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6.3 Making a self-assessment

The ability to self-assess your work is a critical skill for you to develop if you want to improve your performance. If you can assess your own work accurately and identify the gap between what is required and what you are producing, you are more likely to be able to close the gap. But making an accurate and honest self-assessment is not an easy skill to develop, even though it is crucial in learning how to learn. Some courses do ask you to self-assess your work and submit your comments as pa
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5.3 Monitoring your progress

Of all the components in the learning how to learn process, this is probably the most difficult. As you study, you need to make a conscious effort to monitor your progress while working on the course, always with the main task in view. This is where a flexible plan devised in the preparation phase can be revised, particularly if you meet a difficult patch. Knowing when help is needed and where to go for it is important, especially if you discover that your learning skills need improving. Sour
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5.1 Exploring

This is the phase when you will be studying your course material, using and developing your learning skills. The two activities of this phase are:

  • studying the materials
  • monitoring your progress.

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2.1 Introduction

In encouraging you to think explicitly about how you learn, as well as about what you learn, we are drawing on research about learning which has shown that this approach can actually improve your performance. Certainly it can and will make you a more efficient and effective learner. Before we start to explore the process, let us consider two general points about learning.

  1. There is no single method of learning that guarantees success. How
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1.2 What do we mean by learning how to learn?

Activity 1

This activity will help you to explore what we mean by learning how to learn.

Think back to an example of study you have done in the past, or any fairly structured learning opportunity you remember. Focus on a particular ac
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1.1 Examples

Each activity is followed by a discussion and examples of the responses of two students. Both students are studying Open University courses that will eventually count towards a degree. These are nine month distance learning courses.

Course material is delivered to students by post, email or online. Their assignments are submitted by post or email, marked either by a computer or a tutor, and returned. Open University students are provided with a tutor, regular tutorials and guidance on c
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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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Introduction

Learning how to learn is a process in which we all engage throughout our lives, although often we do not realise that we are, in fact, learning how to learn. Most of the time we concentrate on what we are learning rather than how we are learning it. In this unit, we aim to make the process of learning much more explicit by inviting you to apply the various ideas and activities to your own current or recent study as a way of increasing your awareness of your own learning.
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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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References

Entwistle, N. (1997) ‘Contrasting perspectives on learning’ in Marton, F., Hounsell, D. and Entwistle, N. (eds) The Experience of Learning: Implications for teaching and studying in Higher Education, Edinburgh, Scottish Academic Press Limited.
Marton, F. and R. Saljo (1997) ‘Approaches to learning’ in Marton, F., Hounsell, D. and Entwistle, N. (eds) The Experience of Learning: Implications for teachi
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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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5.1.3 Does the argument follow logically?

As I was making sense of paragraph 3, I did pause to consider whether it was logically possible to say that on average richer people are happier, yet getting richer has not made us happier. Later, when I read that women in the US were less happy since their incomes had come closer to men's, it occurred to me that they would be unlikely to volunteer to revert to previous levels of inequality. This made me question what happiness really means, if it is not necessarily a state that a person woul
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5.1 Critical questions

As well as making sense of what you read, you have to think about whether or not you are convinced by the arguments being presented. At degree level, you don't simply accept what you read – you read ‘critically’, weighing up the strengths and weaknesses of the case the author makes. This means asking another set of questions, such as the ones discussed here.


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4.4 Questioning what you read

Another way to keep your mind active while you read is to ask yourself questions about what you are reading.


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4.3 Does writing on a book seem wrong?

Obviously you have to take into account whether you own the text you are studying and, if so, whether you intend to keep it. Does it seem extravagant to write on a book and make it unfit for selling on? How important to you is selling it? Is it really a saving? If a book is important, why not assume you
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4.2 Notes in the margins

It is easy, with underlining or highlighting, to find that you have switched to autopilot without noticing. The process becomes too passive and you follow the flow of the text without asking enough questions. Writing comments or questions in the margins is a way to keep yourself more actively engaged.


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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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3.4 Time chunks

Apart from sheer speed, there is the question of how to parcel out your study time. With a two-page article you would assume a single study session, but a chapter of a book might be spread over several sessions, depending on the content and on your own time constraints.

This is a message from a stud
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3.3 Choosing a reading speed

As a student you cannot afford to read at just whatever speed comes naturally. If you are trying to keep abreast of a course, you have to push yourself. However, reading speeds range from a lightning skim through a whole book to intense concentration on a difficult paragraph. You need to become skilled at working at speeds right across the range. How quickly you need to read will depend on:

  • what you already know about the subject,

  • how
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3.2 Reading to learn

In order to learn you need to follow the argument as you read. With an important text, you should slow right down and take it bit by bit. Here is a student describing how he tackled a particularly challenging chapter:

This intensive kind of reading is at the opposite end of the scale
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