The importance of learning strategies and how the project ... ?· The importance of learning strategies…

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  • European Journal of Science and Mathematics Education Vol. 1, No. 3, 2013 137

    The importance of learning strategies and how the project Kolumbus-Kids promotes them successfully Dr.ClaasWegner1,LeaMinnaert2andFriederikeStrehlke31DepartmentforDidacticsofBiology,BielefeldUniversity,Bielefeld,Germany2DepartmentforDidacticsofBiology,BielefeldUniversity,Bielefeld,Germany3DepartmentforDidacticsofBiology,BielefeldUniversity,Bielefeld,GermanyForcorrespondence:Friederike.Strehlke@UniversittBielefeld.de

    Abstract : Ineducationsystemslearnersareexpectedtopossessanincreaseddegreeofautonomyandshowinitiativeinlearningprocesses, inspecting learningmaterials andunderstanding contents.An efficient growth of knowledge inside andoutsideofschoolisonlypossibleifstudentshaveskillswhichinitiate,guideandcontrolthesearchforinformationandlateron itsprocessingandstorage. In learningand teachingresearch these techniquesarecalled learningstrategies.They are necessary for students to use in order to foster their application of results in education. Since 2006, theBielefeldUniversity project KolumbusKids has been promoting scientifically gifted learners by inviting selectedstudentsofregionalschoolstoparticipateininterestingsessionsdealingwithbiologicalproblemsandphenomenaatuniversity. The sessions are designed and held by university students. So far, this project is a unique concept inGermanyintermsofBiologyDidacticsaimingatanadequatesupportofstudentsgiftedinnaturalsciences.Duringthesessions,wenoticed thatmany studentsarenotable touse learning strategies successfullyas theyhadnot learnedthem in school. The paper at hand intends to provide the readerwith a brief overview of the project and the sixdifferenttypesoflearningstrategiesdefinedbyMandlandFriedrich(cf.Mandl&Friedrich2006).Itshowshowourproject supports the students learning strategies and also presents some inspiration for applications indaytodayscience teaching.Fosteringand improvingyour students learning strategies is important for them inorder to learnsuccessfully. Keywords: LearningStrategies,KolumbusKidsproject,teachingtechnique,efficientlearning,tipsforregularschoolteaching

    Introduction Inmoderneducationsystemslearnersareexpectedtopossessanincreaseddegreeofautonomyandshow initiative in learningprocesses, inspecting learningmaterialsandunderstandingcontents.Anefficientgrowthofknowledge inside andoutsideof school isonlypossible if studentshave skillswhichinitiate,guideandcontrolthesearchforinformationandlateronitsprocessingandstorage.Inlearning and teaching research those techniques are called learning strategies. Since 2006, theBielefeldUniversityproject KolumbusKidshasbeenpromotinggiftedchildrenbetweenagesnineto twelve,whereas learnersaged fifteen tonineteenare tutored in theprogram KolumbusYouth.Selected studentsof regional schools are invited toparticipate in interesting sessionsdealingwithbiologicalproblems andphenomena atuniversity.Theprojects sessions aremainlydesigned andheldbyuniversitystudentsplanningtobecometeachers.Theyarealsosupportedbyacademicstaffof theDepartment forDidactics of Biology. Thismeans that the students get the opportunity toimprove competences important for their future career as a teacher, for example designing andrealizing teachingunitsor identifyinganddealingwithdifferentstudentpersonalities. So far, thisprojectisauniqueconceptinGermanyintermsofBiologyDidacticsaimingatanadequatesupportofthegiftedregardingnaturalsciences. Inthesessionswenoticedmostofthechildrendonothaveanyefficient learningstrategiessince theyhavenot learned them inschool.This iswhy theprojectusescertain teachingmethods inorder tooffer theparticipantsaidandguidanceon learning those

  • 138 European Journal of Science and Mathematics Education Vol. 1, No. 3, 2013

    strategies,promotetheindividualsalreadyestablishedlearningstrategiesandtheircreationofnewknowledge. For further information please visit the projects homepagewww.KolumbusKids.de (cf.Borgmann&Wegner2011,8081;Wegner&Minnaert2012,20). Currentpsychologicalandpedagogical research focuseson students learningprocesses ingeneraland also on which learning strategies students should be introduced to enable effective andautonomouslearning.Thetermlearningstrategiesdoesnotdescribeoneuniform,scientificconcept.Itrathersummarizesvariousconceptsofdifferentresearchgroups.WhereasMandlandFriedrichseelearningstrategiesassequencesofactiontoreachalearninggoal,Lompscherdescribesthemasthefollowing: learningstrategiesareprocedureswhicharemoreor lesscomplex,differentlyadvanced,intentionallyorunconsciouslyusedtorealizelearninggoalsandtocopewithlearningrequirements(cf. Mandl & Friedrich 1992, 6; Lompscher 1996, 2).Weinstein and Mayer understand learningstrategiesas internalandexternalactions influencing the learnersmotivation,attentionaswellasselectionandprocessingofinformation(cf.Weinstein&Mayer1986,1).ThisarticlewilluseMandlsandFriedrichsdefinitionthatlearningstrategiesaretargetedprocesseswhicharefirstappliedintentionallyandthengraduallyautomated.Thisisthebasisforthearticlespresentationoflearningstrategieswhichwillbestructuredintothefollowingsixtypes,alsodefinedbyMandlandFriedrich(cf.Mandl&Friedrich2006):

    Cooperationstrategies Elaborationstrategies Motivationalandemotionalstrategies Revisionstrategies Organizationalstrategies Controlstrategies

    Thisarticleintendstoprovidethereaderwithabriefoverviewoftheprojectandsixdifferenttypesoflearning strategies. It shows how our project supports the students learning strategies and alsopresentssome inspiration forapplications indaytodayscience teaching.Generally, theconceptoflearningstrategiesisveryimportant.Moreteachersneedtobeawareofitandshouldimprovetheirstudentslearningstrategiesaswellastohelpthemlearnlearningstrategiesinthefirstplace.Cooperation Strategies Intodayssociety,learningisacooperativeprocesswhichincludessocialinteraction.Alreadyin1977,Tough carriedout first examinations toprove thepositive effect of cooperativeworking on smallchildrens learning success to show that children can learn and increase their knowledgewithoutteachers (cf. Tough 1977, 35). Cooperative learning means that students support each other inworkingtoreachacommonresult.Thishappensinpairorgroupwork.Asabasicrequirementforsuccessful learning insuchenvironments,certainconditionshave tobe fulfilled.Oneof them is tocreate a pleasant learning environment. Therefore, the teaching organization should ensure thatspatialand temporalconditionssupportthestudentscooperation.Thetaskassignmentshavetofitpairorgroupworksothatchildrenareenabledtousecooperativeskills,suchasconversationalskills,decisionmaking,communicationandconflictmanagement.Theteachershouldnotleavethestudentsalone,butratherfunctionasalearningaidbycreatingatutoriallearningenvironment.Theworkinggroupssizeisalsoessentialforcooperativelearningsincetheyshouldnothavemorethanthreetofourmembers.A heterogeneous group composition isuseful since strong andweak students cansupport each other cooperatively.Active participation in groupwork has a positive effect on theamountof remembered items.Nevertheless,groupworkdoesnotnecessarily imply thatallgroupmembershavetocooperatewitheachother(cf.Huber2006,261263).Thereisalwaystheriskofvery

  • European Journal of Science and Mathematics Education Vol. 1, No. 3, 2013 139

    goodorrathersilentandweakstudentsbeingexploitedbyothers,whichshouldbemonitoredbytheteachersurveyingthegroupwork.Cooperativelearningisusefulforallkindsofstudents.Forexample,silentstudentswhooftentaketheoutsiderposition in class and childrenwith attentiondeficitorhyperactivitydisorders canbeintegrated into the learning group more easily. Through this method, they are enabled to joinconversations anddiscussionswith their classmembers.The teacher canmake use ofpopular orgifted students by putting them into a groupwithweaker students. For teachers such learningsituationsareidealbecausetheycanhandovertheresponsibilityforlearningtotheirstudents.Inthisway, the students can alsobe trained concerning their social skills and their team spirit.StudentsparticipatingintheKolumbusKidsprojecthavethechancetomeetandexchangeexperienceswithpeershavingthesamestageofcognitivedevelopmentandthesameinterestinnaturalsciences.Within theprojectKolumbusKids, the students have towork on experiments in small groups ofaround fourpeopleeverysession.Forexample, thestudentshave to findouthowantsareable tofollow the trails laid down by other individuals from their nest to a food source. For doing so,however,thestudentsdonotgetacompletedescriptionofanexperiment,butamerelistofmaterialtheycanuse.The studentsnowhave todevelopadesign foranexperimentwithin theirgroup inordertosolvetheirquestions,discussingflawsandproblemsthatmightcomewithcertainideas.Thistriggersthedevelopmentofthelearnerssocialskills,astheylearnthatachievingagoalasagroupismucheasierandcanalsobemore fun thanworking individually.Besides, thechildrensdegreeofautonomyfromtheteacheris increasedwhentheyworkcollaborativelyontasks.Whiletheteacheronlyinterferesifneeded,thechildrenareveryactiveinthesessionsandresponsiblefortheirresults.The KolumbusKids teachers noticed that through group work the children understand newinformationbetterandareabletokeepitinmindlongerthanthroughteachercenteredinstruction.Therearevarious teachingmethods forcooperative learning, suchas the jigsawpuzzle.Generally,studentshavetobetrainedoncollaborativeactivitiesinclassandinitialfailuresarenormal.Also,alearning group has to have certain social abilities to practice such learning forms, otherwisepreliminaryexerciseshave tobedone. In the long run, theclassroomclimatewillbe improvedbysocialcooperationandexcessivedemandscanbeprevented. Elaboration Strategies What is problematic about all learning and knowledgegaining processes is integrating newknowledgeintoanexisting,cognitivestructure(cf.Friedrich&Mandl2006,2).Elaborativetechniquesencourage both the understanding and remembering of new knowledge since they create linksbetween new information and the already existing stock of knowledge.Generally, they are usedwhenstudents inventanalogiesandmnemonics for facts thathave tobe learned, linknew ideas totheirpreviousknowledgeorexpressnew information in theirownwords (cf.SchrderNaef2002,44).Thosetechniquessupportlearningthroughunderstanding.Mnemonicdeviceshelpmemorizingand remembering unstructured material, such as vocabulary or word lists as well as complexcorrelations,which isof special importance forgifted learners andunderachievers. In KolumbusKids sessions, the course members are allowed and encouraged to invent and use individualmnemonic aids and sentences of remembrance from their own perspectives.We experienced thatlearningvia rhymesand images isboth fun formanyof the studentsanduseful for rememberinginformation.Wealsopromotetrainingthesestrategiesbyexposingourstudentstosynthesisexercisesand to thosewhich require using already stored knowledge. These are, for example, proceduresactivating previous knowledge such as brainstorming, finding analogies, utilizing notes andmnemonicdevices.Fromsuchstartingpoints,thelessonsthenleadovertonewinformation,suchasunknownfeaturesofprocessesthestudentshavealreadyknownbefore.Theteachersalsoinstructthestudentsonhow toorganizetheirexercisebooks inastructuredway.Besides, teacherscanexplain

  • 140 European Journal of Science and Mathematics Education Vol. 1, No. 3, 2013

    complex facts,activatepreviousknowledgeanddrawanalogiesbycreatingvivid images from thestudentsenvironment.Anotherpossibilityistointroducememorytrainingtechniquesasmnemonicsentencesintoyourlessons.

    Motivational and Emotional Strategies Thelearnersmotivationismostlyregardedasacentralconditionforsuccessfullearning.However,other factors like intelligence, previous knowledge and interest play an important role as well.Rheinbergdescribesmotivationasanactivatingorientation toa target statuswhich is regardedaspositive.Hestatesthatthestrengthofthisorientationinfluencestheactionsdurationandintensity.Inaschoolcontextthismeansthattheextentsoflearningmotivationaffectswhetherastudentlearnsat all and if so, forhow long (cf.Rheinberg 2000, 15).Furthermore, there is adistinctionbetweenintrinsicandextrinsicmotivation.Actionswhichareintrinsicallymotivatedareespeciallyinteresting,excitingorchallengingforlearnersandshowpositiveaspectsofexperience.Incontrast,extrinsicallymotivatedactionshaveaninstrumentalfunctionastheyareusedtoreachpositiveconsequences,forinstancepraiseoftheparentsorgoodgrades(cf.Rheinberg2000,60).The promotion of learners individual and thematic interests has become an importantmatter incurrentresearch.Students likegifted learnersorunderachieversaswellasstudentswithautismorborderlinedisordersprofitfrommotivationalandemotionallearningstrategies.Incontrasttootherlearningstrategiesmentionedinthistext,particularexamplesofapplicationcannotbepresentedbutratherapproacheswhich shouldbeconsidered in certain situations.Adeclaredobjectiveof schoolteaching is to raise the students interest for subject matters. One way of raising interest is toimplementthesesubjectmattersintolessonsasappealing,variedandentertainingaspossibleandtopresent unexpected questions and contents (cf. Schiefele & Streblow 2006, 238/239). As mainprerequisites the need for competence, selfdetermination and social integration are mentionedfrequently.Thegoalofpromotingintrinsicmotivationandsubjectrelatedinterestistocreatepositiveexperienceduring learningand to increase the learnerspersonalsignificanceof learningobjectives(cf.Schiefele&Streblow2006,239).Aschildrenneedtobemotivatedinordertoworkonchallengingtasksandphenomenasuccessfully,theKolumbusKidssessionsaredesignedsothattheymotivateourparticipantsandgivethemahighlevelofautonomy.Theactivityandproblemorientedlessonsofferthemspaceto liveouttheir interestsandtalentsregardingnaturalsciences.Alsothechoiceofmethods is to support the childrens motivation, such as watching short film clips, conductingbiologicalexperimentsandworkingpracticallyinthelaboratoryoroutsideinnatureoneverydaylifeproblemsandphenomena. We learned fromexperience thathandlinganimalsduring theproject ishighlymotivating for children.Theparticipants benefit from observing living objects, such as theprojects seawater facilitywhich enables children to explore themarinehabitatand its residentialanimals.During the course of theproject, the students elaboratehypotheses on the animals foodingestions, movements and behavioural characteristics. These are then verified via rulebasedobservationsandsmallmarinebiologicalexperiments.Ithastobeacknowledgedthatregularschoolsarenotable topossessasgreatadiversityofanimals,but studygroups canalsobemotivatedbyworkingwith tadpoles, tortoisesandpondmussels.Also teacherscan invitestudents tobring theirowndomesticanimals toschool inorder to functionasobservationsubjects inbiology lessonsandincreasethelearnersmotivation.Inadditiontothat,thelearnersmotivationisraisedbytheselectionoftopicsthatmeettheirlevelsofknowledgeandabilities,asthisfulfilstheirneedtofeelcompetent.Inorder todoso,our teachersconductkn...

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