The Modern Danish Student” – a Questionnaire of Students’ Attitudes to Education, Motives of Choice of Study and Attitudes to Teaching at a University. Speciale ved Institut for Statskundskab, Aarhus Universitet.

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”The Modern Danish Student” – a Questionnaire of Students’ Attitudes to Education, Motives of Choice of Study and Attitudes to Teaching at a University.
Berit Lassesen: University of Aarhus, Denmark
Background: Societal changes and an increased student intake present special challenges for university education, and it has been claimed that there have been significant shifts in Danish student attitudes toward education and teachers, and that these changes have shaped contemporary student motivation and behaviour. Prejudices like “students no longer see their instructors as respected intellectuals and mentors but instead as servers obliged to hand them educational inspiration”, “Students expect the incentive for learning to come from their instructors instead of from themselves”, “If a student does not feel stimulated by his or her coursework, then these shortcomings are labelled as teaching deficiencies instead of student failures” or “Students believe they should be able to do what, how and when they want, and it is the teacher’s responsibility to assist them in the task” are common amongst university teachers.
In a Danish study based on diaries written by 82 students at Roskilde University, the researchers concluded that the attitudes regarding choice of education and educational activities of the “Modern Danish student” are characterized by 1) an orientation towards the individualized and personal aspects, 2) an internally motivated and existential “personal growth” orientation, 3) a process oriented rather than result oriented attitude towards educational activities, 4) a short-term “here- and now” motivation, and 5) an ambivalent attitude towards who is responsible for the result of the learning activities – the teachers or student him- or her-self (Simonsen & Ulriksen, 1998). The authors suggest that their findings can be generalized to apply to the group of Danish students as a whole. If so, it will have far-reaching implications for the future development in Danish learning environment. Although embedded in modern theory of socialization and in many ways an”intuitive” valid description of Danish students, it made me question whether its conclusions actually can be generalized. The study reported here is an attempt to test whether these conclusions concerning the “modern Danish student” can be generalized to other student populations.
Purpose: The aim of this project was to test the generalization of the characteristics of ”the modern Danish student” by examining attitudes to education, motives to choice of education, and attitudes to teaching among a broad segment of students at the University of Aarhus (AU).
Method: By using the conclusions from Simonsen and Ulriksen´s study, a number of operational categories concerning motivation and attitudes to education and teaching were set out. Based on statements from the qualitative study mentioned above a number of questions were constructed. After adjustments based on a pilot examination, the final questionnaire was made consisting of a total of 92 questions. The questionnaire was handed out at lectures to a total of 765 students from four different faculties at the AU: students from 1) Philosophy and History of Ideas, 2) Medicine, 3) Social science, and 4) from different scientific subjects. The students were recruited respectively from 1st semester and on Master’s level. The collected material was then analysed by means of an explorative factor-analysis resulting in a number of coherent and theoretical valid motivation and attitude dimensions. These dimensions were examined for possible variations between subjects, level of study, and gender. The students’ answers were then compared with a set up model for what one would expect ”the modern Danish student” would answer.
Results: 686 students in total returned completed questionnaires (response rate: 89.7). The results confirmed that attitudes among students from the humanities (Philosophy and History of Ideas) in general correspond with model of “the modern student” (91% consistency in results). However, students from the other educations differed from the model in their attitudes. Students of Medicine showed only 45% consistency in results.
Conclusion: Whereas the description of ”the modern Danish student” may be generalized to apply to students from the humanities, the conclusions do not seem to be representative to students at other faculties. A substantial variation in motivation and attitudes to education and teaching seem to be present among students at different subjects/educations.
Keywords: Student motives, Attitudes to teaching and education
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date01/01/200401/12/2004

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