One of the discussion forums of the PIDP 3250 course is centered around ‘gogies’ and how self-directed and determined learners can be provided the skills to achieve higher level learning skills. One interesting question from a classmate was, “can we teach these skills”? One article (as well as this article) speaks about the skills needed by students to achieve such learning. Reading peer posts and reference articles, I believe that although some students may have a natural ability to be self-directed and determined learners, it is our role as facilitators to foster those skills. We can offer exercises in exploration and identification of such learning. We can offer projects to evaluate evidence in order to determine a plausible hypothesis. Through self-assessment, we can help students learn to critique their own skills. How could they obtain their information in a more efficient manner and what would they do differently next time? By continually challenging and pushing our students with higher level thinking skills and processes, we can help them gain the confidence to develop these skills.
A point of concern as a teacher is the amount time needed to make such changes in our course materials. We need to be dedicated to such changes but I find, for myself, it has been a matter of time and trial and error. Lots of time is needed to implement such higher level thinking. Our curriculum seems to be so packed already that students generally complain they don’t have time for challenging exercises and self-assessment. At times, I find the exercise that I have devised was not effective. I need to stop taking my failures personal. The last time I devised a problem based approach to treatment planning, a student said that he thought, “it was way too challenging and a waste of his time”. Other students followed with complaints. Putting personal matters aside, a new challenge was identified by me. If students are being provided route lectures and exercises to apply lecture materials, then they appear to resent my push for critical learning skills. I can’t change other instructors. So, my new approach has been to let students know what I am trying to achieve and why. It is up to them to accept the process or reject it. I find those who have accepted my method usually come back in a few years and thank me for my method of teaching.
Finally, I find role modelling higher level thinking to be a very effective approach. I consciously tell students about my own research and self-reflection, my failures and successes. I want them to see me as a professional that they would like to emulate. Being a positive role model also creates a positive learning environment where students feel comfortable to ask questions and push themselves in a safe manner.