Developing learning activities for different learning styles

14 05 2013

I have always found Kolb’s learning cycle a helpful concept but have been a little more uncertain about his learning styles.  I suppose I don’t like the idea of “putting people in boxes”.  (Kolb’s four-stage cycle of learning is: ‘immediate or concrete experiences’ provide a basis for ‘observations and reflections’. These ‘observations and reflections’ are assimilated and distilled into ‘abstract concepts’ producing new implications for action which can be ‘actively tested’ in turn creating new experiences).

This week the ocTEL course asked us to read this summary of Kolb’s Learning Styles Theory and to think about what learning activities might work well for the four learning styles identified by Kolb.  I found this a helpful question to consider because rather than putting people into boxes, it provides a way for thinking about including a range of different learning activities in our courses that cater for and encourage the expression of a range of different ways of learning.  If we as teachers work towards including a range of activities in our courses (whatever mode they are offered in and whatever technologies they use), this will not only help to address the learning preferences of individuals but also provide a variety of learning activities and assessments, and ensure that we don’t cater (whether intentionally or unintentionally) for only some ways of learning.

So here are my very preliminary thoughts about the kinds of learning activities and assessment tasks that might be relevant to the four learning styles identified by Kolb. I’d appreciate any suggestions from others and will add to this as I gather more ideas.

Diverging (feeling and watching – CE/RO) Assimilating (watching and thinking – AC/RO)
Creative assignments
Group work (summariser, motivator)
Peer feedback
Social media
Written analysis, critique
Discussion forums which focus on analysis/critique/ideas
Group work (summariser, leader, note-taker)
Converging (doing and thinking – AC/AE) Accommodating (doing and feeling – CE/AE)
Practically oriented and applied assessment tasks e.g. devise a plan, produce a set of resources
Discussion forums that focus on application of knowledge
Group work (producer)
Practical tasks
Group work (leader)
Create own learning tasks
Report on outcomes of trials/experiments

Musings on digital literacy

3 05 2013

Week 2 of the OCTEL Mooc deals with understanding learner’s needs.  I am particularly interested in the one of the themes for this week, which is digital literacy because in my institution we have recently convened a working group on this topic which aims to come up with some strategies for improving digital literacy for our students (and our faculty members).  As an aside, I’ll just mention that it’s good to see consideration of digital literacy being included under the topic of “understanding learners’ needs”, as this places the focus on the learner and their needs, rather that approaching digital literacy as another “topic” that we have to include somewhere in our curriculum, or in our student support practices and resources.

The more I have thought and read about digital literacy, the more complex it appears.  For example just the JISC resources (Developing Digital Literacies (JISC Design Studio) are extensive and complex and these are only one example of wht is out there.  It seems that there are multiple approaches and little agreement on what are the key elements of digital literacy.  Perhaps this is partly a result of the times we are living in, with the explosion of technologies and social media that has changed the ways in which we communicate, learn and teach.  Perhaps too, the plethora of different ideas and resources out there reflect the diversity of our learners.  This diversity is one of the issues we have been struggling with in our working group.  My institution is made up of a number of separate colleges, each with their own student groups and demographics.  Mostly the range of digital literacy among these various student cohorts is enormous – from very savvy digital and technical competence to virtually nil.  As institutions how do we cater for this diverse range of learning needs?  And to what extent is it our responsibility as teaching institutions, or the responsibility of the learners themselves?

We don’t have answers yet, but we have come up with the idea of creating a digital literacy toolbox which will contain resources for a range of target groups.  We have identified 7 target groups which will serve as foci for the development of our resources:

  1. Pre-enrolment/study orientation
  2. First year/beginning students
  3. Later year/experienced students
  4. Postgraduate and research students
  5. ESL students
  6. Students with accessibility issues
  7. Faculty members

The identification of these target groups will hopefully allow us to more carefully focus our digital literacy support resources to the varying needs of learners.  I’d be keen to learn of whether others have successfully targeted particular groups or types of learners and what resources might be available.