Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?
Last week’s SIP explored the differences between being student-centered and learner-centered, with learner-centered classrooms being focused on what students do and what and how they learn. A key practice of learner-centered teaching is explicit attention to developing learner self-awareness, which is a component of meta-cognitive awareness. Meta-cognitive awareness has been connected to learners’ ability to apply what they’ve learned in one situation to another situation (Scardamalia et. al., 1984; Dunning, Johnson, Ehrlinger, and Kruger, 2003). A lack of meta-cognitive awareness can contributes to students’ struggles sometimes in applying what they learned in a pre-requisite class to the class they are currently in.
Take a SIP of This: Help Students Develop Self-Awareness about Themselves as Learners
When students understand how they learn best, they can make better and more informed decisions about the classes they take and the instructors they work with. Even more important, they can choose study methods, research and writing processes, and note-taking strategies that will help them learn more and retain more. In other words, when students have self-awareness about themselves as learners, they can get more out of your classes!
Here are some activities and assignments you can build into your classes to help students develop learner self-awareness:
- Have students do an activity or assignment that involves taking a free online quiz (like the one here) to determine their learning style. Students can then use the quiz results to come up with study plans, and you can use the results to plan class activities and assignments that appeal to the types of learners you have in the class.Include a meta-cognitive reflection as part of major writing and/or research assignments. This can simply be a one-page reflection upon the process the student used, how effective it seemed to be, and what they want to remember to try differently for the next assignment.
- At the end of a class meeting that involved visual, auditory, and kinesthetic activities, ask students to reflect on which activities seemed most effective for them and why.
- After returning exams or papers, give students a few minutes to reflect in writing or in small group discussions on how they prepared for the exam or completed the paper and what they might do differently to prepare for the next exam or to complete the next paper. This can be a powerful way to help students learn from their mistakes; for example, a student who studied by highlighting key terms in the reading may realize upon seeing her grade that the strategy she chose was not an effective study technique for her. She may decide next time to annotate the key terms instead.
- Refer students to offices on campus that can help them develop learner self-awareness. The Writing Center can help students learn more about themselves as writers and how they can use writing to learn better. The Access Center can help students with disabilities gain insight into themselves as learners.
In addition to teaching our students the skills and content of our courses, helping them develop awareness about how they learn is one of the best ways we can empower them.