Friday, May 22, 2009

Study workload and other obstacles for students

I was asked to have look at Estimating student workload, readability and implications for student learning and progression It got me thinking: what if we had required great thinkers like Einstein to have a couple of doctorates, ie have written a bucket load of acadmic stuff, before we listened to their ideas? It would have held the world back - no relativity theory, no decipherement of cuniform, no discovery of Troy, no continental drift theory...until someone had published or studied enough gained the right to comment came up with the same ideas. So why do some institutions require their students to do X amount of work before they issue a qualification. Even in competency based training I have come across trainers who wanted proof that students had worked through the course material they had! This is often given as a reason for putting learning material inside a learning management system - so you can see the student's use of the course.

Instead of workload quantity what should count is a student's
  • understanding of key principles and concepts
  • their ability to apply their knowledge and skills to real world problems
  • their ability to reflect on, share and transfer their knowledge and skills to others through writing, demonstrations and other media
How they got there is unimportant, as long as their way of learning worked for them.

Excessive workloads = stress and/or boredom which tends to course non-completion, which is a sad waste for the student who was originally motivated enough to enrol.

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  1. I totally agree with you about the things I want to see from students. The challenge for us as educators is how we assess those things. Any ideas?

  2. I think for people like Dzyanna, who are confident in self directing their learning, a course (prescribed readings and activities to assist people towards gaining independence in studying the subject) is not the ideal context for them. Having the opportunity to sit in on some of a courses events, or to browse the prescribed readings and activities like one does as a self directed learner is really all that is needed - so opening up our courses for this level of free and open engagement is our first step. But Dzyanna and Sarah are questioning the recognition and educational inflation. The observable trend of gatekeeping in education - that a qualification or a study level is your only way into a field. Of course the original intention of this sort of gatekeeping was to ensure quality, but perhaps at teh expense of diversity! But I reckon its through a process known as recognition of prior learning (RPL), that people with informal and self directed skills and knowledge can measure themselves up against that quality. As the RPL process matures, I hope we'll see a greater diversity of people gaining access to a field, and that the subject as a whole will benefit from having people who have taken more than one path of study. Certainly the prescribed path alone is not all that should be available to people. We have a lot to undo in the education system.