The start of the school year is always an exciting time for learning. It is also an excellent time to share learning strategies with students (and faculty) to assist them in being better learners. The past month I’ve visited many classrooms and done a number of program orientation sessions on metacognition and effective learning strategies. I am always refining the workshops with new materials or additional ways to engage students.
One resource I show students is a digital learning commons I’ve worked with colleagues from across the university to build specifically for students called, Learning Matters, including a whole sub-section on learning and thinking with videos, info graphics, handouts and other resources.
Together with the Director of Enrolment Management, we have also undertaken a three-year Successful Student Learning Initiative at Vancouver Island University to create a portrait of student learning.
As part of that initiative (and the resulting six themes detailing the portrait of student learning we uncovered from campus community input) we developed six corresponding bookmarks for students with 5 learning strategies per bookmark. These bookmarks are given to students at various orientation events and through the campus store.
I am always looking for cognitive science-based ‘student-friendly’ tips, videos and materials to support students in becoming better learners – that I can add to the website, provide copies to students or give to faculty to pass on to their learners.
Recently a group of cognitive psychology professors came together around their passion for assisting students be better learners – and created a collection of resources (for teachers and students) around six key principles for successful studying. I’ve begun to include their material in my workshops and orientation sessions. They call their website the Learning Scientists.
The Learning Scientists http://www.learningscientists.org/ is a website (blog, downloadable materials, videos) that aims to make scientific research more accessible to a variety of audiences. They want to help students be effective in their study strategies and hopefully decrease negative views about testing. However, I tend to focus my workshops and messages to students less on testing and test-taking and instead use the strategies to help students ‘learn how to learn’ (understanding how learning works, being more aware of effective strategies for learning, etc.) to help support them in becoming self-regulated learners.
The Learning Scientists freely share their materials with educators and students. While still keeping the content intact to ensure the science of learning is preserved, I’ve taken their materials and created a few resources I use with students.
Booklet of Strategies
- The Learning Scientists have provided lovely letter-size posters of the six core strategies. I really wanted to give students those posters to hang up in their dorm rooms or study spaces.
- So I created vector images from each of the PDF posters and inserted them into a publisher ‘booklet’ that prints out on 3 pages and when folded in half (and stapled in centre) and makes a nice little booklet to take home.
- The students are really enjoying the booklet and finding it still easy to read the text and gather tips from the material. It also works well in having a smaller booklet to go along with my display board (see next section). Without saying “free for taking”, students are just snatching them up and I need to replenish each week!
Booklet: PDF Version
Display of Strategy Posters
- I printed off the posters, mounted on a board and placed on a rolling whiteboard in the library. I put copies of the booklet below the poster and each week I replenish the booklets as students take them!
- The teaching and learning centre is located centrally in the library where a large number of students study and work so the location is perfect!
- While many teachers also print off the 7 posters and display on bulletin boards, I wanted to enhance the posters with the URL to the Learning Matters site while decorating the board a bit to make it more visually attractive.
- The Learning Matters site also has the 6 strategies embedded within three of the pages such as on the Studying Skills and Techniques page.
- In addition to the booklet of strategies, I created these 3 pages that serve as a handout to engage students in applying the strategies to their particular discipline/subject/course.
- I also amalgamated all the PowerPoint slides available on the Learning Scientists website into one mega slide show that follows the same order of strategies as the booklet and the handout.
- Essentially I go through each strategy in order pausing the slideshow at the end of each strategy. I’ve inserted a screenshot of the worksheet handout and ask students to think about how that strategy applies to their discipline, subject or course.
- Students take some time to jot down some ideas and then share with their classmates and then with the larger group. In this way I felt I was able to better apply the generic learning strategy and have students find ways that it would work for them. It seems to be working!
- With the one mega slideshow I can easily progress through all 6 strategies (or do a couple of them with the worksheet handout and just explain the others depending on time) and not have to flip between various slidedecks. The bold numbers help align the strategy in the booklet to the slideshow to the worksheet handout.
Amalgamated Slideshow for Workshop: PDF Version
Handout for Workshop: PDF Version