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Friday, October 23, 2015

Developing Students’ Learning Philosophies by Neil Haave, PhD.

"Last year the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta ran a pilot study to consider the efficacy of using e-portfolios to deepen students’ learning. We were interested in developing a structure that would enable us to determine how well our students were learning Augustana’s core skill requirements (writing, speaking, critical thinking, and information literacy)." according to Neil Haave, PhD, associate professor of biology at the University of Alberta.

Photo: Faculty Focus (blog)

As a faculty reader of these e-portfolios, I quickly came to the realization that these student writers were considering how and why they learn for the first time. That started me thinking. I wondered why we, as instructors, often discuss our teaching philosophies but rarely consider our learning philosophies and those of our students. I believe that a learning philosophy is different from a learning style, which is often described as an innate student quality. In contrast, a learning philosophy is something that students can develop themselves; they may be constrained by a particular learning style (though some experts now dispute the existence of learning styles), but they can certainly create for themselves their own learning philosophy.

A couple of recent Teaching Professor Blog posts offer some ways we could help students develop their learning philosophies. The November 13, 2013 post suggests writing learning autobiographies, articulating a best learning experience, and becoming metacognitively aware. Then there was the post [January 22, 2014] that identified some positive learner characteristics: good learners are curious; they pursue understanding diligently; good learners know that a lot of learning isn’t fun; failure frightens good learners, but they know it’s beneficial; good learners make knowledge their own; good learners never run out of questions; and they share what they’ve learned. Students could use these characteristics to think about how they approach learning...

As a result of that experience, I have started discussing learning philosophies with students in my courses. When I’ve asked them to consider what might be included in their learning philosophies, it’s apparent that this is not a question they’ve thought about at all. To help them, I generated a set of questions that I suggest they ask themselves after any learning experience:
  • How did you learn this?
  • What did you learn?
  • Why did you spend time learning this?
  • Will what you’ve just learned be useful to you in the future? Why? How?
  • Are you different now after learning this than you were before? How?
  • How did learning this make you feel? Why did it make you feel that way?
  • If you were going to learn this again, how would you learn it differently or learn it better?
  • Did you get any feedback, say from your instructor or a classmate, as you were learning this? Was it helpful? Did you agree with it? Did you act on it?
And here are a few questions I encourage them to ask about their courses and college careers in general:
  • Is the only reason you’re taking this course is that it’s required?
  • Why would the university require a course like this?
  • Is this (or any course you’re taking) helping you become the person you want to be?
  • What do you need to be doing now to make yourself the kind of person you want to be when you leave the university?
Read more... 

Source: Faculty Focus (blog)