Briefing paper The Affective Domain and Attainment Dr Debra Cureton, University of Wolverhampton Professor Glynis Cousin, University of Wolverhampton Overview This paper considers the role that the affective domain plays in the process of deep and surface learning and considers how recognising the affective domain can encourage deeper learning approaches. Abstract: It is widely accepted that deep and surface learning are aspects of student learning (Marton and Saljo, 1976) that are important to attainment. This paper considers the impact of the affective domain in the adoption of surface and deep learning strategies by students. The data pertaining to this argument has been collected through Consensus Conferencing and through interviews with current students and alumni who have achieved good degrees. Students discussed the importance of good relationships with lectures and feeling respected as individuals as important to their engagement with the topic and how they operate as learners. Rationale: It is widely accepted that deep and surface learning are aspects of student learning strategies (Marton and Saljo, 1976) that are important to attainment. Although there has been some indication that there is an affective aspect to these learning approaches, which is embodied in ‘fear of failure’ Ramsden, Beswick and Bowden, 1986), the impact of the affective domain with in the learning space and its impact on students’ approaches to learning has received little attention. Generation of Evidence: A number of student consensus conferences were held over the period the Disparities in attainment programme that invited students to discuss issues pertaining to the attainment gap. The data collected was analysed and the dominant themes that arose were followed up in one to one interviews with current students and Alumni. Research findings/ New Evidence: In all data collection forums students discussed the impact of good student lecturer relationships on their engagement with the topic being taught, the barriers to adopting deeper learning strategies when relationships with lecturers were difficult and the impact of good relationships with lecturers on their attainment. Students discussed the importance of good relationships with their lecturers and how this impacts on their engagement with the subject area. In particular, students reported that good relationships with their lecturers led to greater engagement. When you get on well with your lecturer, you can ask them questions. You’re not afraid to ask about things you don’t understand and you can ask about things you are interested in. Knowing you can talk to them [lecturers] sort of inspires you to what to know more. (BME , male, second year student) Students also discussed how relationships with lecturers that are perceived as not being good, had negatively impact on the engagement with topic. ….She didn’t answer my emails and it made it hard to do the assignment. The information wasn’t clear and I, well we all, needed clarification so that we could do good assignments. When she didn’t respond to emails it makes you think ‘why do I bother; what’s the point?’ You know, I’m not like that normally; I want a first, but it just makes you like that. (White, male, third year student) The relationship between affective aspects of the learning relationship, engagement and the learning strategies students implements were also raised by students and alumni. Trying to have good relationships with lecturers is important. I tried to talk to all my lecturers so that they knew I was interested and wanted to do well. If you have a good relationship with them you can talk to them about the assignments, they can tell you other things to read so that you can learn more about the topic, then you have more to write about in your assignments. (BME, Female Alumni) Students also detailed how negative relationships impact on the attainment. ‘When they [lectures] don’t communicate [the lecture] well it is hard to understand what they are saying. You go away and read about it [the lecture topic] but you get confused. (White, female, first year student) If you can’t ask lecturers for clarification then you have to ask your friends………. Well, they [friends] are just guessing like you are, but that’s all you have to go on. If you get it wrong, you you get a low mark. (BME, female, first year student) If students feel uncomfortable they might not go to lectures and you definitely won’t be asking them for help. (White, male, second year student) Outcomes/implications for policy and practice: Students see good communication: clear assignment instruction, good presentation of lecture materials and the opportunity to ask questions without negative comeback, as important to their ability to get good degrees. The above factors are also elements that lead to students perceiving a good relationship with lecturers and this positivity impacts on their engagement with their learning in this area. Students’ relationships with lecturers impact on their learning strategies. The affective aspect of learning relationships impacts on the learning strategies students implement. To good relationships with students and good communication is likely to lead to students engaging in deep learning. Encouraging good relationships and good communication by providing opportunities for students to ask questions and gain more information could positive impact on student performance. Refereneces Marton, F. and SÄLJÖ, L. (1976) "On Qualitative Differences in Learning — 2: Outcome as a function of the learner's conception of the task" British. Journal of Educational Psychology, 46, 115-27 Ramsden, P., Beswick, D., & Bowden, J (1986). Effects of learning skills interventions on first year university students' learning. Human Learning, 5, 151-164.