Teach Students How to Learn Provides Insight Into Learner Empowerment

The first of two discussion session on application of instructional practices outlined in Teach Students How to Learn — the OTLs autumn semester book group selection — took place this week. Faculty attending said this particular selection was helpful in gaining insight into how students can empower themselves as learners.

The Office of Teaching & Learning has shared some of the strategies presented in this text with students. In particular, we provided them with information on metacognitive learning strategies and the study cycle.

When students have not learned about metacognition — thinking about the way they think — they tend to cite the following reasons for performing poorly on a test:

  • I blanked out; the material made perfect sense to me before that.
  • I’ve never seen these types of problems before in class.
  • The instructor went through the material too fast. I can’t follow.

When students learn about metacognition, they feel empowered to implement certain strategies and processes for mastering material. Implementing metacognitive strategies is not something that happens immediately or easily, but it assists as they form a lifelong approach to learning.

Here are some of the metacognitive strategies Yancy McGuire recommends that students can begin to use right now if they feel they do not have control over their learning. We added some observations for our students in particular.

  • Preview (Scan material to prepare for reviewing material or listening to a lecture — 10 minutes max.)
  • Read Actively (Read in chunks or review notes or slides in chunks; stop; put the information in your own words.)
  • Go to Class/Take Notes by Hand (Don’t worry about the slides. You will have access to those to review. Engage with the instructor, the content itself, and your stylus or pen.)
  • Review (Do this as soon as possible, preferably the night before.)
  • Teach the Material (Use an imagined or real audience. This is the best way to retain content.)
  • Work in Pairs or Groups (Select your colleagues carefully. You all need to commit to the goal of mastering the material and moving at an agreed upon pace.)
  • Create Practice Exams (If you write 5 questions per lecture the evening of a lecture and share them with others agreeing to do the same, you will have another highly effective method of material review.)

The key is for students to think about self-testing or studying intensely (“studying on steroids,” Yancy McGuire says).

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