Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Section 1: Formulate & Use Learning Strategies

ryanrori October 14, 2020

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Introduction

In the learning process interaction takes place and we use language and communication for the transfer of knowledge and skills.  The use of written/printed information as well as the transfer of information through verbal communication forms part of this process. This is in terms of the provision of information as well as the output required from Learners in terms of class work, discussions and the assessment of skills and knowledge forming part of the learning programme and learning process.

Let us consider the form of communication used for some sources of information and learning activities during the learning process:

Type of information of interaction Written format used Oral format used
Qualification information Qualification and unit standards are presented in printed format Requirements of learning associated with the qualification is discussed and explained
Learning programme information Learning material is provided in printed format.

Additional information sourced for learning activities is often used in written format.

Notes are taken for purposes of studying

Discussion of learning programme content, knowledge and information in the classroom is explained using verbal communication
Learning activities Activities and outputs required from the Learner is provided in printed format as per outcomes requirements Class discussions and clarifications of requirements are discussed using verbal communication
Preparation of assignments and activities by Learners are done in writing Class discussions and clarifications of requirements are discussed using verbal communication
Practical work Outcomes requirements and details are provided in writing Explanations and coaching or demonstrations use verbal discussions.
Assessment Assessment tools and instructions are provided in written format Requests, assessment activities and feedback are done verbally

These are obviously only a few examples to highlight the fact that learning cannot take place successfully without the use of both written and verbal communication in the learning environment.

The use and application of language and communication within the learning environment requires that we apply communication skills and techniques.   In this application various learning strategies can be used.

Learning Strategies

Learning or instructional strategies determine the approach for achieving the learning objectives and are included in the pre-instructional activities, information presentation, Learner activities, testing, and follow-through. The strategies are usually tied to the needs and interests of students to enhance learning and are based on many types of learning styles.

Therefore the learning objectives point you towards the instructional strategies, while the instructional strategies will point you to the medium that will actually deliver the instruction, such as e-learning, self-study, classroom, or On-the-Job Training. However, do not fall into the trap of using only one path, but rather adapt a blended approach to various mediums within learning strategies.

Although some people use the terms interchangeably, objectives, strategies, and media, all have separate meanings. For example, the learning objective might be “Recruitment and Selection”; the instructional strategies are a demonstration, have a question and answer period, and then receive hands-on practice by actually performing the job, while the media might be a combination of distance learning and on-the-job training.

1 Applying Learning Strategies

We will look in some detail at the strategies that we can use to help us learn more effectively. We will consider the strategies of summarising, questioning, reading actively, listening actively and learning by communicating with others. We will work in groups and individually, learning to select and apply a number of techniques. Finally we will examine how effectively we are able to apply these strategies and techniques in practice.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is an excellent way of developing many creative solutions to a problem. It works by focusing on a problem, and then coming up with many radical solutions to it. Ideas should deliberately be as broad and unusual as possible, and should be developed as fast as possible. Brainstorming is a lateral thinking process. It is designed to help break out of usual thinking patterns and into new ways of looking at problems.

During brainstorming sessions there should be no criticism of ideas. The Learner is trying to open possibilities and break down wrong assumptions about the limits of the problem. Judgments and analysis at this stage will stunt idea generation.

Ideas should only be evaluated once the brainstorming session has finished – one can then explore solutions further using conventional approaches.

If the ideas begin to dry up, one can ‘seed’ the session with, for example, a random word or thought.

Brainstorming is normally a group effort but individual brainstorming can also be used.  We will briefly look at the two types.

Individual Brainstorming

When brainstorming alone, one tends to produce a wider range of ideas than with group brainstorming – one does not have to worry about other people’s egos or opinions, and can therefore be more freely creative. One may not, however, develop ideas as effectively, as one does not have the varied experience or creativity of a group to help.

Group Brainstorming

Group brainstorming can be very effective, as it uses the experience and creativity of all members of the group. When individual members reach their limit on an idea, another member’s creativity and experience can take the idea to the next stage. Therefore, group brainstorming tends to develop ideas in more depth than individual brainstorming.

Brainstorming in a group can be risky for individuals. Valuable but strange suggestions may appear imprudent at first sight. As a result, one must “chair” sessions tightly to ensure that the creativity and flow of ideas does not crush or cause group members to experience feelings of humiliation.

To run a group brainstorming session effectively, do the following:

  • Define the problem needing to be solved clearly, and lay out any criteria to be met.
  • Keep the session focused on the problem
  • Ensure that no one criticises or evaluates ideas during the session. Criticism introduces an element of risk for group members when putting forward an idea. This stifles creativity and cripples the free-running nature of a good brainstorming session.
  • Encourage an enthusiastic, uncritical attitude among members of the group. Try to get everyone to contribute and develop ideas, including the quietest members of the group
  • Let people have fun brainstorming. Encourage them to come up with as many ideas as possible, from the solidly practical to the wildly impractical. Welcome creativity.
  • Ensure that no train of thought is followed for too long
  • Encourage people to develop other people’s ideas, or to use other ideas to create new ones
  • Appoint one person to note down ideas that come out of the session. A good way of doing this is to use a flip chart. This should be studied and evaluated after the session.

Where possible, participants in the brainstorming process should come from as wide a range of disciplines as possible. This brings a broad range of experience to the session and helps to make it more creative.

Group analysis takes place after a brainstorming session, when the group goes back to the brainstorm suggestions that have been recorded and starts analysing these ideas. Now we turn to left-brain thinking, where we discuss ideas more critically, then choose the most suitable ideas and sort them into a logical plan to suit the task.

Study Groups

It is generally agreed that group study enhances performances both in class discussions and in tests.  Why does it work? Group study pays off because it brings about changes in two ways: it forces Learners to alter their old ways of thinking and it changes their less effective patterns of behaviour.

In a group environment, Learners are less likely to procrastinate.  It’s easy to put off an assignment when only having oneself to answer too. But within the group context, pressure from other members often means that the tasks are more likely get done.  Group study also encourages Learners to explain things aloud. By speaking to and listening to others, Learners often improve on recall ability, or their ability to remember information on test day.

Learners who study with others are also forced to become more organised. Once having learned to date and label one’s notes, the Learner will see that organised notes make much more sense at the end of the week than the jumbled mix-and-match variety.

One more great benefit of group discussion is that the many perspectives improve one’s chances of anticipating test questions. Group members will always raise ideas and thoughts one would never consider.

Finally, one will likely find the benefit of group study reaches far beyond the good results on test day. It will build self-confidence that can be used for the rest of one’s life. Speaking to small groups will prepare Learners for speaking to larger groups in the future as well as more official groups.  So start building a group of like-minded Learners who share one’s goals for success. Be sure to develop a set of study rules to establish the “wheres” and “hows” and stick by them. The results will show.

Peer & Self-assessment

Self-Assessment

Self-assessment is a demanding task, as it requires the same honesty as peer assessment, but applied to oneself. Self-assessment must also be done using clear criteria. To be able to assess our own work, we should be able to be objective about it, i.e. to look at the work without any self-interest in mind.  However hard we have worked on it, we need to learn to be honest with ourselves: give credit where it is due and see where we could improve. The real value of self-assessment is not in the grades we give ourselves, but in learning to monitor our own learning processes.

Self-assessment is the means of finding out just how much one has achieved or learnt. In a learning situation, self-assessment will indicate how much more work the Learner needs to do to succeed.

For example:  Take some time to reflect on what has been learnt in this module and assess that knowledge against the following pointers. Write down your answers. Should you not be able to complete each of these statements, go back to your notes and check on your understanding. Discuss the answers with a group or a colleague.  The questions should consist of key learning points of the lesson. For example:

  • Can you explain the importance of summarising material for study purposes?
  • Can you describe how to use mind-mapping?

Self-assessment could also be used to provide one with an indication of where to focus so as to improve one’s knowledge or skills.

Peer Assessment

Peer assessment is done in a group that is learning or has been learning a specific subject. The assessment is done by means of an assessment checklist and conducted by members of the group.

Peer assessment could be an assessment from a classmate. This can be an effective learning strategy because it can be very helpful to have another person of equal standing review work completed together. Peer assessment should help us to review our work i.e. see it again from a new perspective. For this to happen, the peer who is assessing the work should be sympathetic but honest. The peer assessment should be done using clear criteria that have been agreed upon beforehand.

Probing

The way that Facilitators interact with Learners is extremely important for learning. As Facilitators go through lessons, they typically pose questions for Learners to answer or require Learners to respond orally to situations being posed. There are a number of techniques that can be used to help elicit better responses from Learners as they respond to these prompts and questions. These probing methods provide Facilitators with the ability to guide Learners to either refine or expand on their answers.

This basic technique involves Facilitators trying to get Learners to further explain or clarify their answer. This can be helpful when Learners give very short responses. A typical probe: “Please explain that a little further”. It is also in the Learner’s best interest to probe for more information when the issue or topic of learning is unclear to him or her.

Mind Maps

A mind-map is a system or plan which takes selected information in point-form and arranges it on a page, in a way that shows how the points are related to each other.  It is a technique that suits the way some people think (so-called visual Learners), and for them it can be a great help in learning or planning.

Whether studying in a group or on alone, this is a method that will help to organise one’s thoughts and ideas into a clear form from which will flow smoothly into new ideas and approaches. Mind Maps can help clear up any confusion arising from one’s studies. They help to share and communicate one’s ideas. It is a process that can be as simple or as complex as the situation.

Below is an example of how it works – Draw a circle (or shape of your choice) and write in it the core of your message. Focus your mind on the central theme and, as the ideas come, write them in another circle or square. Discuss these ideas with the group or with one’s colleagues, perhaps they can give alternatives or maybe they’ll expand on one of the ideas already written down. Let the ideas flow, but make sure they are all related to the core of your message.

 

Example:

Note taking

Note taking is a skill. Effective note taking requires preparation and planning and does not mean writing down every word that the Facilitator or instructor speaks.  Note taking is a technique that can be used in any situation in which we are getting information – reading, listening or watching. It uses skills very similar to summarising, because taking notes involves selecting key points constantly.

We cannot write down everything we are reading, seeing or listening to. Taking good notes means concentrating and understanding enough to take in the information and make decisions about what is important and what is not worth writing down. If it is a formal presentation, it is likely that one can take more orderly notes (in point form), as the topic is being given in an organised way. If making notes out in the field, it is often best to write down just the key words, in case one misses something whilst busy writing.

If studying or requiring information for business purposes with a high factual content such as economics and law, the Learner will understand that it is easier to take in large amounts of information from one’s own notes rather than someone else’s.  The Learner’s notes should be thorough. If the notes are good, it means that the Learner has understood what was read and will be able to learn from it.

For business purposes: you may be in a position in which you must carry out research for the company such as the launch of a new product. Note making in this situation is an essential part of the research process.

Memorising

Memorising is not the same as learning. To memorise something (to ‘learn it by heart’) may not necessarily involve understanding it. There are times, however, that we need to be able to memorise something.

One way of helping our brains to do this is to use a mnemonic. This is a word or sentence which spells out the letters (or the first letters in the names) that we are trying to remember.

For example:

  • Anyone who has learned music may know that the progression of notes up the scale is EGBDF. But it is more likely that they will know the sentence “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge”, which is much easier to remember than the letters.
  • The ‘name’ Roy G. Biv, does not make sense unless you know that it spells the colours of the rainbow in their correct order.

There is a possible downside to memorising large quantities of information in study. We can all learn pieces of information and be able to recite them word perfectly, but do we truly understand what we have learnt? There is also a chance that some of the material will be forgotten due to stress, or perhaps we have just tried to memorise too much.

Memorising equations for mathematics, engineering or accounting purposes is necessary. These are small amounts of information that, when working in that field, we need to have at our fingertips.

It is vital that we understand the subject that we are studying – in other words, we can talk about it, discuss it and answer questions about the subject – we are conversant with it.

Key Words

Key words are the most important words in a particular context. They carry the main ideas. As we saw in the previous activity, identifying key words in a passage is an important step towards summarising the passage and, in the process, helps us to understand the meaning of the passage.

Keyword-based searches are a generic term for any type of search performed using a word or phrase to locate information. Keyword searches are frequently used when looking for books in the library or using Internet search engines.  As one gets more practised at keyword searches, a repertoire of phrases will be built up that can be used to track down information.

Web pages, brochures, textbooks, manuals, magazines, newspapers and mail are just a few of the documents that will be consulted while doing our research.

Effective and efficient readers learn to use many styles of reading for different purposes. However, reading off a computer screen, which one will mainly be doing in the course of work, has become a growing concern.

Research shows that people have more difficulty reading off a computer screen than off paper. Although they can read and comprehend at the same rate as paper, skimming on the computer is much slower than on paper.

Underlining

Underlining is a technique that can help us to focus on a passage, but it is not as effective in helping us to learn as some other techniques, for example key words or summarising. But it can be a way of starting to understand a text. Remember, though, that we should only use underlining when we are working with our own notes or photocopied material. Never mark a library book by underlining or in any other way. It is public property and other people will need to use it afterwards.

Skimming

Skimming is the technique of running our eyes over a text very quickly in order to get the general idea of the content. In doing so, our eyes pick up occasional words, so that we get some idea of what the text is about. Skimming gives us an idea of the scope of the content but not much idea of the detail. It is more useful for selecting a text than as a learning strategy, because it is a quick way of checking to see if the text is going to be useful to our needs.

This process involves quickly reading through a text to gain an idea of its overall meaning. One can increase the speed at which one skims through a document by the following methods:

  • Draw your finger down the centre of the page moving your eyes rapidly from side to side as one follows it down.
  • Move an envelope or card down the page, blocking off the lines already read.

Both of these methods will stop you from going back over text and re-reading material already covered. Make sure to concentrate on reading as quickly as possible.

Scanning

Scanning is another reading technique, also reading very quickly but this time looking for something specific, and so allowing the eye to pass quickly over the page, looking for a particular item. For example, when we look up a name in a telephone directory, we ‘tell’ our eyes to look for a particular name and we automatically ignore all the other names.

This is the process of looking quickly through a text and finding one particular piece of information. To scan a piece of writing, one’s eyes should move rapidly down the text looking for key words that relate to the topic in question. This technique is often used when searching the Telephone Directory for the name of a person or business, but is also very useful when looking through a piece of continuous text.

2 Information In The Learning Process

Summarising is one of the most important skills that we can use for learning. It makes us read the text with understanding, and therefore helps us to learn what we are reading.

A number of publications and books picked up for study purposes will have summaries at the end of each chapter. These are also sometimes referred to as “Conclusions”. They summarise the content of the chapter by listing the main points. These summaries provide a valuable way of evaluating the main content, and should be read through as part of the studying process.

There are other books or publications that do not contain summaries or conclusions but rather they have sections that give conclusions reached in previous more widespread chapters or sections. Read these with care since, like the recommendations sections in Reports, they only make their point clearly when read in combination with the arguments in previous sections of the book.

An important point when summarising is to make sure that each point is expressed as concisely as possible. The Learner can do this by adhering to the following rules:

  • Avoid phrases where single words will do. For example: ‘due to the fact that’ can be replaced by ‘as’; and ‘little by little’ can be replaced by ‘gradually’
  • Use abbreviations correctly.
  • Leave out verbs, as long as the meaning is still clear.
  • Use punctuation. Semi-colons and colons can often replace conjunctions or make verbs unnecessary when they are used to link clauses.

Notice in business publications that there are often summaries or abstracts, or concentrated outlines in the first or last paragraphs. They may also have short summaries in boxes or quotations from the text which briefly express a main point. Take note of them; they will all help in one’s study.

When writing a summary based on the information found in reference books, select the important facts and then write them in your own words. Some people find it easier to write this important information down in point form – this is the choice of each individual Learner. Obviously a book would contain far more information than one would necessarily use, so decide what information is important for your purpose.

An example:

The idea of management decisions being made from the bottom up is not new – at least not in Japan where in many companies employees at different levels of management are involved in decision-making.

The system goes far beyond the “suggestion box” idea practiced by some western companies.  In Japan ideas from workers are taken seriously and talked about by the workers themselves before passing onto the next stage where they are looked at and discussed by the Heads of Department before them, perhaps, finally reach the levels of top management.  In this way the workers are actively involved in the decision-making process and are encouraged to feel involved in the company.

Such a system could only be an advantage as, perhaps now more than ever, management and the workforce need each other in order to survive the recession which is still all too obvious in our worldwide economies.

Perhaps in our “darkest hour” we will finally realise the importance of working together.

 Source:  R.G. Mellor; V.G. Davidson:  How to Pass English for Business; Auflage 1994

The points for summary will look as follows:

  • Management and workforce need each other
  • Employees at different levels are involved in decision-making
  • Ideas from the workers are discussed by the workers
  • Ideas looked at and discussed by Heads of Departments
  • Workers actively involved.

 

As one can see, the summary is based on the main ideas in a passage. Remember for a summary:

  • look for main ideas
  • identify the key sentence in each paragraph – this should ‘cover’ or include all other points
  • do not confuse main ideas with examples
  • cut out detailed descriptions or extensions

 

3 Evidence Of Synthesis & Contextualisation

Questions are tools for engaging attention, investigating ideas, assessing knowledge, and encouraging deeper understanding. Appropriate questions help Learners develop metacognition and assist them in problem-solving strategies. Facilitators use questions to gain information about Learners’ understanding.  Answers to questions should show evidence of synthesis and contextualisation.

Research findings indicate that the following actions particularly benefit low achieving Learners:

  • Emphasising meaning and understanding. Facilitators who give priority to understanding and meaning help Learners to comprehend what written text says “between the lines,” which assists Learners to communicate by writing thoughts that an audience would care to know. It is also important to explain what procedures mean and how to tackle unfamiliar problems.
  • Embedding skills in context. In each subject area, the Facilitator presents skills within the context of application. Comprehension skills are connected with the text being read, writing skills are a part of the act of composing, and maths problems are solved with selected mathematical tools in context.
  • Encouraging connections between subject areas lives outside of the training environment.  Facilitators focus on making connections between subject areas and between what is learned in classroom and the Learners’ life experiences.

4 Interpret, Analyse & Re-organise Texts

We all read for different reasons, whether it is for learning or for pleasure. If we read the newspaper it is for the facts, or the information on what is happening in the business world. So it stands to reason then, that each type of literature, be it poetry, a text book, football or rugby report, will be approached very differently. It is important that we know the various techniques of reading and which to adopt according to the literature involved.

  • Detailed Reading: Studying a report or reading a textbook may require detailed reading. This means that the reading must be done slowly, concentrating on the whole sentence, taking in complete ideas, and not just the keywords as done when skimming.

To ensure complete concentration, ask yourself questions while reading, for example: “What is the main point of this section? How does this sentence develop the point made previously?” Decide on whether or not you agree with the author. This will help with concentration and also with the understanding of the text even further.

Another important point while reading is to distinguish between fact and fiction – checking if evidence is provided in support of statements. This evidence should come in the form o f a footnote or be acknowledged in the text. In general, events that are described can usually be regarded as fact whilst causes, interpretation or conclusions will be opinions. Points about historical events should also be supported by evidence either quoted or referred to in the text.

  • Review: When having completed one’s detailed reading, pause a while and review what has been read. Try to give the passage a brief descriptive title which expresses the main ideas of the text; if this can be done without too much trouble, the Learner will probably have a clear understanding of the subjects covered.
  • Fact or Opinion. When studying, make sure you can tell the facts apart from the opinions. Do this by remembering the following:

Fact is always supported by evidence. The source of any statistics, for instance, should always be acknowledged, either in the text or in a note at the foot of the page otherwise at the end of the text. In general, events that are described may be considered facts.

Causes, Interpretations or Conclusions are not facts, they are opinions. The writer’s choice of language may also reveal that what is being stated is a matter of opinion only.

For example:

The company has made impressive growth this year

The word “impressive” is controversial, since it tells us we should be impressed by company growth without being given any evidence of this growth.

  • Critical Reading: Reading a text book from cover to cover is not necessarily the most effective method of understanding the information that it contains, nor is it always the best use of one’s time. Instead start by getting to know exactly what the book has to offer – a process we call the “initial appraisal”. This entails reading certain parts of the information in a particular way and recording information about them.

It is important to keep a record of the material that has been consulted, for two reasons:

  • The Learner will be able to find it again should he/she need to.
  • Should one decide to quote from it or to summarise its main points, the source can be acknowledged.
  • General Appraisal: This method is used when picking up a book in a bookshop and wanting to find out something about its contents before making the decision to buy it. Look at the Author’s name. Is he or she described in any way, as a teacher or lecturer perhaps? Has he or she written any other books? This may be an indication of the status of the book, although the fact that the writer is the principal of a major college and has written many other books does not guarantee that it will be the book that one requires.

Most books contain a short statement of what they are about, usually on the inside flap of the dust jacket if it is a hardcover, or on the back cover if it is a paperback. There may also be reviews of the book or comments by experts on the subject who have read the book.

Appraisal is just as important for other printed material. If considering a company report, for example, one may need to find out the nature of the company’s work, products, or services in order to decide how relevant the report is to one’s own operations. This can be done by looking at a subtitle, an introductory section or another relevant passage to bring together the necessary information.

5 Reading & Viewing Texts

Reading for learning, however, is different from all of the above because we are then reading in a much more directed, goal-oriented way. Success in reading to learn depends on using certain ‘attack’ skills when we approach the text. It is useful to be aware of the strategies we can use to get information out of the text.

It is a good idea to first look at the format of a passage i.e. the way it is set out on the page (or screen). This will help to navigate the text. Is there a title? Is it written in paragraphs? Is it a table? Are there subheadings?

All of these factors will allow the Learner to approach the text in a more organised way, and therefore increase one’s ability to learn from it.  When we read the text for the purpose of learning, we should read for:

  • Detail: i.e. extract information that is stated directly in the text
  • Interpretation: i.e. extract the meaning where the idea is there but not stated directly
  • Analysis: i.e. use the content to draw a conclusion or add one’s own idea – the Learner has to sort through the information in the text to get an answer, or assess something, in order to give an opinion