The personal components of learning

Posted on January 18, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The way a person goes about learning and then using the knowledge they gather is a very personal experience. A person’s experiences in both the classroom and the world at large have a huge influence on their ability to comprehend information, analyze and critique concepts and explore new ideas and ways of knowing . Learning styles also have a large role in the learning experience. As a instructor and presenter it is important to have a working knowledge of these concepts and how to shape activities and presentation around them. Steps to doing so include:

Capitalize on students’ experiences: allowing students to speak about how concepts, theories, and facts have influenced their own lives brings learning into the personal realm. It creates a connection between the facts and figures in books, articles, and lectures with real world learning that is taking place constantly. It allows for exposure to a diversity of opinions and perspectives and it forces students to contemplate multiple ways of viewing and applying the same information.

Personal examples include:

In my Distressed and Disruptive Student presentations I ask TAs what types of behaviors are distracting to them in the classroom, how they have confronted distracting behaviors in the past, have them brainstorm good ways to set behavioral expectations in the classroom and discuss reasonable consequences for disruptive behavior.

In our U-Engage recitations students were encouraged to spent time reflecting on their own transition to the university and discuss with one another the resources and support systems they were using to cope with the transition. An integral part of the mid-term paper and final project also required them to reflect on their own experiences and use them to back up the opinions and facts they shared.

Promote experiential learning opportunities: creating assignments that allow students to integrate their current “in class” learning with new real world experiences creates an increased knowledge base to capitalize on based on the previously mentioned student experiences. Experiential learning also exposes students to learning in multiple settings and may promote their interest in study abroad programs, internships, service projects, etc.

Examples: U-Engage experiential activities explained in the dissection of the assignments post

Final project in CAMP Wellness Learning Community explained in former post

Use personal reflections or journals: This not only allows students to more thoroughly reflect on their own experiences and the experiences of others who chose to share in class, but it also creates a venue for students who are less comfortable disclosing personal information in class to still connect their academics with their own experiences.

Utilize Knowledge of Learning Style and Personality Types to Create Assignments: Keeping in mind that students analyze information in many different ways is essential. Some people need to see a picture, read a paper, listen to a lecture, debate a topic, or do a task in order to learn a concept. Having students engage in as many possible learning tasks as possible not only honors individual learning styles but also challenges students to use analyze information in a multitude of ways.

Example: Having students in the academic integrity seminar read articles about integrity and academic dishonesty, write a paper analyzing various concepts of academic integrity and reflecting on the readings, discuss issues of academic integrity in small groups, debate whether certain acts are legitimate short-cuts or academic dishonesty, and listen to a presentation on OSU’s definition and policy regarding academic integrity.

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One Response to “The personal components of learning”

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Eric wonders what theory basis did I use in developing this post:

I can and will spout out a number of theories that have helped me arrive at the conclusions I have come to above. All of the identity development theories that I explored helped me recognize the impact that a student’s ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, and ability identity can have on their academics. Not only does identity development and reflection take up a great deal of psychological space for students, but it also impacts the way they see themselves and other people. It can also have an effect on how they view themselves as learners and conveyers of knowledge. While a student who is less far along in their identity development may be unable to utilize their personal experiences to develop a context about a particular subject or learning in general, a student who is further along in this process may benefit greatly from being able to use his or her identity in order to shape their education.

Perry’s Theory of Intellectual Development has also greatly influenced my thoughts in this area. Many of the personal components of learning that I suggest are tools that can help students move from dualistic modes of learning to multiplicity and realistic stages. Instead of only seeing or hearing about a professor’s experiences or knowledge, classrooms that utilize student experiences, real-world scenarios, and personal reflections open the door to multiple viewpoints. Students who are dualistic will be exposed to multiple viewpoints and start seeing the validity in conflicting opinions. Over time they will be able to develop even further and critically analyze various viewpoints through both academic and personal lens.

Kolb’s Learning Style Model also plays a large role. My personal components of learning are proposed as a way to work several of Kolb’s learning dimensions into the classroom. Active experimentation can take place through experiential activities, concrete experience can occur through personal journals or reflections, reflective observation occurs when instructors address the visual learning style, and abstract conceptualization can occur through journals, in-class dialogues, and reading assignments.

Baxter Magolda’s concept of the learning partnership model where students and instructors are engaged in learning together has also played a part in this list. All added up together I believe that these best practices allow for more students to become actively engaged in the learning process and to see themselves as part of a community of learners and knowers. Students are given the chance to speak from their personal experiences, gain additional experiences that further their learning, and critically analyze their thoughts as well as those of their peers and instructors. When all learning styles are addressed this promotes further engagement and therefore strengths the learning partnership.


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