Enforced independence – Week 2

Self-motivation, self-regulation, ownership of learning — these are all characteristics of effective learners.

As Dave notes in the introduction to the week, the goal would be to have learners who say, “I don’t know what this is, I’m going to find out what this is” and to think about their responsibility for their own learning in a different way.

What I hear in this statement is that an important characteristic of the learning experience is the cultivation of volition, the conative domain. What inspires people to have the drive to keep trying, to persevere? How can that be fostered?

I appreciated @barry_dyck ‘s description of supporting learners in setting their own learning goals in their own areas of interest. The description and the overall suggestion of the need for students to self-assess in the context of the theme of enforced independence reminded me, though, that self-assessment is great when there is an expert/mentor/teacher who can helpfully assess how to help a learner get to the next level. It’s very empowering to have learners engage with areas of personal interest to them and a faster path toward examining higher order thinking skills, problem-solving approaches, etc. that can be emphasized regardless of subject. Providing opportunities where learners engage with learning something of interest to them, in some instances could outweigh any other learning objectives. In a classroom where learners are choosing how to attain a beginning level of knowledge in a subject area, a teacher can help the learner navigate the meta-tasks of “how do I figure out something that I don’t know” and problem-solving skills and other fundamentals of being an effective learner. However, to get to an intermediate or advanced level of knowledge, the learner is going to need a mentor or coach or community that is willing– depending on the desired area of expertise– to assist with a roadmap to higher levels of expertise. A part of this knowledge is generalizable skills about how to learn or problem-solve, but this will be coupled with content knowledge in the desired skill set. Also, I think it’s helpful to think about what we really mean by self-assessment. Do we mean that the learner will assess their progress towards their learning goals or are they actually assessing their own knowledge? How can they know what they don’t know?

Barry’s scenario is a very specific context; what about in other learning contexts? When I think of traditional adult learning (undergrad, graduate experiences), some of the common approaches might be–

  • Allowing free choice for a project (with free choice varying anywhere from choosing the topic to choosing topic/modality of presentation, etc);
  • Opportunities for experiential learning requiring learners to apply key concepts to own experience; i.e., use of authentic assessment;
  • Inclusion of regular reflection cycle (modeling after Schon’s model of reflective practice or Kolb’s learning cycle);
  • Encouraging/rewarding effective use of social media, leveraging community, creating connections with experts
  • Creating a culture of risk-taking, rewarding reflective failure
  • Creating learning contracts
  • Peer review
    • Book Improving Assessment Through Student Involvement highlights several studies where the benefits of involving students in peer review are highlighted. When criteria are discussed in advance of assessment, student ratings align closely with instructor ratings. It is thought that the process of engaging in peer review provides students with more critical eye of their own work (p. 117)

A last note is that the traits of effective learners are (or should be) driven by intrinsic motivation, but for adult learners fear can be a powerful factor. It can be challenging to take risks, and the stakes get higher the more advanced one’s perceived skill level.  Self-efficacy and the ability to see oneself as able to move past potential obstacles is key to success in a range of learning environments. For those arriving in classrooms without this belief in their own agency, helping to create that belief should be the foremost objective (which is a way of coming full circle to really appreciate the power of the model Barry described).

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2 thoughts on “Enforced independence – Week 2

  1. francesbell

    Do you think that it’s easier for learners to achieve self-motivation, self-regulation and ownership of learning in an informal setting? It seems to work for me in knitting;) I always tried to encourage students to reflect on other learning they do and try to transfer that meta-level learning to their current studies. Many found it to be a struggle.

  2. jjb@softskills.nl

    Sometimes a student is skilled and has knowledge, but the level of performance is low when the student has to show skills in an assessment. Most people do not like to perform in public, but some just fail in assessments. I do not know how to help them overcome this fear.

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