Embedding reflective thinking on approaches to learning - moving from pilot study to developing institutional good practice

Edwards, Chris (2011). Embedding reflective thinking on approaches to learning - moving from pilot study to developing institutional good practice. In: The 16th Annual Conference of Education, Learning, Styles, Individual differences Network, 29 Jun - 1 Jul 2011, University of Antwerp.

URL: http://www.ua.ac.be/main.aspx?c=.ELSIN&n=87201


Asking undergraduates to reflect on their approaches to learning involves the individuals in effort and activity they may well consider to be an unwanted addition to their normal studies: unless the activity has clear links in their minds with their chosen subject. The same reaction is sometimes found in teaching academics, as supporting a reflective strand requires additional effort which they may be happy to give as long as it relates to their research, or is a one off pilot. There are therefore issues that very quickly arise when attempting, as this study does, to embed metacognitive thinking about approaches to learning and style into the everyday good practice of teaching staff in universities and in the routine thinking of students.

This paper describes the progress of a study facilitating the embedding of one framework for developing an individual's approaches to learning into the everyday good practice of university teaching staff and the everyday learning experience of undergraduates. It is an interim report that sets out the five strands of this activity: introduction to the model for staff; first steps at putting into practice; collection of examples of activity; building a community of practice; assessing the effectives of interventions. It also describes some of the issues and challenges that arise when moving from pilot study to developing good practice within a large organisation. The basis of the initial stages is a consultative and collaborative approach to develop effective materials for informing colleagues and developing their understanding of the model whilst laying the foundations for a community of practice and empowering individuals to develop activities for embedding these ideas into their teaching and to share these along with commentary on the success of these interventions – not just within the group but also for their contemporaries to access.

It has previously been demonstrated that the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory, ELLI, can be an effective tool for teachers and learners, providing a framework to think and talk with students about learning and about how to grow as learners within both their formal education and informal learning. However, this is a reasonably complex model with seven dimensions of learning, and it has been developed primarily for the school context. Whilst the model has been shown to be of value within universities, the higher education context offers several challenges to the approach and these are explored. The issues relating to colleagues being persuaded to embed these ideas into their everyday practice will be discussed along with the measures required for institutional support, including the demonstration of positive outcomes to interventions.

This paper is relevant to anyone considering ways in which their understandings and experience of metacognitive thinking about approaches to learning and style may benefit the student body, the teaching of their colleagues and their institution

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