Quantitative Measure of Approaches to Learning and Training

David Clancy, Mary Holmes, Dr Susan Geertshuis and Amanda Bristol

University of Wales, Bangor

This paper describes an innovative software system that examines individuals' approaches to occupational learning. The package aims to respond to the needs of a diverse client group faced with the pressures of lifelong learning. Real work environments demand continuous learning, so employees need to become multi-skilled and able to adapt to rapid changes within task-orientated professions. It is imperative, therefore, that there is an informed and appropriate structure from which to develop approaches to teaching/training. Trainees must be supported and allowed to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to perform more effectively in the workplace.

The Improving Training Quality system has been developed by the Centre for Learning Research (clear) at the University of Wales, Bangor. It is a modular software package designed to assist businesses in the identification of their own training/learning needs and then to implement and evaluate suitable training programmes. The learning module within the package is dedicated to assessing the styles that participants apply to training. The scale used within this module is based on the Approaches to Study Inventory (ASI) by Entwistle et al (1979), but focuses on occupational rather than academic learning.

The Approaches to Studying Inventory (ASI) has been, since its development in the UK, one of the most widely used questionnaires with regard to student learning in higher education. The original version of the ASI contained 64 items, which were divided into 16 sub-scales (Entwistle & Ramsden, 1983). However, in recent years, particularly since 1992, the ASI has undergone extensive revision, with a number of versions being produced (e.g. Duff, 1997). This has culminated in a Revised Approaches to Studying Inventory (RASI) which contains 30 items relating only to three approaches to studying (deep, surface and strategic), thus eliminating the sub-scales aimed at identifying lack of direction, academic self-confidence and metacognitive awareness. Duff (1997) examined this version of the RASI in a piece of research which concluded that the reliability and validity of the version in question were comparable to the original version of the ASI (e.g. Entwistle & Ramsden, 1983). In summary, for assessing the broad distinction between a deep, surface or strategic approach, the 30-item RASI can be recommended as a useful instrument to researchers, staff developers and trainers.

Participants take part by responding to a series of questions based on the 30-item RASI, which has had the wording amended towards a training orientation. In addition, the original 30-item RASI was reduced and structured toward training by statistically analysing item to total responses from respondents and calculating which questions accounted for the greatest variance in total correlation within each category (i.e. Deep, surface, strategic). Those questions with the greatest variance were deleted from the inventory. In all cases, the correlation coefficient r > 3.71, and P < 0.01, (N=189). The amended RASI now contains only 21 items, 7 each for the three approaches (deep, surface and strategic). Thus, we have produced a validated, reduced questionnaire that is specifically orientated towards the training environment and presented as easy to use, attractive software.

Return to Abstracts Index