Saturday, May 23, 2015

Week 3 - Learning Theories and Motivation

Part A - 

Discuss which theory/ies might be most applicable to your instruction and outline a specific activity/assignment/exercise that would facilitate learning according to that theory.

The design of Honors 101i is largely based around constructivist, or perhaps more specifically a social constructivist approach to learning and teaching.

The typical structure of a class week (hopefully) illustrates how this approach works in practice:

  • Digital Research Notebook - After week 1, each week begins with students contributing to their digital research notebook. In this notebook students take notes on their readings, record their progress and discoveries, reflect on their research and writing process, analyze and comment on their growing collection of sources, and engage in extensive writing activities in which they explore their research topic from a variety of perspectives.
  • Questions -  Class sessions typically begin with something we call "Questions" - class time devoted first to students sharing their research notebooks with each other and asking each other questions about their weekly work (e.g., What are your favorite strategies for reading academic work? How has your research question changed as a result of your reading? What sorts of data and evidence have you collected so far?). We then move on to questions that frame the experiential learning that happens later in the "Lab" part of class (e.g., What kinds of information do experts in your field view as credible evidence?). We do frequent think-pair-share activities during "Questions" and students record the notes from these conversations in their research notebooks in a section called "Class notes."
  • Lab - During the "Lab" phase, we do a series of experiential learning activities which both revolve around predetermined learning outcomes, and involve a certain amount of instructional improvisation as we incorporate student questions and areas of interest. During a lab session we might analyze peer-reviewed articles selected by each student, identifying key structural elements in the articles, finding similarities and differences in the structure of articles across disciplines, and identifying strategies authors use to signal to the reader what is new about their research while at the same time making connections between their work and previously published work by other authors. Lab time also involves a mix of individual, pair, group, and whole class interaction.
  • Feedback, Participation, and Ideabox - Each class concludes with dedicated time for students to reflect on their own learning, self-assess their participation, offer feedback on the effectiveness of the instructors, and generate ideas for future class sessions. The instructors read this feedback each week, and often incorporate student ideas into subsequent classes. In one class students asked for more "secrets of the library" so we followed up and made this a recurring theme in future classes. In another, a student requested "more exclamation points" - so we complied with the request!!!! 

Part B

Next, consider what you learned from Small's article on motivation and address how you are going to motivate your learners/students

Selected quotes from the reading:

"... one widely accepted goal of education is to develop intrinsically motivated, life-long learners who not only want to learn but also enjoy the learning experience while it is occurring, and want to continue learning after the instruction has formally ended."
 Yes! This is always our hope in 101i! In addition to continuing their undergraduate research projects, our hope is that students will apply the skills, strategies, concepts and approaches they develop in 101i in their future coursework, continuing studies, and in their personal and professional lives.
"Attribution theory (e.g., Weiner, 1972; 1979), proposes that people will
ascribe one of four (two internal, two external) attributions to their success or failure at a task. These attributions are: ability, ... effort, ... task difficulty, ... and luck."
One might add "community" or "collaborative effort" to this list? But yes, we try to scaffold activities throughout the course to help students build on their successes as they engage in increasingly complex tasks.
Expetancy-Value Theory: effort requires "valuing the task" and "expecting to succeed at the task."
 Incorporating rationale for tasks (i.e., ensuring that students "buy-in" to the value of each task, and also see how the tasks build on each) is an important part of helping students "value the task." The scaffolding process mentioned above helps students develop a continuing expectation of success, even as tasks become more challenging as the quarter progresses.
Curiosity: "Zone of relaxation" | >> "Zone of Curiosity" << | "Zone of Anxiety" - Day (1982). "The 'zone of curiosity' is  characterized by excitement, interest, and exploration to resolve the conceptual conflict."
Flow Theory: flow experiences "... have three requirements: (1) appropriate level of challenge, (2) clearly defined goals, and (3) immediate and useful feedback on progress.
 As instructors, we're continually in the "Zone of Curiosity"  and we hope that is true for students, too! Modeling curiosity and enthusiasm for the research and creative process helps reduce anxiety, and hopefully improve the flow. I feel that student-student interaction can very positively impact both engagement and a sense of "flow" in a class, as can collaborative work around meaningful challenges.
The ARCS Model -
[A]ttention [R]elevance [C]onfidence [S]atisfaction - Keller
Sounds good to me! ;-)

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