Phase 2 essay plan, variety A
Tony (edited by Louise)
(this is a short essay write up without refs)

Compare and contrast several different important senses of high and low quality learning.

This essay will compare and contrast several different important senses of high and low quality learning. It is not easy to specify what is meant by high and low quality learning. Dependent on the situation, there may be variation in how these terms apply. Should someone be learning an academic subject, then it is likely that some critical analysis will be necessary. On the other hand, should someone be learning a specific skill where there is no room for interpretation, it may be that simply knowing basic rules will suffice. In order to clarify the issues, a selection of theories will be discussed. These include the notion of deep and shallow learning, the learning theory of Perry, and Laurillard's model.

The distinction between deep and shallow learning is founded on the idea of simply learning versus understanding. The idea being that someone can learn facts about a subject, but only when they can use knowledge in a fluid way are they able to provide fresh insights. A founding principle is that deep learning is aided by doing. That is if you can place knowledge in context and generate examples it is possible to move beyond the basics. It would appear that deep learning also requires some level of intrinsic motivation where the learner is pro-active in accumulating additional information beyond that which is taught.

Perry's theory is currently thought of as consisting of three main stages. Stage A is a passive student who is only learning facts and is dependant on the teacher. Stage B is a student who knows they need more than this but is unsure how to achieve it. They will tend to want to consider competing views, but will still mainly rely on guidance and focus on quantity of information. Stage C is a student who uses their initiative, is comfortable with competing views, and will see themselves as the person most responsible for their learning outcomes. Stage C is similar to deep learning in that it highlights intrinsic motivation, and critical analysis. It could be argued that Stage A is similar to shallow learning in that it takes information as fixed, and definite. The fact that Stage B seems to be a mix of both deep and shallow learning would suggest that two factors are not sufficient to explain learning.

Laurrilard's model emphasizes the interplay of formal (or public) and personal learning. Formal learning is about teacher centred influence that is focussed on facts, and established knowledge. The personal element is about making knowledge relevant to our own lives. This personal element ties in with the notion of examples, since it is about finding relevant examples in our own lives. The formal approach could be seen as analogous to Stage A learning where the teacher is responsible for how learning progresses. Laurrilard's model also emphasizes the relationship between teacher and student. Ideally, they will be able to discuss and even disagree on points, with the student developing their own ideas along the way. This 'conversation' could be seen as similar to Stage B learning, although with more confidence on the student's part.

All of these theories seem to require an engagement on the part of the student. However well taught, it is only when a student guides some of their own learning that they will really begin to master a subject. Personal experience might give a certain depth to knowledge but may also bias thinking. Also, some subjects are founded on established rules, where others are more open to development. All the theories seem to suggest that high learning is when someone can use the knowledge in fresh ways, and in new contexts. Low learning is when the knowledge is fixed and there will be difficulty using it out with already established situations.

In sum, the three models discussed (which are only a selection of existing ideas) seem to agree that high quality learning requires engagement, and initiative from the student. They also seem to suggest that the teacher must guide learning but not entirely. Arguably, Stage C learning focusses more on the student and it might be said that Perry seems to prize student initiative more. This is reasonable in some circumstances, but surely not all learning has the scope for personal reflection. This idea seems analogous to the personal dimension of Laurillard but this idea is bound up in the 'conversation' of student and teacher. It would seem that the best balance, therefore, is to be guided by a teacher, to challenge them, and to be able to come to consensus. Only with this balance is it possible to use knowledge, while still grounded in already established ideas.


Best thing - Roughly about the right length. While flawed it gives an example of how a finished essay may look.
Worst thing - Much of the detail is limited. Some of the ideas could be organised more logically. Lack of references. Could do with even passing reference to some other theories.
Other comments - Can still be used along with the other plans, although being an essay its not as easy to extract information. Also would be more useful as a resource with more detail, bearing in mind that the student could pick what they want from it.

Lisa: Best thing - Good example of an essay plan. Worst thing - Not enough of a linkage between different points/paragraphs. Perhaps more examples of wider reading to show more of a sense of understanding in different contexts. Linda: Good Points: I think the essay has a really good structure and is well signposted. I also think it flows well especially from paragraph 2 onwards, and is easy to read. It's an easy essay to learn from and that for me is the strongest point. Points for Possible Improvement: I thought the first paragraph could flow a bit better. I feel the sentences are short and don't really link into each other as well as the rest.
Fran - Best: Great introduction and I thought there was a good description of all the theories. Areas for improvement: Examples and evidence to support these theories could be helpful - as Tony mentioned above - further detail would improve this essay answer.

Iain -

Good Points - Well structured, clear where the essay moves from one model to the next, good explanations and answers the question well.

Bad Points - As said above extra references to additional information could be helpful to the essay.

Jen - Good: Not too long, well explained points, answers the question well, can see how one point relates to others.

Not so good points - Could do with some references to back the points up.

Lisa McMunn

Good - really clear explainations and easy to follow. Nice conclusion that draws all the points together.

To Improve - referencing the main points would have made the arguments stronger


Good: Really good introduction, clearly stating what will be discussed. Clear and concise, which is essential for an exam style question. Really well structured.

Improvements: More detailed discussion and abstract thinking. This could be achieved my referencing or comparing and contrasting the theories throughout.

Good - well structured and flows well, good introduction and depth of information
Bad - other references may add to it and provide extra evidence for/against

katherine - the essay overall was easy to follow and had a nice straightforward structure. The concentration on theorists such as Perry and Laurillard did add depth to the essay but I think that this might have had a cost also; the essay would have benefitted from covering more ground concerning theoretical viewpoints (even if this meant going into Perry etc in less depth). However, the depth which is present does add credibiltiy to the essay, making it convincing, since a clear understanding is conveyed (e.g. of Perry's stages). I also felt that more clarity was needed on a few occasions. I wasn't sure what was meant by, "some subjects are founded on established rules, where others are more open to development", for example (but that could just be me!!). Overall, I thought the essay was informative, had a strong conclusion, and definitely demonstrated a good understanding of key issues.


(good points) flows very well and answers the question completely. The writers define the different terms and concepts used within the theories and have a good conclusion

(improvement points) use of sub-headings? might help with sharing the direction of the essay (is it about comparing, contrasting or presenting similarities of ideas.)


+ Good points, clear, good length

- Limited in theories and detail, could contrast more, references, further reading, could be more critical.


Good - Length is good, also easy to read and well structured. Like that you begin by mentioning that it's difficult to even define the concepts.

Not-as-good - As others have said, references would be good. Though you mention that it's difficult to define the concepts, this isn't really tied into body of essay (other than Perry). Would be good to see a bit of critical thinking through it, rather than just in conclusion.

Angela Thumath:

Good Points: It is good to see an example of an essay that is equivalent to what we will be able to do in an exam. It also provides and overview of these theories that will useful for revising.

Improvements: More detail would be good, however, in an exam setting this is not always easy, furthermore more contrasting theories and critical thinking would be good in order to apply the theories.

Manus Cross

Best points: Good introduction which set the tone of the essay well, commanding use of language and logical place to start in terms of defining the terms. Very readable throughout, comprehensive and concise description of the models. Definitely a useful starting point for revision.

Worst points: Perhaps it may be useful to shift the focus slightly from concentrating on description of the models to interpretation of the theories, in order to facilitate as much contrasting as comparing. Would be good also to justify or provide evidence against these models, but it is stated that there are no references provided.

Other points: As stated previously, a longer discussion might add to the essay plan.