The Propensity of a Science-Based Discipline towards Surface Learning Compared to the Arts—A Fresh Look at Two Cultures


The propensity of science students towards surface and deep learning approaches was investigated to determine whether they were more likely to be encouraged toward a surface rather than deep approach to learning: more specifically do undergraduate environmental science students favour a surface approach to a greater extent than students in other disciplines such as the arts. Examining whether a discipline favours towards students adopting a particular approach to learning, this study surveyed over 500 undergraduate students across seven discipline areas at one university to examine patterns of learning approaches. Analysis of scores reflected tendencies towards surface and deep approaches: motivations and strategies indicated that environmental science students do not adopt a significantly different overall approach compared to students in all other disciplines, apart from a greater tendency towards a surface approach on the main scale and surface strategy subscale compared, specifically, to arts and social science. The findings appear to indicate that both the Schools of Arts & Social Science and Environment, Science & Engineering, while multi-disciplinary in nature, may still show apparent remnants of “two cultures”.

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Lake, W. , Boyd, W. and Boyd, W. (2015) The Propensity of a Science-Based Discipline towards Surface Learning Compared to the Arts—A Fresh Look at Two Cultures. Creative Education, 6, 1733-1741. doi: 10.4236/ce.2015.616175.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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