Nina's Notes

for Effective Teaching and Meaningful Learning


Learning and studying disposition is the interpretative framework students use when they face a learning situation, or while choosing their courses in higher education. These dispositions are at least partially affected by culturally adopted values (this could be either a larger cultural context or just family culture).Learning dispositions regulate our learning interests, efforts and motivation.  Growth mindset certainly relates to the dispositions, as well as students' self-efficacy beliefs and their academic self-concept.

How to help  students to create deep learning orientations that would then transfer to their learning in higher education? 

This is a question often heard in both formal and informal discussions about education.  Deep learning is seen more meaningful than reproductive learning (Lonka et al, 2004). One possible answer is to adopt a teaching disposition that emphasizes authenticity (Kreber, 2007)and empowers engagement.  Such teaching disposition increases the humanist and constructivist values in the classroom and encompasses all learning dispositions, which helps students to engage in their own personal learning, not just their compulsory schooling. 

Being convinced that knowledge is much more than a fixed bunch of  facts (information) brings another dimension to the dispositions because it defines the extent of our teaching. We must prepare students for the world that is a complex mixture of cultures and diverse beliefs, and while memorizing disconnected pieces of information may be a nice trick in trivia game, students also need to understand the contexts and connections of that information. Where did it come from, and is it trustworthy?  And an especially important question is: how can we use it productively?Unfortunately the discussions about the nature of knowledge are seldom highlighted in professional meetings, but it should be. 

Misusing information is easy because it is shallow and has no situationality or contextuality – these are qualities of knowledge, where an individual has constructed an understanding of how given information fits into her/his worldview, beliefs and values. The use of labels falls into the category of misusing information, and it often leads into othering, which is how we define “us” and “others”.

It is easy to sort people, categorize them and label their qualities. But, when we use labels and define the problem in education for example as underachieving students, it locates the solutions to fixing the students. Not education, nor instruction, but students. How scary!  This is how something we know from research and experience to be beneficial for students, their learning and their future (e.g. bilingualism) suddenly becomes a problem (e.g. ELL, underachieving).  Of course these diverse students score lower in the standardized tests.  But their individual learning processes may be incredible.

Kreber, C. (2007). What‘s it really all about? The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning as an Authentic Practice. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning1(1), 3.

Lonka, K., Olkinuora, E., & Mäkinen, J. (2004). Aspects and prospects of measuring studying and learning in higher education. Educational Psychology Review16(4), 301-323.

Shum, S. B., & Crick, R. D. (2012,April). Learning dispositions and transferable competencies: pedagogy,modelling and learning analytics. In Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge (pp. 92-101). ACM.

Volet, S., Vauras, M., & Salonen, P.(2009). Self-and social regulation in learning contexts: An integrative perspective. Educational psychologist44(4),215-226.


The teachers' view about students is extremely important to talk about, because it contributes both to the instructional decisions and teachers' expectations for students. These views extend well beyond students' cognitive abilities, and they are seen as students educational competence. This is also an area that has not been researched nearly as much as it should have been, because it has a straightforward effect in students learning experiences, and often also in their grades.

It is quite common for teachers in the same school - or the faculty in a university - to have very different views about students, instruction, assessments and expectations.  For students this might be quite confusing, even though they usually figure out pretty quickly what are the expectations of each class. Still, consistency of expectations and open communication about them are building blocks of effective instructional practice in any given educational system.


While discussing what students with high educational competence are like most teachers have in mind 

"the concept of “teachability,” which reflects the teacher's view of the attributes of a model student, and is affected by three primary factors consisting of temperamental dimensions."

The researchers are referring into three specific factors: task orientation - which can be seen as activity, persistence and distractability 

personal-social flexibility and reactivity.  Well combined these personality traits create an ideal student: motivated, well-mannered and focused on studies.

Students with high educational competence often use deep learning strategies, engage in developing better metacognitive skills, and usually they are growing as self-regulated learners. However, the reality of good quality education is that we must help all students achieve better learning competence, and that can sometimes be a challenge. 

Mullola, S., Ravaja, N., Lipsanen, J., Hirstiö-Snellman, P., Alatupa, S., & Keltikangas-Järvinen, L. (2010).Teacher-perceived temperament and educational competence as predictors of school grades. Learning and Individual Differences20(3), 209-214.