Deep and Surface Approaches to Learning

Noel Entwistle and his colleagues has conducted similar research to Säljö's study. Entwistle has been described as the first person in the English-speaking countries to grasp the importance of the Swedish work. Using the works of Marton and Säljö (1976) they were able to identify deep and surface approaches but they also noted the presence of what was considered to be a third approach, the strategic approach, where students were aiming towards top achievement, using whichever of the deep or surface approach was deemed necessary (Case and Marshall, 2009, p.10). 

Noel Entwistle is a UK educational psychologist who has made significant contributions to theories of student learning in higher education. He has published several books including Styles of Learning and Teaching (1981), Understanding Student Learning (1983), Understanding Classroom Learning (1987), and The Experience of Learning (1989).

In parallel work in Australia, John Biggs (1978) published an analysis of student responses to his Study Processes Questionnaire (SPQ) in which he noted the similarity of two of his categories to Marton and Säljö’s (1976) deep and surface approaches. In fact, his full set of three categories showed an even closer correspondence with Entwistle’s work, including a third strategic approach.

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