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A few wise words from our Education Panel Chairman, Frazer Macdonald Hay, Director of Big Stone Collective ltd.
Dear Undergraduate students & Post Graduate student,
The summer frolics [I know for most, it was a summer of hard work, saving living at home in order to return and survive another academic year]… Ok, the summer is almost over and I hope you’re returning with the energy and ambition to start a new year. Before you start however, I thought I would perhaps offer some helpful information with regards you, the learner. It is important to realise your strengths and weaknesses, to understand yourselves as learners and to understand that not everyone learns in the same way, speed or structure.
Take some time to read and reflect upon yourself and you characteristics from an academic perspective. If you felt frustrated or disillusioned last year or perhaps feel underappreciated then perhaps it’s because your learning style or learning approach hasn’t been met yet. Take time to understand yourself a little better. If you feel it’s appropriate discuss it with your tutor or tailor you activities with added confidence, in the knowledge that you are in control of you own specific learning approach. First though, understand what kind of learner you are.
Activists appreciate novelty, will ‘try anything once’. When given a task, you will throw yourself wholeheartedly into the work. You will like to get on with things but are not so interested planning what needs to be done or what you are about to do. You will most likely be living life very much in the present. The activist gets fed up with repetition and processes which appear to be going over old ground. Activists are stimulating, vital. open-minded and gregarious.
Reflectors like to ‘look before you leap’ you will like to collect information and sift through it. You are cautious, thorough learners. You will prefer to observe rather than take the lead. You might be slow to make up your mind but when you do, your decisions are very soundly based – not only bases on your own knowledge and opinions but also structured on what you have learnt from observing and listening to others. You might feel or appear quiet in groups, however this is more related to your ‘Olympian detachment’ rather than from any insecurities.
Theorists occupy the world of ideas, you might have tidy, organised minds. You’re not content until you got to the bottom of things and explained your observations in terms of fundamental principles. You need to know the logic behind actions and observations. You may dislike subjective, ambiguity and others which take actions which are not underpin by a logical or theoretical structure. If a tutor uses data to support their opinion, it is most likely, you, theorist learner, who will ask about the validity of the data.
Pragmatists, like the theorist learner is equally interested in ideas, but you want to try them out to see if they work. You are often less interested in actually developing the idea itself but will happily beg borrow or steal those you think will facilitate your actions more effectively. You will certainly enjoy experimentation but won’t be to interested in drawn out analysis of the results which would appeal to the ‘reflector type’ learners. You most likely take the opinion that if it works then it works, if it doesn’t work, then there seems no point in wasting precious time wondering why. You will probably spend the time looking for an alternative solution with more promising aspects and give that a go. You love solving Problems!!
Ok so just in case you feel that was easy and have already classified yourself one way or another – you may also be surprised to learn that your approach to learning can be measured too, and badged as an approach or process of a Serialist or Holist:
The Serialist’s approach to learning in a systematic and linear one, breaking down the task into bite size ‘sub-tasks’ combining them later to achieve the task’s main objective. You might work in a general pattern such as:
You might work systematically, one step at a time
Focus on particular aspects of the brief
Look at details and data evidence
You may filter images and data, as too many will frustrate and confuse your process
You may need to take ownership of your project rather than just accepting the explanation offered by others
You probably enjoy a tightly scheduled and rigorous teaching style
The Holist’s approach is in complete contrast to the above approach as you will work best tackling a task in its entirety, right from the very start of the brief. You might work in a general pattern of:
You may work impulsively according to mood, interest and inspiration
You may look at the whole picture first
Your focus will be on broader issues of context and programme
You will really enjoy images, precedents, theories and comments, ‘more the merrier’
You will then probably enjoy giving the evidence your own interpretations
In terms of teaching you will perhaps enjoy a more freer tutoring style
**Just remember you will need to embrace both approaches to successfully approach a design brief and deliver an appropriate and rich solution. Problem solving calls for a combination of both approaches so know your strengths and work on your weaknesses **
Finally there are three fundamental approaches to learning which are known as DEEP, SURFACE & STATEGIC, you most likely already have invested in some or all approaches from school or higher education. The approach criteria is something like this:
The Deep approach is all about you taking ownership of the task [Learning as Understanding] making your own sense of your learning and its outcomes. The other key aspect to deep learning is that you reflect on your learning and appreciate the personal changes its made and the academic journey taken [Learning as personal development]
The Surface approach is all about learn as a typical process or your traditional perception of education. Surface is often referred to as passive [sit back and absorb] a method of filling the learner as if like an empty vessel [Learning as getting more knowledge]. Another surface type learning approach is memorising the subject content, it’s a little more active and requires subject matter to be retained and understood.[Learning as memorising] Finally there is the aspect of learning which require an understanding of not just the facts given by the tutors but the methods and theories too[Learning as acquiring facts, procedures and skills]
The Strategic approach is all about achievement and is driven by higher grades based of feedback and criteria and weighting of material to be learnt. You approach learning intending to gain the highest possible grades, You will be focused of time and effort and making the most of these to their maximum effect. If you feel that this is the approach you most suit the chances are you are a mature student. You will already have a efficient, well-organised and manageable study method or two.
I hope the information in the text above is useful and goes a little way to making your academic years more enjoyable and productive. Good luck in the coming years and remember you will be taking your learning skills with you after higher education, it is probably good practice to work on those weaker aspects within your learning portfolio as you will require rounded, balanced and robust learning skills and methods in professional practice too….