Presentation on theme: "QAA Enhancement Themes Conference Heriot Watt University Wednesday 5 th March 2008 Poster Presentation by Mhairi Freeman (lecturer), Sally Michie, Stephanie."— Presentation transcript:
QAA Enhancement Themes Conference Heriot Watt University Wednesday 5 th March 2008 Poster Presentation by Mhairi Freeman (lecturer), Sally Michie, Stephanie Findlay & Michelle Rae (B.Ed 1 Students)
Background The Learning How to Learn course is the first course undertaken by B.Ed (Primary) students at the University of Aberdeen, and is open to students studying other programmes. The aims of this course are to help students develop their understanding of theories of learning and use these to enhance their understanding of themselves as learners. In the process of exploring their own learning they can become more capable of actively shaping the learning process, hopefully making their experiences at University more meaningful and successful. We work to help students achieve these aims, using a social constructivist approach, through the exploration of the individual as a lifelong learner. Personally help assumptions, values and beliefs about learning are challenged as part of a process of shared enquiry. Issue As part of ongoing research and development, we re-evaluated the ways in which our ways of working and the course structure actually reflected the theoretical constructs that underpin the course. Exploring how we could share and model social constructivism more effectively was vital if we were to support students in becoming more fully engaged in their learning experiences. Comments below give a flavour of what students believe supports their learning and engagement, these were taken from final assignments where students are asked to reflect on their development as learners. It was the developing of relationships and the community of learning that was established on this course that really helped me to take learning further…this atmosphere of cooperation and participation between students and staff really helped to generate an atmosphere of synergy…this is part of creating a positive culture that develops productive ways of interacting..we have developed a good relationship and the general consensus is that every points valid. My learning was therefore helped because the more I took part in discussions; the more I got to grips with the theory. This was social constructivism as it was the people around me who were scaffolding the topic I discussed I feel confident in speaking in front of other people, and did not feel hindered in doing so in the group. I think that this was due to the norms that we decided on as a group at the start of term…we could really get the most out of the discussions, pulling apart and rebuilding the theories so we could really understand what they were about In tutorials there is more opportunity to have ideas shared, challenged and modified and it is from these opportunities that I can construct a more substantial understanding of the subject At every step of the way we were encouraged to take responsibility for almost every aspect of our learning…what surprised me initially was how far this engagement stretched…not only were the learning outcomes made explicitly clear to us right at the beginning of the semester but we were also actively involved in the assessment procedure…we were given the role of assessor when we had to review the assignments of our peers. This I believe is a brilliant way of encouraging us as learners to focus and put our best into a piece of work I spent a great deal of time consulting the marking rubric and thinking of how best to phrase my responses. This sense of responsibility made me look so closely at what was required that in the end I began to think critically about what the assignment was asking of us, this in turn affected the way in which I approached my own piece of work once given feedback on it. Communities for Learning Feedback & target setting The learning process and learning intentions Structure: Reading > Questioning > Student-led tutorials > Lecture Small group situations make it easier for me to build up my self-efficacy through a two-pronged approach – the smaller class size and the feedback I have received during class from my peers has been particularly constructive Devising the SMART Targets was helpful as it gave me a way of setting out my goals more clearly. It again comes back to having a structure in which to form my thoughts and ideas I am very much aware that I need to actively engage with the feedback to allow my understanding to grow and develop…I like to think of feedback as fertilizer, it may not be very fragrant, however, once applied it can have profound effects on next seasons blooms and scents The content was made clear and explicit by way of the timetable… this way we could see exactly what we had to read and think about. The method of posting questions on the readings was an excellent way of making sure we as learners could address any questions we had. Data The process of developing this course has been led by student feedback, one of the key aims of the re-development of our B.Ed programme is to have decisions driven by evidence and who better to provide evidence of how well a course is meeting their needs than students themselves? Data from end of course evaluations, while useful, does not provide enough of a rich picture of what challenges and supports students learning. Analysis of assignments and discussions with focus groups enabled us to develop a shared understanding; students are aware of the rationale behind the course structure and content and how these can support their learning and tutors are aware of how students perceive the course and how we might seek to develop it further. Conclusions Regularly sharing thinking behind course content and pedagogy allows students to engage more fully with the intended learning For a majority of students on this course, a social constructivist approach allowed them to develop good working relationships with peers and tutors and enabled them to assume responsibility for their own learning. Ensuring that learning intentions, content, pedagogy and assessment processes are explicitly linked supports learning Further research is required to explore whether the deeper understanding of learning that students begin to develop is carried on into other contexts.