The match between students' lesson perceptions and preferences: relations with student characteristics and the importance of motivation

Karen Könings*, Saskia Brand-Gruwel, Jeroen Van Merriënboer

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Background The fit between students’ perceptions of a learning environment and their desires about its design influences students’ learning behaviour and by consequence the effectiveness of education. Therefore, the students’ perspective deserves a more prominent place in the educational design process. Having an adequate picture of the fit between students’ perceptions and desires is needed for teachers/educational designers to account for students’ perspectives while designing education. As perceptions-desires fit is likely to differ between students, establishing correlates to it would provide valuable information. Students’ perceptions are known to relate to several student characteristics; This study extends our understanding to its relations with perceptions-desires fit. Purpose This study aims to investigate the degree to which students’ perceptions of lessons fit with their desires about different aspects of modern education. Additionally, it is aimed to determine the most prominent relationships between perceptions-desires fit and learning-related student characteristics. Sample The sample consisted of 1146 tenth grade high school students (mean age = 16 years) from five secondary schools in the Netherlands. As data collection took place during normal school hours the response rate was 100 %, comprising all students that were at school on the day of data collection. Design and methods To measure students’ perceptions of the lessons and their desires about its instructional design students completed the Inventory of Perceived Study Environment Extended, being composed of eight scales about central characteristics of modern education. The Inventory of Learning Styles was administered to measure learning-related student characteristics: Cognitive processing strategies, regulation strategies, motivational orientations, conceptions about learning, and affective processing strategies. To answer the research questions, paired t-tests and multiple regression analyses were conducted. Results Findings showed low perceptions-desires fit on fascinating contents, clarity of goals, and student autonomy. Students desired these characteristics being more represented in their lessons than they actually perceived them. Perceptions-desires fit was predominantly related to students’ motivation and affective state: A personally interested motivational orientation related to better perceptions-desires fit, while motivational/concentration problems related to worse fit. These relations did not give indications about causality, but based on the literature a bidirectional relation is supposed. Conclusion This study shows that students’ perceptions-desires fit gives clear indications for which aspects of lessons could be improved. As students consider almost all characteristics of modern education as desirable, meeting student wishes could contribute to more effective education. Additionally, the perceptions-desires fit relates to students’ motivation and affective strategies. Improving education by accounting for the fit between students’ perceptions and desires of education is likely to improve motivation as well as having a significant on the quality of education.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)439-457
    Number of pages19
    JournalEducational Research
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


    • Student experience
    • instructional design
    • motivation
    • user satisfaction


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