A mixed methods approach to understanding the relationship between computing students’ approaches to learning and academic performance for different entry pathways

  • Kim Ying Lim

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


The current study was developed to research the learning approaches (deep versus surface) used by two diverse entry pathways’ (diploma versus A-Level) students studying computing degree programmes, and to examine the relationship between their academic performance and approaches to learning within the context of a private education institution (PEI) in Singapore.

In this study, the epistemological and methodological position was grounded in the pragmatic paradigm of mixed methods which combines both quantitative and qualitative methods. A theoretical model based on Biggs, Kember, and Leung’s (2001) 3P (presage-process-product) model of teaching and learning was used to investigate the interrelationships among entry pathways (presage), approaches to learning (process), and academic performance (product). This study applied an embedded design, whereby the qualitative study was embedded within a larger quantitative sample. The group qualitative interview data complemented the quantitative results by providing rich insights into the quantitative results obtained. Both data sets were subsequently merged to examine the research questions (RQs). The Biggs et al.’s (2001) Revised Two Factor Study Process Questionnaire (R-SPQ-2F) was used to collect data from 415 students. Data analysis was performed through the use of descriptive and inferential statistics using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 24.

The mixed methods results of the study showed that (1) the entry pathway and gender do not have significant effects on the learning approaches adopted by the students; (2) there was an association between age and students’ approaches to learning (SAL) in terms of the deep approach (DA) scores and deep motive (DM) scores; (3) there were significant differences in SAL in terms of the scales and subscales of R-SPQ-2F between different years of study; (4) SAL did not predict their academic performance; and (5) DA to learning is the more dominant learning approach regardless of student characteristics.

Finally, the interaction effects of entry pathway and learning approaches adopted by computing undergraduates were not significant, therefore, indicating that the effect of learning approaches on academic performance did not depend on the entry pathway. However, the findings of the study indicated a statistically significant relationship between entry pathway and academic performance, where students with A-Level entry pathway performed better compared to the students with the polytechnic entry pathway. The study recommended that further investigation could be done using a longitudinal study. Such a study should examine whether the approaches to learning of computing students change over time as they go through their tertiary education.
Date of Award24 Mar 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorWilliam J Browne (Supervisor)

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