Week 2: Approaches to Learning

Please review the research discussed below and consider one of the questions that follows.

As we’ll see in Week 3, the notion of ‘learning styles’ is a contentious one. However, there is body of research in the ‘phenomenographic’ tradition, based on learners’ descriptions of their own experiences, which has made a distinction between three different approaches to learning – the ‘deep’, ‘strategic’ and ‘surface’ approaches. It’s not that the three approaches are mutually exclusive, but that when left to their own devices many students can be seen to have a leaning towards one over the others. What is generally accepted though, certainly in Western higher education, is that ‘deep learning’ is the ideal we should be striving to engage our learners in.

Your task is to think about the general idea of ‘approaches to learning’ in relation to online learning. Questions for consideration are:

  • 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?
  • 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?
  • Are learners who tend to take a ‘surface’ approach likely to learn more or less effectively online versus face-to-face?
  • How might we encourage ‘deep learning’ in online contexts?

Before I address the above question I thought it would be best to consider what my own approach to learning is. I’ve mulled this over many times and having considered the perspectives many times, Although it would be easy to say I am a deep learner, given this is the ‘ideal’, I think i have adopted each strategy at one time or another throughout my educational and professional experiences. My reasons for which one I adopted is always based on a number of factors, so I guess really I am a strategic learner.

Basically my level of interest, time constraints, the importance of the work and the awards i will gain for completing the work.  I would say the biggest factors are gaining the best possible grades, followed by time constraints and then the level of interest i have in the work. If the work will result in a high grade and I have time to invest and it engages me then I will go for a deep learning approach, as i like knowing things but only if they interested me! If I need a good grade, with limited time, and a medium interest then I tend to go for a strategic approach, doing what I need to, to get the best outcome possible. No interest, no time and no grading result in me doing the bare minimum to get by and gain the required information to get by.

I do not necessarily buy into the idea that A deep approach to learning is the ideal we should be striving to. I think students who develop an approach that fluctuates between deep and surface as required develop a better skill set to survive in the working environment once they move on from education. Developing analytic skills, examining logic and evidence in a critical way is all well and good, but it needs to be coupled with a management of time and being aware of requirements and expectations of employers will make you a much more employable person. Its no good investing deeply in tasks that do not require the effort when it is at the expense of a task that is much more strategically or economically important for your employer.

Anyway before I go off to much on a tangent here are my thoughts on the questions presented:

  • 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?

 

  • 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?

Having analysed the above I think most of my study has been leaning towards a Strategy approach. I do check the Forums and posts etc, but mainly for areas that interest me and conform to the goals I have set for what I want to get out of the course. I focus on completing the webinar and the if you only do one task first and foremost, then once those are completed I tend to pick the tasks that interest me or I feel are most relevant to my own outcomes. Then time permitting I might mop up the remaining tasks to ensure I get the most badge points.

Having said that I have when time permits and my curiosity or interest is prodded will invest more time in topics, For example I do enjoy understanding learning theory and pedagogy and have certainly invested more time in this task than others, having chosen to really critique myself and my views, analyse the evidence and arguements in the readers and really get into the nuts and bolts of the task at hand.

  • Are learners who tend to take a ‘surface’ approach likely to learn more or less effectively online versus face-to-face?

I think the level will be the same as it is in all areas. Although in an online area it can be argued there is less monitoring or focus on someone and so less detection of someone adopting a surface approach, the reality is, even in a classroom or face-to-face environment only so much can be done to encourage people to consider concepts more deeply. Buy in by a student is always required and without that it does not matter how the course is delivered.

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

I think to enhance learning on line, we need to ensure students see a reason and purpose to their learning. If the students are engaged and no the benefits of learning the information, this will encourage them to develop and commit to the learning tasks. The activities need to be engaging to hold students attention and to make them want to delve deeper into the subject matter.

Finally, I also feel good, timely and personalised feedback is a key factor in encouraging deep learning. If students get feedback and action points on there work, this will encourage them to keep on developing it and see that there is a purpose to the work and that you are prepared to invest time in the work too.

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