Letter: Learning to learn the university way

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The Independent Online
Sir: Martin Conway (Letters, 2 March) bemoans students' lack of motivation to study independently at university, and calls for high-calibre research into why this should be. I think the answer is relatively simple.

For many A-levels (with some notable exceptions), sixth-form students do most of their work in class, and they have to accept and learn what their teachers say if they are to obtain the high grades required for university entry. It is often the most docile and teacher-dependent students who succeed.

It is hardly surprising that such students have difficulty in motivating themselves and organising their time when they are suddenly expected to do most of their learning by themselves. Nor is it surprising that they arrive believing that the whole of the required syllabus will be delivered to them through the medium of lectures and tutorials. This is what they have learned to expect at school.

Until such time as A-levels are radically reformed, it will remain one of the main tasks of higher education to wean students of teacher dependence, and to turn them into autonomous practitioners of their discipline.

Mr Conway is right to say that good teaching is not enough. The extra that is needed is explicit help for students in adapting to the independent learning styles expected of them at university level.

Yours sincerely,



Department of Philosophy

University of Leeds

2 March