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Learning 101

What concepts support understanding the learning process?

Learning is an invisible personal experience that each student engages with during their time at SU. As a faculty member, it is important to recognize that each student comes to the campus with different experiences, support systems, expectations, and beliefs about learning. Additionally, so does every teacher that a student engaged within their K-12 experience, as well as every faculty member they will engage with during their time at SU. Therefore, it is important to recognize that no 2 students will have the same learning experience in your classroom. Understanding how you can support varied learning experiences is an important part of your course development and delivery, as well as the holistic experience of the student while they are at SU!

Why is it beneficial to consider different ways of supporting learning?

Epistemology, or the theory of knowledge, concerns how people distinguish justified belief from opinion, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. In other words, how do we determine what counts as knowledge? How do we understand how people learn knowledge?

It is easy to assume that everyone has the same understanding of what counts as knowledge, when in fact each person's personal experiences and beliefs contribute to how they think people learn and what people need in order to be successful learners. This often manifests itself in a discussion around Learning Styles, which is both supported and contested in educational research. Whether research validates that people have different learning styles or not, it remains true that many people believe that they learn best in certain situations and through certain resources. This might be a result of a learning disability, a willingness to engage with a preferred type of content or teaching style over another, or through the affordances of different modes of learning; regardless, recognizing the different ways people perceive they learn best is an important part of developing the learning experience.

What are the challenges?

Some faculty have biases towards epistemological beliefs that align with their preferred pedagogical approaches and comfort levels with instructional technologies, teaching spaces, and disciplinary needs. For example, a faculty member may think, "this type of writing assignment worked for me; if it was good enough for me to learn, it should be good enough for my students." However, this type of thinking fails to account for the shifting societal needs of students as they prepare to enter and succeed in an evolving workplace - a future that doesn't exist yet. It is important to center the learning experience of the student when developing a course, rather than replicate an outdated learning environment that fails to address the needs of the student beyond the classroom space. Shifting faculty mindsets may be the biggest challenge with considering how understanding learning impacts the experience of current and future SU students.

How can this be implemented in my course?

Some of the strategies you can take to consider how learning impacts the student experience are to:

  • Reflect on your teaching biases and consider how that aligns with current and future students' needs. Identify areas of supporting student learning you can learn more about and work towards incorporating into your course design and pedagogical strategies.
  • Consider how you expect a student to demonstrate their learning since it is an invisible concept. The expectation you have for your students to demonstrate their knowledge will serve as a measurable course objective. Bloom's taxonomy provides support in identifying the different measurable ways that students can demonstrate their understanding of course content.
  • Develop active learning opportunities for students in your course.
  • Provide opportunities to support metacognition and a growth mindset for your students.
  • Reach out to your Instructional Design liaison to brainstorm and work through specific disciplinary needs.