Friday, 23 May 2014

Student/Learner Approaches to Learning

#ocTEL Week 2 'If I only do One Thing' activity

It's the end of Week 3 in the #ocTEL MOOC, and I'm still doing Week 2 activities. If I took heed from the Week 0 Webinar, I'd have learnt to just be satisfied with how much I achieved each week, and just move on. But I can't. I can see there are some good activities that I haven't had time to engage with as yet.

In Week 1, Activity 1.1 forum discussions, fellow ocTELers Tom introduced me to ipsative assessment and Elizabeth followed with a blog reference, Kleeman (2012), What is ipsative assessment and why would I use it?.
But why did I just jump from mentioning Week 3 to Week 2 to Week 0 to Week 1? I'm seeing a thread.

Differing from norm-referenced measures (supposedly out-dated 'comparison to others' so why does it keep re-surfacing) and criterion-referenced measures (the more acceptable use of set external criteria), "ipsative assessment in an education/learning context compares a test-taker’s results against his or her previous results" (Kleeman, 2012). Kleeman purports that ipsative assessment can help all improve, e.g. encourages instead of demotivates a 'weaker' student by showing progressive improvements; challenges a 'stronger' student not to be complacent but to aim to do even better.

The simple question I set for myself in Week 0 for this #ocTEL MOOC (see first blog post, dated May 1) was simply:

       "Will ocTEL be the first MOOC that I actually complete?"

The point is, I'm not going to finish it if I don't see the WIFM; the 'what's in it for me'; the motivation to keep going despite all other busy demands of life. I'm interested in the meta-analysis of the design and components of this course that might keep me connected and finish my first ever MOOC, despite this not being my first MOOC... I'm hoping to further understand learning design that works (or doesn't work) for me, as a 'learner' that may be representative and/or be comparative to other learners.

So then we get to:

       Week 2 Activity: If you only do one thing… Approaches to learning

An excerpt is provided by #ocTEL from Marton, F., Hounsell, D. and Entwistle, N., (eds.) The Experience of Learning: Implications for teaching and studying in higher education. 3rd (Internet) edition. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh. It shows Table 1.1, Defining features of approaches to learning (p.19, plus presented below), which offers a quick snapshot comparison between learning approaches of deep (transforming), surface (reproducing), and strategic (organising).

Table 1.1, Defining features of approaches to learning, Entwistle, N.,  (2012) Contrasting Perspectives on Learning (2012) in Marton, F., Hounsell, D. and Entwistle, N., (eds.)  The Experience of Learning: Implications for teaching and studying in higher education. 3rd (Internet) edition. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh (p.19)
(may be photocopied or reproduced for non-profit educational purposes, provided that the source is explicitly and openly acknowledged and no amendments are made to the text).
The table below was created in response to a couple of #ocTEL questions, as related to the above referenced table:

Have you seen any evidence of these different approaches in online contexts, e.g. in technology-enhanced courses you teach? How did these differences manifest themselves in terms of online learning behaviour?

How might we encourage ‘deep learning’ in online contexts?

TEL Example
Learning Approach
Potential Reasons
Possible Solutions
Yearly workplace compliance online modules, e.g. 'work, health and safety', ‘equal opportunity’
Surface – on first completion
Strategic – subsequent completions
Despite importance, the online modules were set up to be easy to complete. Staff may initially feel pressure to complete promptly.
Later, the sites are familiar (unchanged) implicitly encouraging heading straight to answering test questions in a strategic manoeuvre to get the task ‘tick-off’ and managers happy.
Improvements could include refreshing the modules with:
·       updating content, including adding new case studies
·       altering assessment questions from previous years and including more interpretive questions
·       allowing for a collaborative component; there would be many people completing at similar times.
Fully online vocational single subject (Medical Terminology) with only campus attendance for final examination
Students with mixed approaches of surface, strategic, or deep depending on their own intrinsic and/or extrinsic motivations.
Students who do not necessarily want to do subject but their workplace has required it typically presented with surface and/or strategic approaches. Where there was personal motivation, e.g. own interest or desire for new job or promotion, often more a lean toward deep. Additionally, the online content offered minority of required learning c/to prescribed textbook.
Improvements to increase student motivations included:
·       updating online content: more content, wider range of choices to interact with content utilising an extensively interactive glossary, diagram labelling, word break-down exercises, formative questions with feedback
·       enabling more interaction, e.g. online interaction via LMS features; access to Med Term classes conducted on-campus.
Fully online undergraduate (health) subject, for students who are on-campus for other subjects
Students with mixed approaches of surface, strategic, or deep depending on their own intrinsic and/or extrinsic motivations. Few seemed to have a deep approach (prior to changes)
Low student satisfaction with this subject had a new teacher worried that most students really had little interest or motivation to do this subject; they viewed it as non-core/have-to-do.
Minority of deep learning students truly valued the long lecture recordings; for most others way too long and repetitious intro and summarising (good for f2f but not required for online learning where student has video playing control)
Inspired to try a new approach, improvements included:
·       updating content, including removing long recorded ‘lecture hall’ lectures, to cut up and leave as shorter videos on the most interesting topic areas
·       providing connection via two short videos by the new teacher introducing herself and giving some reasons to be motivated, plus clear weekly guides of what is required, better online structure/navigation, and access to teacher options (on-campus and online).
Fully online postgraduate (education) subject, for students from various geographical locations
I was a paying student for this and represented a mix of deep and strategic approaches
I was:
·       engaged with content, wanted to learn
·       appreciative of the learning design
·       found nearly all peers interesting to engage with (unashamedly ignored a few who demonstrated they wouldn’t aid my learning)
·       unapologetically coveting good marks.

Is my overarching question/goal to complete #ocTEL coupled with an intrinsic expectation to achieve deep learning putting me in an antagonistic position?

I guess my somewhat crammed question above leads to another #ocTEL activity question:

Are you leaning towards one approach in particular on ocTEL, and if so why might that be? Perhaps you are employing strategies from more than one approach?

My answer is that I am at risk of becoming a surface learner if I attempt to do everything on offer - in the context of being time poor due to work and life commitments - coupled with wanting to reach my overarching goal of completely this MOOC, and completing it to my satisfaction. 

There's the rub. To complete it to my satisfaction would mean I would have to do it 'well', in the dual senses of achieving the goals set and meeting my need to learn more meaningful learning design stuff. Yep. I'm feeling a little like the young lady in the cardboard box above. I know I don't have to feel like this, given no-one fails #ocTEL or is behind (re Week 0), but one has one's own expectations to add...

I'm certainly not defeated yet; let's see how I go... Perhaps I'll finish the #ocTEL course in August instead of June, and miss out on some of the timely online interactions with my peers (that'd be a shame as the ones I've dipped into are good). Or perhaps I'll break my foot and be stuck at home for weeks just doing #ocTEL (no thanks - I like walking too much!). Regardless, I am grateful for the scheduled hiatus between Weeks 3 and 4 so that I might finally catch up on Weeks 2 and 3 activities...

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