology. This research paper sought to advance the comprehension of teachers on the view of students as well as their comprehension of academic material. Therefore, the findings of the study could offer useful knowledge for policymakers, instructive administrators, and syllabus developers in addition to creating awareness that could be applicable to related studies elsewhere.
Incidentally, the aim of this research was to examine the connection involving the perceptions of students and their academic success. The varied learning environments impinge on the abilities of students to perceive and comprehend the required material successfully. The main problem of this research is “what are the different levels of the capabilities of students in perceiving and comprehending the same material and how does it affect their academic success?”
The best way to approach the problem is to focus on the methods to better learning with the aid of lessening the challenges in perceiving and comprehending specific material offered by the teacher (Daniel, 2011, pp. 168-171). Consequently, the subject of perceiving and comprehending the material could be discussed with regard to many difficult questions.
The difficulty of the dissimilarity of the abilities of students in learning academic material while perceiving and comprehending it ought to be approached based on the study of the situation of the educational background. From this perspective, there exist numerous challenges for the successful perception of students and their comprehending of the academic material.
One challenge is associated with years of age and the information base of the students that learn the academic material (Daniel, 2011, pp. 172-176). The new material comes out successfully when anchored in the other productively learnt academic material. Another possible obstacle is the individual abilities of students to perceive and comprehend the material fast, entirely, or partly.
A third probable challenge is the language applied to explain the academic material and the general diversity of the students. The distinctiveness of remembering the details and material by diverse people of an equal age is a factor worth consideration.
Significance of the Problem
The difficulty of perceiving and comprehending the academic material that is offered by the teacher to students with regard to any topic is critical and necessitates its researching since the characteristics of perceiving and comprehending the academic material are directly associated with the procedure of the successful learning.
Several students face the incapability to make out the new material effectively due to the peculiarities of the syllabus owing to the pace of the thinking practices, and due to the barriers of language. When teaching the academic material in the classroom setting with diverse students, the teacher ought to focus on the technique to give the knowledge successfully and better the learning progression of students (McVicker, 2009, pp. 22-23).
For example, according to researchers, the application of illustration aids is the vital method to boost the practice of presenting academic materials. In a bid to find a solution to the difficulty of students’ troubles in perceiving and comprehending the material, it is essential to study the inquiry of bettering the learning of students and proposing diverse practices to make the procedure simple for students with respect to their personal attributes and capabilities (Bell & Quazi, 2005, p. 234-236).
The difficulty ought to be studied since many students do not talk regarding their challenges in learning academic material at the point of its perceiving and comprehending when it is taught and elucidated in class by the teacher. Furthermore, many vital questions concerning the characteristics of the academic material are not inquired in time due to the likely difficulties in comprehending the material.
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The success of the learning practice hinges considerably on the stated students’ activities and intellectual practices, which justifies the need to study the problem circumspectly with the intention of finding ways to tackle the difficult question.
The argument of the problem in this research paper should be anchored in resolving specific research questions (Anderson et al., 2006, pp. 13-15). The following are potential research questions that can assist in solving the problem:
- What affects the students’ perception and comprehension of academic material?
- What are the impacts of teaching techniques in stimulating the students’ perception and comprehension of academic material?
- What are the required developments of the studying activities?
Necessity of the Study
Several teachers can encounter difficulties when students have certain challenges in perceiving and comprehending academic material owing to different aspects. Nevertheless, the understanding of the difficulty is only the initial step to its resolution (Anderson et al., 2006, pp. 16-18).
Furthermore, to triumph over the concerns in teaching, it is significant to settle on the questions that should be tackled with the aid of the research, which is required to better learning of diverse students with respect to the classroom setting.
Stimulated by concerns of students’ perceptions on studying, researches on student studying have offered rich descriptions of the way students understand and handle studies in institutions of higher education. Amid the major results is the fact that students’ notions of learning have a propensity of influencing the manner in which they undertake learning responsibilities in higher education.
In addition, the advances that students normally approve in their studies are likely to influence the excellence of the understanding attained, with a deep advance frequently being connected with a better understanding and improved academic outcomes as compared the one of a surface advance (McVicker, 2009, pp. 24-26).
Even if most of the studies on advances to learning at institutions of higher learning have been anchored in interviews with students, current studies in the area of study have employ inventory techniques progressively to facilitate large-scale surveys of students’ learning patterns in institutions of higher learning.
The buildup of the instruments has been done with the intention of putting into operation of the ideas created in qualitative, and most frequently phenomenographic, studies to generate quantitative scores on fastidious scales devised to arrest key features of learning in institutions of higher learning.
Given that a number of recent studies endeavor has been to describe and organize study patterns amid collections of students in institutions of higher learning, there exists less stress on experiences of perceptions and understanding of individual students. Evidently, in the Alternative Framework Movement, there prevails a great deal of study into students’ comprehension of science concepts.
A broad evaluation of this research demonstrates that the research has centered mainly on the way to create conceptual modification in instructional backgrounds, thus laying little stress on “concept development”, which underscores the progression via which students arrive at a comprehension of scientific theories in a range of disciplinary backgrounds (Bell & Quazi, 2005, pp. 237-244).
Therefore, while there is an increasing extent of research on students’ perception and understanding in higher education, there as well exist significant gaps in the literature concerning examinations into the way of understanding academic material in institutions of higher learning. This research paper fills a fraction of this gap by discovering experiences of first-year students in perceiving and understanding academic material in engineering education.
Literature demonstrates that students have the ability to make correct evaluations of their teachers. Their evaluations tend to concur with one another and teachers that are ranked excellent by students have a tendency of acquiring the highest student achievement. Nevertheless, the evaluations of students do not regularly concur with ratings of supervisors and teachers.
Additionally, the evaluations by administrators and peers differ with the evaluations of students. Several researchers have given predominantly close concentration to the key task of questioning while teaching with reaction schemes, both in enhancing commitment and analyzing student’s perception and understanding (Muir, & van der Linden, 2009, pp. 171-173).
In a bid to encourage discussion, for instance, researchers propose that questions that succumb to different student reactions are more efficient than questions that are simple or direct all students to a particular response. With regard to teachers who make use of the response systems to evaluate the student’s perception and understanding, it emerges that questions drawing pre-conception of learners and assisting teachers to adjust their way of teaching to satisfy the requirements of students are very successful.
Another effective approach employed by teachers is timing of questions with the aim of forming the nature of knowledge that an instructor achieves concerning the student’s perception and comprehension (Magaziner, & Maxwell, 2011, pp. 67-785). Questions that are put across following a lecture or clarification could be employed to verify understanding. On the other hand, posing questions prior to a lecture has a tendency of obtaining perceptions in techniques that can be employed to form instruction.
Students’ view of academic value
The view of academic staff excellence by students is their sentiment of or the way they feel concerning the excellence of their teachers (for instance, teacher’s conduct, instructing and explaining ability, and emotions). In this regard, students who achieve directly from learning and in accordance with direct contact with their teachers are engaged in evaluating the teachers by letting them to convey their sentiments, perception, and the way they feel concerning the teachers as well as their performance.
Consequently, to obtain more dependable gauge of quality guarantee, the perceptions of students could be more encouraging and reliable than all others in the field of teaching evaluation of the lecturers for merit guarantee in institutions of higher learning.
Academic staff excellence
According to Scheja (2006), the excellence in teaching creates the possibility of students attaining meaningful educational goals and results to the finest of their capabilities (pp. 421-445). Success in learning outcome particularly in universities insists that excellent academic staff be hired and appropriately developed to carry out their tasks in the fields of teaching, study, and managerial duties.
The supply of sufficient infrastructure, amenities, instructional materials apparatus, qualified and committed academic employees, disciplined and determined students, and appropriate curricular plans certainly boosts the excellence of any institution of learning when suitably managed. The academic employees hired and positioned to instruct students are anticipated to be intellectually and scholarly qualified and capable of teaching learners in their fields of specialization.
The key aims of numerous nations across the globe (developed, underdeveloped, and developing), is guaranteeing advanced excellence of educational improvement by seeking to give excellent academic employees as no educational superiority can soar higher than the extent of teachers’ efforts.
Accordingly, the educational strategy makers carry the duty of making sure that the students obtain excellent education through first-class academic employees. On the other hand, students are better placed to provide a judgment on the excellence of the teachers (Penuel et al., 2007, pp. 315-334). In this research paper, the quality of academic employees is determined through the perception and understanding of students with the application of the following academic staff quality pointers:
- Accessibility to learners
- Attitude to work
- Communication ability and capacity to convey the knowledge
- Excellence of students’ supervision
- Leadership approach
- Mode of teaching
- Professional capability
- Sufficient facilities for academic staff
- Utilization of instructional stuff
Quality along with quality guarantee
Penuel et al. (2007) consider quality to be the idea interested with the manner in which high quality or awful a product becomes (pp. 335-346). It is frequently simpler to experience excellence than to explain or gauge it. One explanation for this nature as a perception is that the notion of quality frequently varies from one person to another mainly when it comes to education.
Nonetheless, even when the perceptions of excellence differ, people easily identify the existence of quality, its significance, the dissimilarity it creates between victory and failure, and individuals as well distinguishing its nonexistence. Therefore, excellence is something everybody regards as beneficial and desires to have. Quality concerns the standard of one thing when judged against other things.
Magaziner and Maxwell (2011) identify quality as excellence or communal values that are affirmed in the school curriculum, which entails phases and actions (transformational as well as technical progressions) that occur until certificates are given (pp. 76-78).
Quality guarantee is delineated as a practice and product-oriented perception in which all steps in the production are recognized and well-tuned to the maximum possible state with the intention of ensuring that ensuing product suits the aim for which it is intended in an attempt to make sure that what is generated matches to the predetermined requirements.
Consequently, quality guarantee involves making sure that what is generated is free of flaw. The idea of zero faults is very appealing to givers of instructive services since eradication of errors means that failures of students coupled with careless spending of systems supply would be avoided. The attainment of zero fault conditions is possible through the application of quality guarantee systems.
Organizations help to establish precisely the way production ought to be done, the criteria that must be accomplished, and the values that must be upheld. The values are upheld by following the strategy established in the quality guarantee system. Though the officials have a key task of carrying out quality guarantee, the liability for excellence in education is heavily on the labor force, viz. the teachers generally operating individually or in teams.
Therefore, academic employees have the functional tasks of devising the attributes and values of the programs of learning that match to the requirements of their learners, viz. the principal consumers who are the students cum customers in the education sector.
In the course of a lecture towards the close of an academic year, 100 students (50 males and 50 females) of between 18 and 20 years of age from two programs (computer science and engineering) were randomly selected and requested to reveal in writing their learning condition and the circumstances for studying according to their perceptions. Additionally, the students were to indicate if they could be ready to participate in an interview later on.
Out of the 100 students selected, 86 chose to take part in the writing section and only 34 chose to proceed to the interviews. Amongst the volunteers for interviews, a sub-sample consisting of 15 students was picked for interview.
The collection of data was carried out in two steps. Initially, a questionnaire was applied to give a general impression of research experiences amid the students. Secondly, interviews were done with a sub-sample of volunteers to offer a more excellent-grained and detailed explanation of studying in tertiary engineering institution from the personal perspective of students.
Some of the questions that the students were specifically asked include the following:
- Do you consider the conditions rational?
- Do you get sufficient study time?
- Put in writing what concerns you in relation to your academic materials, for example on the subject of course content and ways of teaching.
The sub-sample chosen for interviews was considered. The choice of interviewees was controlled by deliberations involving the students’ conflicting perceptions of the study condition and previous learning setting. For example, while the majority of students had encountered challenges in the course of that year, others appeared quite pleased with their study-condition.
The sub-sample for interview incorporated students with differing perceptions of their study-condition, with the intention of selecting students with contrasting perceptions, which would leave interesting distinctions concerning the way they connected to their studies.
The conducted interviews aimed at exploring the first-year learners’ experiences of learning with a specific concentration on the way the learners had encountered and tackled the requirements of the teaching-studying background. The mode of carrying out the interviews was conversational, which permitted the learners to ponder on issues that they personally perceived to be interesting.
Some of the questions posed in the interview include the following:
- How has this academic-year been to you?
- What would be your description of studies in an institution of higher learning to a person that has no experience of it?
- What is your way of studying, for instance, with respect to a new course?
In the course of the interview, the interviewer attempted to persuade the students to speak concerning their personal experiences. Additionally, the interviewees were inquired concerning the meaning of comprehending academic material with regard to learning at an institution of higher learning.
The learners were interviewed individually with every interview taking a period of between 20 and 30 minutes. Every one of the interviews was taped and fully transliterated with the interviewees’ informed approval.
The majority of the students (61 out of 86) that were selected to fill the questionnaire had experienced challenges during the first academic-year at the institution. Specifically, a watchful impression of the learners’ written explanations demonstrated that the difficulties circled around matters regarding the workload, which comprised concerns regarding the way to prioritize the pending work and obtain adequate understanding of academic material.
A majority of the learners stated the difficulty of not getting sufficient time to do their coursework appropriately. Over half of learners who took part in the study affirmed that they had encountered difficulty in sustaining the speed at which fresh topics were initiated by the teachers, and thus had faced an increasing workload that they considered as difficult to handle.
The following is a statement from a computer science student clarifying this observation. There is scarcity of time here at this institution. I would simply have studied 24 hours daily, but certainly, I cannot. When I get home, I am generally very worn out to study. I frequently study during the weekends, despite the fact that it feels rather uncomfortable to use the only extra time you have to study.
I suffer constant worry and anxiety with reference to not studying adequately, and I have lagged behind in a number of courses. It feels anxious not having the liveliness to study while I am aware that I have to study. Students that had encountered falling behind in some courses articulated substantial difficulty over the workload and stated concerning a sense of existing out of phase with regard to their studies.
The learners employed the statement of being or staying out of phase in illustrating their present study condition concerning the requirements of teaching-studying surroundings. The meaning of staying in phase is a perfect manner of undertaking coursework where learners succeed in carrying out given tasks at the pace set in the course timetable.
During the interview, one of the students described being in phase as being at the place you ought to be (with respect to course work), in accordance with the schedule, and of having understood the academic material presented in class. On the contrary, the term falling out of phase refers to a challenging study condition characterized by severe difficulties in managing course requirements.
Complexities in dealing suitably with perceived class work demands resulted in some students feeling troubled by not being capable of developing adequate understanding of academic material. Particularly, students voiced displeasure with the weighty workload and as well articulated necessity for additional time to study.
A number of students stated that the swift teaching speed and the quantity of academic material made it hard to follow and comprehend the areas set up in teaching. The need to stay in phase was tied with the necessity to counterbalance for a perceived shortage of understanding of academic material.
This was mainly expressed in instances where learners felt the obligation of staying in phase in spite of having inadequate understanding of academic material, which led to the difficulty in following the subjects presented in class. A challenge emerging from the desire was that a number of students, regardless of being pushed for time, felt compelled to be present at every lecture since they were worried of missing important information concerning the demands of a forthcoming exam.
Managing the challenge of falling out of phase
The students could take remedial strides to catch up with academic work with the aim of staying in phase. The challenge in tackling course demands and of attempting to keep pace with the swift teaching speed appeared to be mainly articulated in units demanding thorough lab-work and complex mathematical problems (Hechter et al., 2012, pp.136-142).
Encounters of falling out of phase caused students to strive more successfully to satisfy the course demands. For example, it was not a rare incidence for learners to copy lab reports from their colleagues in an attempt to complete assigned laboratory undertakings on time and obtain bonus points in the forthcoming examinations. Finding extra time, even if it means sleeping late at night, could act as a remedial step of the students updating themselves with the taught academic material in a bid to avoid falling out of phase.
A significant number of the students articulated difficulty in effectively handling the workload and teaching pace. The inclination of students working jointly on group assignments and consulting the teachers for clarification where left behind could help them to deal with the challenge of teaching speed.
The copying amongst students is an ill attempt for dealing with excessively heavy workload and the use of this method entailed an essential move in the students’ objectives from acquiring a comprehension and high scores in a given subject to one of merely evading failure.
The lag encountered by students in understanding academic material could be expressed with regard to a delayed comprehension (Hechter et al., 2012, pp. 143-148). It is obvious that the workload and perception of insufficient time brought about the feeling of falling out of phase amid students. The sense of delayed understanding can be justified.
It appears that comprehension could be delayed in either of the following two dissimilar means:
- It could be delayed with respect to students’ individual anticipations on how fast their understanding of academic material ought to develop
- It could be impeded with regard to beliefs conveyed on the learners by the organization of the teaching-studying environment concerning the teaching techniques applied in dissimilar course backgrounds.
This research shows that delayed understanding is directly associated with the perception of falling out of phase, subsequent failure, and their desire of staying in phase. Furthermore, the challenges that learners had in understanding academic material appeared to be associated with the mode in which topics were taught (Hechter, et al., 2012, pp.150-152). For example, some learners were discontented with the pedagogic advance of the lecturer and had the perception that teaching was carried out extremely fast.
A conception is built regarding delayed understanding as not merely the difficulty that a number of students could encounter in developing comprehension of academic material satisfactorily fast to stay in phase bearing in mind the perceived anticipations of the studying setting, but it could as well confine an essential feature of learning. Learning necessitated lively reflection on prior encounters and such reflection was a vital element in all ideas.
Certainly, reflection needs a particular quantity of time. In this regard, every comprehension is delayed up to when there is time to ponder on the experiences (Wilson et al., 2010, pp. 163-179). This paper reports that there exist perceptions of insufficient time to ponder on academic material with the aim of understanding.
The perception of delayed understanding holds the barriers involved in a study condition as well as points to a broader feature of learning by detecting that time to ponder academic material is a crucial factor of the practice of coming to comprehend academic material in a given academic environment.
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