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Learning outcomes

The broad aim of this unit is to provide a framework for learning-based activities and reflective exercises. More specifically, it is designed to offer you the opportunity to:

  • think about and understand how you learn;

  • apply the ideas and activities in this unit to your own learning experiences;

  • learn how to become a reflective learner.


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Acknowledgements

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources for permission to reproduce material:

The following material is Proprietary, used under licence (see terms and conditions) This content is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence

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5.2 Thinking for yourself

These are the kinds of questions you need to ask in order to read critically. As a higher-level student, you don't read simply to ‘find out facts’. It is assumed that you will think for yourself and question what you read and hear. The ‘truth’ is taken to be uncertain, so you weigh up ideas and arguments as you read about them. According to Marton and Saljo (1997, p. 49) research shows that successful students read as if they are constantly asking themselves questions of the kind: ‘
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5.1.1 How much trust can I put in this text?

You would generally assume that any set texts for a are trustworthy. But when you find a text through your own research you need to run a few checks to assess the soundness of its content.

Who is the publisher?

If an article is from an academic journal, you can assume that its quality has been vetted by the journal's editors. Also if a book is published by a major academic publishing house, you would expect it to be ‘respectable’. And if it's a book from an academic ser
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4.1 Underlining and highlighting

To be able to make sense of what you are reading, you need to read actively. One method that can help is to use a pen.

Activity 2

Did you underline or highlight any words as you read the Layard article? If not, go back over the
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1 The experience of reading

The best way to develop your understanding of the reading process is to follow the principles of the Kolb learning cycle, by doing some reading and then reflecting on your experience. To this end, Activity 1 asks you to read an extract from an article by Richard Layard (2003) titled ‘The secrets of happiness’ which appeared in the New Statesman. To keep the task manageable I have reduced the article to half its original length and, for ease of reference, paragraph num
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Introduction

Reading is easy, isn't it?

On any ordinary day without even noticing, you read shop signs, newspaper headlines, TV listings, a magazine, or a chapter of a paperback. So why would a message like this one appear in an online student chat room in the early weeks of a course?

Clearly, readi
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Unit image

courtesy of For Inspiration Only at Flickr

1. Join the 200,000 students
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9 Putting it all together

We have covered a wide range of aspects of thinking, particularly those concerned with clear and critical thinking. At this stage, you may find it useful to consider how ideas like these can be put together in ways that will help you when you engage in activities such as reading, writing, speaking and listening. Here is a checklist to use when making judgements about things that you hear, see and experience.

  • Who is speaking or writing?

  • <
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8.2 Broadening perception

Particular perspectives and points of view underpin speaking and writing. Being successful at many academic tasks, including balanced argument, often requires us to be conscious of and to try to break away from our usual perspectives and ways of thinking, and to attend to things we might not normally notice. The challenge is often to be more open-minded and broad in our thinking, to consider more than one point of view in the way that the caffeine article did. It can be useful to have strateg
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8 Analysis, argument and critical thinking

In this section, we are going to look in detail at analysis and argument. Analytical thinking is a particular type of higher order thinking central to much academic activity. It is concerned with examining 'methodically and in detail the constitution or structure of something' (Oxford English Dictionary). This includes looking at variables, factors, and relationships between things, as well as examining ideas and problems, and detecting and analysing arguments. Many essay questions require ar
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7.5 Mind-maps

Mind-mapping can be a particularly powerful visual tool for shaping thought. The basic principle here is to note down the central topic or idea in the centre of a piece of paper and work outwards adding the points which flow from and connect to it. It is particularly helpful for seeing the different levels of thought discussed above. Figure
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7.3 Systematic approaches

Having a systematic step-by-step process for thinking about certain academic tasks can be particularly useful so that everything is done as efficiently as possible.

For example, the DANCE system (Rose and Nicholl, 1997) is one of many tools for solving problems.

  • D - Define and clarify what the problem really is (sometimes it is not initially clear). What are your goals?

  • A - Think of a range of alternative ways of solving the p
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7.2 Other ways of structuring thought

Distinguishing between generals and particulars can help you in reading, note taking and writing for your course. But, looking at things in a hierarchical general-particular way is only one approach to giving structure to ideas and information.

Activity 14

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5.5 Reflecting on what I have done differently — what was the effect?

We hope that the activities in this section have helped you to bring to mind what you have learned. But we also want you to think about whether you have done anything differently from what you might have tried before starting the unit. In other words, we want you to ask yourself whether the unit has given you the confidence, or some ideas that have encouraged you, to take a bit of a risk, or, as Section 4 puts it, to step outside your comfort zone.

Do not worry if you cannot say that yo
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5.2 What have I learned about my knowledge?

It is worth spending some time thinking back over what you have learned from the unit materials. The text and video have presented you with some challenging ideas and a wide range of perspectives. You have been asked to apply this to your own learning for change. As you look back over these, and at your responses to the activities, you will be reminded of the ground you have covered.

It may be helpful to think briefly about the perspectives that were the focus of each section:


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4.4 Setting yourself goals

At this point, you may be feeling that you are just not the sort of person who makes plans. You may think that devising plans sounds a bit mechanical, that your preference is to just go along with whatever life deals out. It can be good to take instant decisions and be ‘spontaneous’ and we would not want you to stop doing this, especially if you know, from your past experience, that this can add fun and enjoyment to your life. However, particularly for ‘big’ and important decisions it
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3.4.2 ‘Real world’ skills

Although we are describing these as a separate set of skills, we hope that you can see the value of these skills in supporting your learning, as well as being important for many other aspects of your life. In this unit we have been focusing on:

  • communication skills
  • problem-solving (decision-making) skills
  • organisational (self-management) skills.

The next activity is similar to the one you have just done, but here the focus is o
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3.3.1 Why it might be useful

The main similarity between using academic theory and getting feedback is that both can offer you a perspective that may be different from your own. We have already seen how additional perspectives can be valuable in rounding out the understanding that you have about yourself. One possible big advantage with academic theory is that this additional perspective can come from someone who has become recognised as an expert or authority. Drawing on theory opens up the possibility of building on th
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3.2.2 What problems might you have with getting feedback?

Only you can answer this. However, you might think that you will not find it easy to ask someone else to be a mentor and give you feedback about your own qualities, knowledge or skills. There may be all sorts of reasons for this. You might not feel that you know anyone that you would trust to give you feedback in a way in which you would find helpful. Acting as a feedback giver can put someone in such a powerful position that you might feel uncomfortable. You might feel that you do not know a
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