Monday, November 26, 2012

Helping students differentiate surface from deep learning

One theme engaged in many posts here at ISW (particularly our discussions of how students study) is the contrast between deep and superficial learning. At Faculty Focus, Maryellen Weimer reports on a study done on test questions formats and higher-order thinking, and links to a nice table listing cognitively passive vs. cognitively active learning behaviors:

Cognitively passive learning behaviorsCognitively active learning behaviors
I previewed the reading before class.I asked myself: “How does it work?” and “Why does it work this way?”
I came to class.I drew my own flowcharts or diagrams.
I read the assigned text.I broke down complex processes step-by-step.
I reviewed my class notes.I wrote my own study questions.
I rewrote my notes.I reorganized the class information.
I made index cards.I compared and contrasted.
I highlighted the text.I fit all the facts into a bigger picture.
I looked up information.I tried to figure out the answer before looking it up.
I asked a classmate or tutor to explain the material to me.I closed my notes and tested how much I remembered.
I asked myself: “How are individual steps connected?” and “Why are they connected?”
I drew and labeled diagrams from memory and figured out missing pieces.
I asked myself: “How does this impact my life?” and “What does it tell me about my body?”
I used Bloom's taxonomy to write my own study questions
My guess is that many philosophy students, particularly those new to the discipline, mostly use learning strategies of the kind on the left side. And it would be useful to map this contrast onto learning philosophy. So to that end, I'd like to invite readers and commenters to make suggestions for what sorts of learning behaviors, study strategies, etc., are passive (lead to surface learning) and which are active (lead to deep learning), with philosophy in particular in mind:

Cognitively active                         Cognitively passive
(deep learning)                              (surface learning)

We could share such a list with our students as a way of helping them learn and study more effectively, thus serving as a supplement to Mike's ongoing effort at compiling philosophy study tips.

1 comment:

  1. One that came immediately to mind, though it's already on Mike's list in part, is: "I wrote down premises and conclusions to arguments in the text (in my own words) and asked myself whether they are valid and sound."

    Another: "I applied the philosophical views to current issues to determine what adherents of those views would say." I'm thinking in particular of applying ethical theories like various forms of utilitarianism and deontology to current moral problems, but this could be expanded to other philosophical views.

    And: "I set out my own views on the philosophical questions we're studying and compared/contrasted them to those of the philosophers we're reading." I feel like when I ask students to write down their own views to our main course questions before we even read the philosophers' views, it might help them to be more engaged with the latter.

    Those are my initial thoughts at the moment...


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