Sarah's design narrative - learning styles and note taking

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Sarah McKernan
10 April 2017

Title: Introducing learning styles and approaches to note taking to new undergraduate students

Narrator: I was delivering the training, but usually worked with the students on a one-to-one basis.

Situation: The session was run in a teaching room during a scheduled teaching day.  The students were studying Business Studies and had a selection of modules with regular tutors.  This session was a ‘soft skills’ space and sessions were delivered by a range of staff, including library staff.  The sessions were not assessed and although attendance was monitored and would be followed up for international students, it was not always seen as compulsory by all the students.  The students were early in the first term of their studies but knew each other.  Some students were actively academically engaged, but quite a number were not so much and many spoke English as an additional language.

Task: I wanted to introduce the students to different learning styles, to help them see that there are different ways of learning and to encourage them to try different approaches to, for example, note taking.  My measure of success was getting engagement with the different approaches.

Actions: The session started with a brief introduction to the idea of different learning styles and students completed a learning styles questionnaire.  They then looked at different ways they could apply different approaches and came up with ideas for different approaches to taking notes.  There was quite a bit of discussion about different approaches and a list of different approaches drawn up.  Students were then given a short piece of text and choose two different ways of taking notes, such as linear text summary, recording a summary on their phones, drawing a diagram of some kind.

Half way through the session, one of the tutors came in and asked if she could have a word.  She had thought she had been allocated the room we were in (facilities were slightly different in the different spaces) and I was happy to swap.  However, this meant everyone had to pack up and move to another part of the building and the new room was much smaller and hotter and it was difficult to get students to re-engage with the task.

Results: To a large degree the outcomes were as I expected.  The engaged students were able to try out different approaches to note taking.  An unexpected outcome was that I was able to understand student approaches better and support them better in subsequent one-to-one session.  I was able to see students notes and the different approaches they had tried and evaluations suggested that most students felt they had practiced something they would use again.

Reflections: I think the session was broadly as successful as I expected.  I probably tried to do too much in the time available and it might have been better to only try one approach, but include a reflective activity that encouraged students to think about how they would ‘extract’ their notes.   Some students did not really engage, and this was often (although not exclusively) international students, whose educational experience tended to be different and they were often unused to taking an active approach to sessions.  In future sessions I will try to find ways of engaging more actively with them, perhaps by having a short individual meeting beforehand to ensure they understand the reasons/methods.  This could apply more broadly, and some preparation with students I know are less likely to engage.

 

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