STUDENTS PERCEPTION OF LEARNING ENVIRONMENT IN UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAMMES
This study comparatively explores the learning environment in undergraduate programmes of private and public universities. Using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences 20.0, this study adopts the Independent T-test to analyze if significant differences exist in the perceptions of the learning environment held by students from four (2 public and 2 private) tertiary institutions in Edo State, Nigeria.
The study tested for significant differences in the perceptions of students from private and public institution on five dimensions of the learning environment namely: campus environment and physical infrastructure; classroom management and structure; teacher-students relationship; quality of instructional procedure and materials; and motivational impact of the learning environment.
Results shows that students from private tertiary institutions and students from public tertiary institutions have markedly different perceptions of the five components of learning environment tested for. Thus, it was the
recommendation of the study that benchmarks on good quality of campus environment and physical infrastructure, as well as classroom management and structure should be developed and statutorily enforced, in order to close the
huge gaps in service delivery between private and public institutions in the country. Also, exchange programs between public and private institutions within same geographical area should be developed, as a way to integrate students from both institutions.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Graetz (2006) asserts that all learning takes place in a physical environment with quantifiable and perceptible physical characteristics, be it in a large lecture hall, underneath a tree, or in front of a computer screen. Lizzio, Wilson and Simons (2002) identified the learning environment as a major variable in the interacting system of the learning process.
Learning environment and how it is perceived by the students or learners have been identified as having major influence on both learning processes and outcomes. In this regard, Frenzel, Pekrun and Goetz (2007) reports that numerous studies have clearly demonstrated the significant relationship between perceived learning environment and student achievement.
Randhawa and Michayluk (1974) attribute much of the reliable variance in student performance to the aptitude of the learner and the environment of learning. In the view of Zhu, Valcke, Schellens and Li (2009), the quality of student learning seems to be closely related to their perceptions of the learning environment.
In view of the foregoing, recent years have witnessed an increasing global interest and concern among all educational stakeholders regarding the role of learning environment in education cutting across all levels, from the most basic level of learning, to to the most advanced levels of tertiary education.
The increasing interest in learning environment stems mainly from the fact that the learning environment holds multidimensional implications for various aspects of student learning processes and outcomes. Students motivation
and interest, emotional and behavioral disposition of students towards learning, academic performance and achievement have been established as areas on which the learning environment exerts considerable influence (Wei & Elias, 2011; Ludtke, Robitzsch, Trautwein, & Kunter, 2009; Victorian Institute of Teaching, 2007).
In my own personal experiences, I’ve come across people who wanted to study in a particular tertiary institution of learning because of the school’s physical environment in terms of the size, layout, buildings and even student population.
In contrast, some people detested some institutions in view of the school’s physical environment in terms of smaller school size, unattractive layout, fewer buildings and smaller student population. This is because students’ assessments of openness and comfort of the university’s learning environment, as well as with the social
environment within the university, features prominently in the students’ choice of tertiary institution of learning.
In Nigeria, the terms “public” and “private” stands in sharp contrast to each other, both having implications for efficiency and effectiveness in whatever the organizations are into.
A sector in which this is more glaring is the nation’s educational sector, wherein a clear dividing line exists between private and public institutions of learning across all levels. The private learning institutions are synonymous with efficiency while the public learning institutions are synonymous with inefficiency.
A relevant question that emanates from the ongoing discourse is: Does the type of academic environment within which students are asked to learn (e.g. workload, teaching quality, physical classroom environment) have any real impact on how they approach their learning and the quality of the outcomes they are able to achieve? Another relevant question is: Will students ‘do well’ and ‘not so well’ irrespective of their environments?
Learning environments of private learning institutions are generally acclaimed to be relatively more positive than that of public learning institutions (Chandler, Nolin & Zill, 1993). It is possible that studying in a private or public tertiary institution of learning makes different demands on the students attending these institutions.
In view of the increased calls for public-private partnership especially in the education sector, calls for increased efficiency of the public education sector and proliferation of private tertiary institutions in Nigeria, it is important to know to the extent of the discrepancies in learning environment, how these discrepancies are looked upon by the students, and the impact of these perceptions on various aspects of learning processes and outcomes of the students. This is the basic aim of this research study.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
In the view of Abraham, Ramnarayan, Vinod and Torke (2008), the quality of educational environment has been identified to be crucial for effective learning. Most Nigerians, especially students will expect learning institutions to be orderly and well-functioning, thus providing a favorable learning environment.
Prevailing reality in most learning institutions in Nigeria is a far cry from the expectations of stakeholders, mainly parents and students in view of non-conducive learning environment and how schools have even become a breeding ground for violence, antisocial behavior and other vices, as well as the progressive fall of academic standards.
In fact, the environment in most schools are very deplorable and demotivating and as such, do not really foster meaningful and active learning.
While the private tertiary institutions can offer a relatively more positive learning environment (usually because of smaller student population who can afford the very high tuition and accompanying fees), the learning environments of public tertiary institutions are a testimony of neglect compounded by the huge demand on existing facilities by a large and rapidly increasing student population.
As a result of the foregoing, better classroom organization, improved lecturer-student relationship (stemming from better lecturer-student ratio) better hostel and living conditions are to be expected in private tertiary institutions of learning.
In contrast, classroom organization in public schools are characterized by overcrowded classrooms, broken boards and chairs, absence of or poor public address systems as well as disruptive behavior during lessons.
Most hostels in public tertiary institutions of learning are in very deplorable and dehumanizing conditions, largely as a result of rising demand on facilities without commensurate maintenance and expansion of physical infrastructure.
The academic environments of public and private institutions of higher learning constitute a significant aspect of student experiences during the duration of their undergraduate programmes. Thus, such a sharp contrast in learning environments as perceived by the students could have huge implications for students’ learning processes and learning outcomes.
Identifying these perceptions comparatively is the basic purpose of this study.
Current literature on learning environment especially at the university level reflects the perspectives of the educators (school administrations and lecturers) implying a teacher-centered view of the classroom environment, with little focusing on the perspective of the student (Khaldi and Khatib, 2014).
The above trend holds true for Nigeria, wherein studies into students’ perception are relatively scarce, in view of the teacher-centredness of the nation’s education processes. This is a major gap this study intends to fill. Also, comparative studies into the nation’s public and private institutions of higher learning since the emergence of private tertiary institutions in Nigeria are almost non-existent. This is another research gap that the study intends to fill.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The primary purpose of this study is to comparatively investigate student perceptions of the learning environment in undergraduate programmes of public and private institutions of higher learning. In this regard, this study specifically aims to:
Determine if significant discrepancies exist between students in public tertiary institutions and private tertiary institutions in their perceptions of their campus environment and physical infrastructure.
Ascertain if significant discrepancies exist between students in public tertiary institutions and private tertiary institutions in their perceptions of the classroom management and structure provided by the learning environment.
Establish if significant difference exist between public and private institution students in their perceptions of the teacher-students relationship.
Establish if significant difference exist between public and private institution students in their perceptions of the quality of instructional procedure and materials.
Ascertain if significant difference exist in the perception of students on the impact of the learning environment on students’ motivation and desire to learn in public and private institutions of higher learning.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
In order to guide this study, the following research questions were asked:
Are there significant discrepancies between students in public tertiary institutions and private tertiary institutions in their perceptions of campus environment and physical infrastructure?
Are there significant discrepancies in the way classroom management and structure provided by the learning environment is perceived by students in public tertiary institutions and private tertiary institutions?
Is there a significant difference between public and private institution students in their perceptions of the teacher-students relationship as a component of the learning environment?
Is there a significant difference between public and private institution students in their perceptions of the quality of instructional procedure and materials as components of the learning environment?
Is there a significant difference in the perception of students on the impact of the learning environment on students’ motivation and desire to learn in public and private institutions of higher learning?
1.5 HYPOTHESES OF THE STUDY
In order to achieve our research objectives, the following research hypotheses were formulated and presented in the null form:
H01: There is no significant difference between students in public tertiary institutions and private tertiary
institutions in their perceptions of campus environment and physical infrastructure.
H02: There are no significant discrepancies in the way classroom management and structure provided by the learning environment is perceived by students in public tertiary institutions and private tertiary institutions.
H04: There is no significant difference between public and private institution students in their perceptions of the quality of instructional procedure and materials as components of the learning environment.
H05: There is no significant difference in the perception of students on the impact of the learning environment on students’ motivation and desire to learn in public and private institutions of higher learning.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The relevance of this study primarily emanates from its focus on students perceptions as critical components of the teaching-learning process. In this regard, this study adds to the slim body of research literature on the perception of the student group as a reference point for future researchers. Thus, this research work is expected to be of benefit to researchers in similar investigations and analysis.
The significance of this study is further reinforced by its comparative nature involving both private and public institutions of higher learning. This is in view of the fact that students’ perceptions are constantly changing and differ between different groups of students, as a result of diverse personal characteristics and different individual histories that inform individual differences in students’ perceptions.
Also, results and recommendations of the study will form critical inputs for decision makers, policy actors and school administrations in both the private and public sectors, in adjusting existing learning environments as well as developing new learning environments that foster active and meaningful learning among Nigerian undergraduates.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The scope of this research study covers all students of undergraduate programmes of both public and private institutions of higher learning in Edo State, Nigeria. In this regard, students are drawn from two private and public institutions each.
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1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS
In the context of this study, the following terms are the operational definitions were adopted.
Students’ Perceptions: These are the beliefs or opinions that students have or formulate result of result of direct experiences in the educational context. It is the understanding, mental frame of reference or conclusions acquired by students in their interactions within the academic or educational system.
Learning Environment: The learning environment is the context in which the student works or where learning takes place, consisting of the physical classroom, materials for learning, instructional processes, teacher-student relationships and student-student relationships.
Undergraduate Programmes: It includes all the post-secondary academic programs in various disciplines offered by post-secondary learning institutions, up to the level of a bachelor’s degree in Nigeria.
Comparative Study: A systematized endeavor or effort to compare items, cases or events, with an eye toward identifying points that the items, cases or events hold in common, along with citing areas where they differ.
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