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Accepting challenges and evolving in deep understanding of a particular subject is believed to be the method to succeed. A student faces many challenges in higher education, so to become a proficient student it is important to be an active learner, think critically and commit to learn and understand the subjects deeply. In other words this is called deep learning. These three are some of the features that are linked together characterizing an effective learner. In this essay I will focus on how critical thinking, deep and active learning are vital in higher education and help to become an independent learner.
According to Barkley (2010), getting involved in learning is by being engaged in the activities such as exploring, analysing, reflecting, creating, communicating or actually using new ideas or experiences can be defined as active learning. In other words it means the mind is actively engaged. Students involved in active learning often organize their tasks, discuss, explain ideas and solve problems. It is often combined with cooperative or collaborative learning in which to accomplish the goal, the students work interactively in teams that encourage interdependence and individual responsibility (Barkley, 2010).
Jones (1993) asserts that the students gain a far better understanding of the information by actively getting involved in what task is given by the teachers. The terms experiential learning and learning by doing means the same as active learning which encourages student participation in class. One example of this is that the teachers, professors or instructors stop occasionally and asks questions to students while teaching and to clear out doubts, if any; by the students that show that they are attentive throughout the lecture which means being a part of active learning process.
Leonard (2002) suggests some strategies for a student to become an active learner and succeed in their goals and that is by organizing themselves in groups, discussing and researching information on specific topics given. For preparing their lectures they can summarise the passages in few words to help them think about what they read. Summarizing passages will help students save a lot of time in reading it later. Students can set out questions about one aspect of the subject for themselves, which will assist them to explore the subject, and answering those questions can help them to research in an organised and focused way. Planning out activities, organizing the work and making space to lay out their task and listing out all the key points for one aspect of study helps them in achieving good grades.
Another strategy for learning actively is time management. Managing time makes things easier for students as time is very crucial and can be done by dividing a project into small tasks, which means avoiding procrastination. A basic way of starting a strategy is making a list, starting with what can be done and working on it and having an overview of the course for a brief idea of it. Recognizing the student's limits, they can ask help from their friends, parents and teachers which leads to their own personal development, building their self-esteem and problem solving skills. They should focus on their long term goals and remind themselves of the benefits that can be expected out of it, since motivation leads to success. The student should also be confident to accept new and different challenges (Cottrell 2008).
Burns and Sinfield (2006) suggest that for being an active learner it's necessary for a student to keep a record of what has been learned and once the task is completed they should go through what they did. If any errors or mistakes found, should be corrected by evaluating their work and finding out what could have been improved in any other way and what have been achieved from their performance. All these strategies can be achieved only if it is set as a student's first priority.
Critical thinking is a part of active learning. Cottrell (2005) asserts that critical thinking is an imaginary or intellective activity, which is associated with using the mind. In addition to this she even states that critical thinking could be said as the reflective thinking allowing in looking and examining the concepts or ideas from different angles. Reflecting on the given tasks is helpful in higher education because it helps to rectify mistakes and guides in better learning. A wide range of skills and attitudes are involved in the complex process of critical thinking. It helps to make accurate decisions and more able to be reasonable on what to be trusted and where it is beneficial to be sceptical. Argument is a part of critical thinking which is considered to express a message accurately. Arguments make any information more relevant and reliable.
Similarly Judge, McCreery and Jones (2009) emphasize that critical thinking is questioning own self for better understanding. It increases ability to recognize a student's strengths and weaknesses and eventually representing the thought in a better form. Thinking critically helps in enhancement of the brain and helps in improving and making accurate judgements. Analytical thinking which also means critical thinking enables the students to be more effective in any state, figuring out the logic of the present situation.
Burbach (2004) states that large part of critical thinking is being open minded as it not only helps in solving problems in all possible ways but to accept an answer which is different from what was originally expected. It also helps thinking objectively which means to think from different point of views or others opinion to make a decision.
Critical thinkers are those who ask relevant questions, take statements and arguments in consideration and have the sense of curiosity to know and the ability to admit the necessity of understanding information. Someone who is interested in solving problems in various ways and can clearly describe the set of criteria for analyzing ideas and has the willingness to examine beliefs, points of view and assumptions and weighing them against the facts. Critical thinkers have the positive thinking and see critical thinking as a lifelong process of self assessment. They listen carefully to others and give feedback. They put aside judgement until all facts are considered and gathered and all the evidence to support their opinions and assumptions. This enables them to reject the incorrect or irrelevant information, looking at proofs and examining the problems closely. In short the critical thinker should have the proper sense of the attitude of engaging oneself in objective thinking (Payne and Whittaker, 1999).
Fryer (2012) offers the strategies of critical thinking for student stating that thinking critically validates a student's prior knowledge encouraging them to read for detail. Doing analytical research on specific task enables them to discuss, describe and predict and presenting the data could help them become more conscious. They should work more in groups to combine everyone's points of view to come up with a greater, newer idea and better conclusion. They also should elaborate all the information given, reasoning logically. They should reflect and evaluate on their learning with criticism to figure out their errors and mistakes and solving the problems. Last but not the least; they can demonstrate their knowledge digitally by creating portfolios.
A student needs understanding of detail in studies, information, skills and activities which is called deep learning. Deep learning comes in three categories, which are necessary in preparing students to achieve their goals. According to Leonard (2002)Content knowledge is the first part of deep learning which means the student should engage themselves deeply in studies and understand the importance of it. They should be able to relate the data's by organizing information. Taking notes too could be useful. They should learn relevant facts to a content area. Applying theories and facts they acquire and expand their knowledge (Leonard, 2002).
Deep learning activities require students to be able to use and do something worthy with the information that they have gained. This is a part of cognitive strategies. The strategies involve the commitment to systematic thought and analysis. They should think critically and should have the ability to solve complex problems. They are supposed to generate hypothesis. They should be able to recognize the data needed to solve it and apply tools and techniques to gather all the significant information. Evaluating, integrating and analysing critically lead them to be a deep learner. Communicating is also essential for deep learning as communicating with other, the students can figure out their opinion or point of view (Fryer, 2012).
The third category is learning behaviour in which the students must work in groups to identify, create solution and complete tasks. They should be completely prepared to meet new challenges. They should figure out what should be done and what they do. They should monitor their development towards their aims and have the faith to complete their tasks successfully (Leonard, 2002).
Beattie, Collins and McInnes (1997) suggest that deep learning is more important than surface learning in higher education. In surface learning information is simply memorised, whereas deep learning relates ideas and information from different sources. Surface learning does not require students to reflect on their learning and it focuses on unrelated parts of the tasks. Deep learning involves evidence and arguments to be presented by the students. Arguments support the evidence provided by the students and make it more reliable. Therefore deep learning is essential for a student.
For succeeding in higher education it is very necessary for being an independent learner and working very hard. Active learning is the first step that should be taken by the student. Being active can help them in evaluating their current levels of competence and confidence and develop specific skills and attitudes such as team work, action planning, problem-solving. Thinking critically enables a student to make the right choice in achieving their goals. It also helps a student to gain a better sense of him individually. It even creates awareness of what they need and for doing something unique. Critical thinking improves a positive, forward looking approach for them. Deep learning also helps to succeed in higher education by allowing students to understand deeply. It includes stimulation of their thoughts and exploring problems from various angles enabling them to make sense of what they learned.
In conclusion, evaluating by critical thinking, making decisions and connecting information, being independent and getting engaged in task will make one an active learner. Deep learning is also a part of active learning and critical thinking. It is beneficial because it helps finding information in detail (Payne and Whittaker, 1999). So I strongly believe these three features characterizing an independent learner will lead a student to success not only in higher education but also in future.