Friday @ the Center
February 5, 2010
Developing Independent Learning Skills: Importance
Last week we began a series on eight general skills for independent learning that professors should help students acquire and practice, based on Terry Doyle’s Helping Students Learn in a Learner-Center Environment. Developing independent learners will develop lifelong learners. Skill 1, addressed last week, was finding and evaluating quality sources of information. Skill 2 addresses the next step:
- Identifying important information. Our nation has a reading problem; fewer and fewer students arrive at college prepared to do college level reading. Even proficient readers often focus on surface issues rather than the in-depth analysis practiced by competent independent learners. We can help our students learn how to be better readers, by highlighting a purpose for each reading and by teaching students how to identify the main idea and significant detail.
While reading, many students focus on every word, sentence, and section, which the instructor may reinforce by saying things like “everything in this chapter is important.” (Disclaimer: I’m talking about textbooks and articles here, not Emily Dickinson or Nathaniel Hawthorne.) Doyle suggests that we provide a purpose for each reading assignment. However, such traditional assignments as “read the chapter and answer the questions at the end,” or “read the chapter and outline the five main sections,” provide narrow directions that do not help readers develop a deep understanding. Strong readers identify the important concepts, determine why they are important, and apply this information to the larger subject matter of the course, so a good purpose prompt will encourage students to do all of this. Doyle offers the following example of a purpose with the potential to lead to deeper learning:
“Read chapter 6 and be prepared to explain the concept of war as it was viewed by the American soldiers and how you think that this concept might be viewed differently by Native American Indians.”
Of course, I’d have the students “be prepared” by having them write a brief answer to the question.
2010 Weter Lecture Available
An electronic copy of Benjamin McFarland's 2010 Weter Faculty Award Lecture, "The Chemical Constraints on Creation: Natural Theology and Narrative Resonance," is now available on the CSFD website and a recording of the lecture will soon be available on University ITunes. Reference copies of past Weter lectures are also available at the SPU Library.
Headline of the Week
Do Catholic Colleges Change Students? New research counters widely publicized studies about institutions leading the faithful "astray."