The modelling of ‘dissonant’ study orchestration in higher education

  • Jan H. F. Meyer


Attention is drawn in the present study to atypical patterns of contextualised learning engagement that are often difficult to interpret because, at face value, they exhibit varying degrees of conceptual dissonance. Against a summary of the practical and methodological problems associated with researching the phenomenon of ‘dissonance’, a review is presented of how it may manifest itself in differing contexts, and with what implied or observed associated effects. The empirical question of how ‘dissonance’ may be interpreted and modelled is addressed and it is argued that, in general, the phenomenon can be naturally accommodated within an interference observed model of student learning by virtue of violations of defined ‘conceptual boundaries’ within the model at an individual, or subgroup, response level. An example of an observed interference model of student learning in the form of a common factor model is introduced and is then further used to illustrate how such conceptual violations may occur in practice.

Key words

Dissonance Interference model Study orchestration 


Dans la présente étude l’attention est focalisée sur des patterns atypiques d’engagement dans des apprentissages contextualisés qui sont souvent difficiles à interpréter parce que, à première vue, ils présentent des degrés variés de dissonance conceptuelle. Plutôt qu’un résumé des problèmes pratiques et méthodologiques associés avec la recherche du phénomène de ‘dissonance’, on présente une revue de la façon dont il se manifeste dans différents contextes et avec quels effets associés impliqués ou observés. On se pose la question empirique de savoir comment la ‘dissonance’ doit être interprétée et modélisée.

Un exemple d’un modèle d’interférence observé d’apprentissage d’élève sous la forme d’un modèle de facteur commun est introduit et il est ensuite utilisé pour illustrer comment de telles violations conceptuelles peuvent apparaître en pratique.


  1. Biggs, J.B. (1985). The role of metalearning in study processes.British Journal of Educational Psychology, 55, 185–212.Google Scholar
  2. Biggs, J.B., & Kirby, J.R. (1984). Differentiation of learning processes within ability groups.Educational Psychology, 4, 21–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cliff, A.F. (1992).The ‘educationally disadvantaged’ student: Factors impacting upon conceptions of learning and perceptions of learning contexts. Unpublished M.Ed. dissertation, University of Cape Town.Google Scholar
  4. Cowie, J., Shanahan, M., & Meyer, E. (1997). Measuring learning processes in first year economics. Preliminary results.Research and Development in Higher Education, 20, 209–230.Google Scholar
  5. Entwistle, N.J., Meyer, J.H.F., & Tait, H. (1991). Student failure: Disintegrated perceptions of study strategies and perceptions of the learning environment.Higher Education, 21, 249–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Lindblom-Ylänne, S., & Lonka, K. (1999). Individual ways of interacting with the learning environment — Are they related to study success?Learning and Instruction, 9, 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Lindblom-Ylänne, S., & Lonka, K. (this issue). ‘Dissonant’ study orchestrations of high achieving university students.Google Scholar
  8. Meyer, J.H.F. (1991). Study Orchestration: The manifestation, interpretation and consequences of contextualised approaches to studying.Higher Education, 22, 297–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Meyer, J.H.F. (1996). Some aspects of the individual-difference modelling of causal attribution.Higher Education, 31, 51–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Meyer, J.H.F. (1998). A medley of individual differences. In B. Dart & G. Boulton-Lewis (Eds.),Teaching and Learning in Higher Education: From Theory to Practice (pp. 42–71). Camberwell: Australian Council for Educational Research.Google Scholar
  11. Meyer, J.H.F., & Cleary, E.G. (1998). An exploratory student learning model of clinical diagnosis.Medical Education, 32, 547–581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Meyer, J.H.F., & Dunne, T.T. (1991). The study approaches of nursing students: Effects of an extended clinical context.Medical Education, 25, 497–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Meyer, J.H.F., Dunne, T.T., & Sass, A.R. (1992). Impressions of disadvantage. I — School versus university study orchestration and implications for academic support.Higher Education, 24, 291–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Meyer, J.H.F., & Muller, M.W. (1990). Evaluating the quality of student learning. I — An unfolding analysis of the association between perceptions of learning context and approaches to studying at an individual level.Studies in Higher Education, 15, 131–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Meyer, J.H.F., Parsons, P., & Dunne, T.T. (1990). Individual study orchestrations and their association with learning outcome.Higher Education, 20, 67–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Meyer, J.H.F., & Sass, A.R. (1993). The impact of the first year on the learning behaviour of engineering students.International Journal of Engineering Education, 9, 209–217.Google Scholar
  17. Meyer, J.H.F., & Scrivener, K. (1995). A framework for evaluating and improving student learning. In G. Gibbs (Ed.),Improving Student Learning through Assessment and Evaluation (pp. 44–54). Oxford: Oxford Brookes University.Google Scholar
  18. Walsh, E. (1994). Phenomenographic analysis of interview transcripts. In J.A. Bowden & E. Walsh (Eds.),Phenomenographic research: Variations in method (pp. 17–30). Melbourne: Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.Google Scholar
  19. Vermunt, J.D., & Verloop, N. (1999). Congruence and friction between teaching and learning.Learning and Instruction, 9, 257–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Winer, B.J. (1971).Statistical principles in experimental design. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisbon, Portugal/ Springer Netherlands 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of DurhamDurhamU.K.

Personalised recommendations