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Tag: Learning

Eight Steps to Engage Learning

Peter Felten, author of several books on teaching and learning, recently shared his research on engaged learning on the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast. Felten is the Executive Director of the Center for Engaged Learning, and an Assistant Provost and Professor of History at Elon University.

Felton makes the point that learning results only from what students themselves do and think.  

In other words, we can’t climb inside their heads and pull those levers. All we can really do as instructors is influence them to learn. 

With that in mind, Felton outlines what students must do, think, and feel in order to be engaged, successful learners. 

Five Things Students Must Do

  1. Dedicate time to their studies. This is essential as real learning happens in stages and multiple exposures to a new topic allows the information to stick. 
  1. Dedicate effort to their studies. Students need to know that effort and struggle are a normal part of the learning process.  Effort is a measure of progress, not a sign of weakness.
  1. Get feedback on their work. To be useful, feedback has to be clear (understandable to the student), constructive, and actionable. A student is more likely to read comments on an essay, for instance, if she can revise that essay and improve her score. 
  1. Practice their skills — preferably by applying and using those skills in different contexts. 
  1. Reflect on their learning. In other words, they need to be metacognitive, to think about what they know and how they know it.

Three Things Students Must Think or Feel

  1. I belong here. Students need to believe that they belong in college, in the discipline, and in the classroom. Felton points out that “students who lack a sense of belonging are likely to interpret normal academic struggles as evidence that they can’t succeed,” and are more likely to give up as a result.
  1. I can do this. They need to adopt a growth mindset, to think to themselves, “I am a human who is capable of learning and growing and developing.”
  1. This is meaningful to me. Students are more motivated when they perceive that the work they are doing is relevant and when they can see the value in it. 

A Teacher’s Influence

What if you chose one thing from the list above, and made a small change in your teaching that would influence students to learn? Could you . . .

  • add a mock quiz to give students more opportunities to practice? 
  • allow rewrites of essays so students can use feedback to improve? 
  • teach students about growth mindset?
  • explain the purpose and value of an assignment (sell the benefits)?

You can listen to Peter Felton talk about the research on engaged learners, or read the transcript, on the Teaching In Higher Ed website.  Today’s post was written by guest contributor, Elisabeth Frederickson from Edmonds Community College.

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When Is Your Computer Unlike Mine? When We Consider Technology Opportunity Gaps

Regular readers of this blog will know that EvCC, like many community colleges across the country, continues to engage with knotty, challenging questions of equity in higher education. Conversations about equity have been central to Guided Pathways efforts at the college (and long before), and they’re also part of our work at the Center for Transformative Teaching. A few months ago, I wrote on this blog about my initial investigation of potential equity gaps in online course enrollments, and I’ve continued to think about this problem since then.

Equity in online, hybrid/blended, and technology-enhanced learning environments is in many ways a classic manifestation of the digital divide — inequalities in “access to, use of, or impact of information and communication technologies” (Wikipedia). The heart of the problem, in my mind, lies in the final part of that definition: the impact of technologies on the people using them. While we tend to be pretty good about asking important questions related to students’ access to technologies, all too often we overlook an even more significant question. Once we’ve ensured all students have access to learning technologies (for instance, through low-cost laptop rentals — a service we provide to students here at EvCC) what are we doing to ensure that the use of those technologies is providing the same advantages to all students? Are we inadvertently perpetuating inequities by assuming that the beneficial effects of educational technologies are evenly distributed and available to all?

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Bring Them or Ban Them? Laptops (and Mobile Devices) in the Classroom

In the list of perennial ‘controversies’ at the intersection of teaching and technology, the lowly laptop computer has always played something of an outsized role. I’m old enough to remember a time when the laptop’s extreme portability was breathlessly heralded as something that would revolutionize how and where learning would take place. (“It only weighs eight pounds; ten if you include the charger! Now students can read, conduct research, or write papers anywhere and everywhere! The era of ubiquitous learning has arrived!”) I also remember some of the dire predictions that were lobbed back in response. (“Students will be endlessly distracted! They will use their computers as intellectual crutches instead of learning to think and do for themselves! The end of deep, focused learning has arrived! Besides, what’s wrong with going to the computer lab — or using a typewriter, for that matter?! “)

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Succeed in College by … Sleeping More?

Man and dog sleeping on couch

Sleeping by Andrew Roberts licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY-2.0

Do you ever talk to your students about what they can do to be successful in your class and in college more generally? When you have that conversation, what are the essential factors that you discuss?

Is sleep one of them? If not, maybe it should be.

I recently finished reading Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, a book that is considerably more substantive than its vaguely pop-sci titles makes it sound. Walker, a respected sleep researcher, directs the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at the University of California – Berkeley, and his book offers a very readable synthesis of what scientists have learned about sleep’s essential role in human health, psychological well-being, and–as it now turns out–learning.

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