Various theories of learning

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From the various theories of learning it is evidenced that these theories do often contradict each other. The evidence for the statement above can be found in the report by Reece (2000, p.69) who states "that for every piece of research that tells us to do something a particular way, there is another piece that suggests, not necessarily the opposite, but a different way".

In this part I briefly focus on some hypotheses on learning styles and learning taxonomies that I took in consideration as teaching methods relevant to the students of the Science Foundation Year. The teaching and learning strategy requires an understanding of the diverse academic backgrounds of the students. The majority of students have not performed well at A-level or have not studied chemistry at A-level and so require a refresher of the basic principles of chemistry together with opportunities for stretching the more able students. The teaching was delivered in two-hour blocks comprising a one hour lecture and a one hour workshop.

All of us learn in different ways and I found through reading teaching literature that there are different learning methods which are not truly concerned with "what" students learn, but rather "how" they favour to learn (Stewart and Felicetti 1992).

During the delivery of the curriculum to the Science Foundation group I have considered the four main learning styles that are identified by Peter Honey and Alan Mumford (1986) who have developed the Experimental Learning Theory which is composed of three components:

Knowledge of concepts, facts, information, and experience;

Prior knowledge

Reflection with analysis and assessment of learners.

The four learning styles are:-

Activists - these enjoy learning through actions and when they are involved in something challenging (e.g. practical work)

Reflectors - these prefer to contribute only after the conclusion of general points of view of others and also prefer to think about these points of view and find out all aspects before coming to conclusion that they are the correct.

Theorists - these prefer ideas which have been successfully tested and proven and so are logical observers and prefer to learn using theories.

Pragmatists - these prefer to test theories and learn through experimentation.

Through my experience in teaching chemistry to the Science Foundation class I have found that most of the students are Reflectors, with some being Activists through working in competitive teamwork situations.

The difference in the amount of knowledge about chemistry between the students has an effect on the level of understanding of the subject as a whole. To solve this problem I chose to carry out an interactive lecture as a teaching method to encourage them to be more engaging in the lecture particularly as I mentioned before and this was through

Asking them questions during the lecture and giving them feedback based on their answer

Constantly observing the behaviour of the students to make sure that they are listening and not disturbing others.

Having open discussion about the topic of lecture

Asking them if they have any prior knowledge about the topic of the lecture before I start to teach.

The use of pictures and animation in a PowerPoint presentation to attract their attention and to encourage them to be more interested in the topic of lecture.

A big challenge for me was that some of the students that were attending the lectures had very little knowledge about the basics of chemistry that have been taught at GCSE level and so were unable to understand a significant part of the lecture. This was a challenge for me as I could not teach them the basics of chemistry during the lecture and the actual contents of the lecture simultaneously. I however briefly refreshed some of the basics during the lecture and encouraged them to attend the tutorials or stay after the lecture so that I can teach them some of the basics of chemistry that they need to know to understand the contents of the module. Some of them accepted this offer but not all of them had the desire to attend the tutorials or to stay after the lecture.

Learning can also be split into three main domains: psychomotor, cognitive and effective domains. In each domain specific stages are recognized by Honey and Mumford, Bloom and Kolb and others.

In the process of learning the three domains could be considered but the one that is largely related to Science Foundation Year students is Bloom's taxonomy of the cognitive domain.

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Bloom's taxonomy

The definition of Bloom involves the following areas:-

"Knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation"

Knowledge is the aptitude of a person to be able to remember and recognise the information. Child supposed that someone could not operate cognitively without a basic amount of knowledge (Child 1993).

Each lecture consists of a PowerPoint presentation followed by a workshop including worksheets. During my teaching I have observed that the students of Science Foundation Year have little or no prior knowledge of each topic.

Comprehension is the ability of the students to explain or illustrate the reason of why something happens in a certain way.

Not all the students have the same level of comprehension and the majority of them need help and support to describe or explain the reason of why something happens in a certain way like the reason different types of chemical bonds occur. This can be solved by encouraging them to ask any outstanding questions they may have at any point during the presentation then open up a discussion to the whole group.

Application in general is the ability to take the knowledge and the comprehension of things and to use it in new scenarios, e.g. the application of rules of nomenclature of organic compounds.

The majority of the students of the Science Foundation Year need support by showing them a lot of examples explaining how knowledge, rules and formulas are applied in these cases in order for the students to be able to apply the rules by themselves.

Analysis, synthesis and evaluation are achieved by some of the students in some topics during the lectures and some of them in tutorials.

During my teaching the students of science foundation year I gave the same learning opportunities to all students of all the different backgrounds and their diversity regardless of their gender, ethnicity, religion, age and cultures.

I think the curriculum was achieved and meet the needs of all the students and the teaching was inclusive.

Technology Enhanced learning

Nowadays computer applications have become one of the most effective tools to teaching. Such computer applications include word processors (e.g. Microsoft Office Word, OpenOffice Impress), presentation software (e.g. Microsoft Office PowerPoint, OpenOffice Impress), spreadsheet software (e.g. Microsoft Office Excel, OpenOffice Calc), Virtual Learning Environments (e.g. Blackboard, Moodle) and E-Mail.

In general, word processors are used to write assignments, worksheets, letters, etc. For the purposes of teaching and learning, word processors are used by students to write their assignments in an electronic form, while they are used by teachers to prepare worksheets or handouts to the students that would aid their learning.

Presentation software is the modern alternative to using a whiteboard or blackboard, since through the use of a computer it can be in general used to display any type of media (i.e. text, image, animation, and video). For the purposes of teaching chemistry, I can easily plan the content of the presentation ahead and position the various media mentioned above in any position that might attract the student's attention. All the content is written on slides in the presentation software, and so the content shown on the screen can easily be changed through advancing the slide. This has an advantage towards whiteboards that it saves time, since erasing and writing information is not necessary in this case. Since my subject is chemistry, which is a dynamic subject, without the inclusion of animation, aside from an occasional practical demonstration learning chemistry lectures would be static. Through the feedback I have received from the students of the Science Foundation Year it is clear that student favour organisation of content and clear guidance, I therefore will include animations and videos in the presentation slides in the future to for example show how chemical reactions happen at the molecular level. This can be achieved by for example combining molecular modelling software (e.g. ChemWindows) with presentation software through exporting a model created with the molecular modelling software and importing it into the presentation software. Ready-made animations can be found on the internet and be included in the presentation slides as pictures (animated gif files).

Learning outcomes

Adam defines learning outcomes as an achievement of the learner as follows:-

"Learning outcomes are concerned with the achievements of the learner rather than the intentions of the teacher (expressed in the aims of a module or course). They can take many forms and can be broad or narrow in nature" (Adam, 2004).

Other clear definitions of learning outcomes:-

"A learning outcome is a written statement of what the successful student/learner is expected to be able to do at the end of the module/course unit, or qualification". (Adam, 2004)

"Learning Outcome: the acquisition of the knowledge, skill or understanding that is the desired outcome of a learning process" (UMIST 2001)

But Adam and Moon distinguish aims from learning outcomes:-

Adam (2004) notes that "Aims are concerned with teaching and the teacher's intentions whilst learning outcomes are concerned with learning' and Moon (2002) suggests that one way to distinguish aims from learning outcomes is that aims indicate the general content, direction and intentions behind the module from the designer/teacher viewpoint".

According the above definitions, the learning outcomes of module CHEMISTRY 1 involves the ability of the students of the science foundation to:-

Understand the subject / gain the knowledge about the subject.

After the successful completion of the module the students are able to demonstrate an understanding of some of the basic concepts of general and organic chemistry.

Obtain their subject specific skills such as identification and description of organic molecules using organic nomenclature methods and achieve the skills of being able to carry out basic calculations like chemical concentrations, reaction masses, atomic masses and moles.

Develop their personal skills and that involves logical thinking and suitable numerical skills.

Aim of this module

The aim of this module (CHEMISTRY 1) is to support the students of Science Foundation Year of gaining the basic knowledge of general chemistry such as Elements, Compounds and mixtures, Atomic structure, chemical equations which would also lead to more advanced aspects of chemical bonding and organic chemistry.

Strategy and methods for assessment

Educational assessment is a procedure of documenting measurable terms in an individual learner or a whole learning community, such as knowledge, skills attitudes and beliefs, it is a way of monitoring progression of student's achievements. Learning community include workshops, classes, online classes, etc). Assessment mainly concerns with making informed judgements about student's achievements and progress based on a strategy or method, there are therefore different types of assessments. The four types of assessment are: Formative, Summative, Diagnostic and Evaluative assessment, from which the most common types of them are formative and summative assessment.

A teacher practicing formative assessment makes a judgement about a student's achievement in such a way that a student is made confident enough to progress and take the next step in learning. The students would receive comments on what improvements should be made to their learning methods, attitude, behaviour, etc. Formative assessment in the form of an activity can also be made, to provide evidence of assessment as can a discussion between a teacher and its students about their progress of learning. In teaching the Science Foundation class I have provided the students with worksheets in tutorials and in workshop after the lectures and give them feedback.

In addition to that I gave feedback to the students during the lectures after their answers about the questions that I have asked them in my lectures section (test your understanding) this part I reused after my teaching part that I found difficult for the students and they need more applications questions after the delivery of the knowledge. After each lecture I gave a workshop for one hour, where I had been giving them a worksheet containing problems and questions related to the topic of the lecture, gave the students time to solve them and gave them individual formative feedback.

I had been weekly giving tutorials about different topics that are related to the latest lecture or to any of the previous lectures I gave to the class. In the tutorials I gave the students worksheets, handouts and periodic tables as well as talked to them individually giving them the opportunity to ask for any help or support for any questions they are not able to solve by themselves on the worksheet, which I explained through the use of the white board to demonstrate how to solve these types of problems the students find difficult. I have observed that such tutorials enhanced the ability of the students to think critically and to solve the problems and by receiving formative feedback the students became more confident and independent.

I also have asked them to give me some feedback about teaching methods they feel the most comfortable with and are learning at the fastest rate, to be able to enhance the teaching at lectures and tutorials.

Summative feedback

The summative feedback involved three exams that are held at the end of each semester as follows:-

One in -class test in week 1-6 (15%) 50 min (closed book)

One in -class test in week 7-10 (15%) 50 min (closed book)

One 1.5 hr closed book (70%)

References

George Brown & Madeleine Atkins. (1991). Effective Teaching in Higher Education. London: Routledge.

John Earwaker. (1989). Student Support and the Role of Tutoring. Sheffield: Sheffield City Polytechnic

Evaluation of Student Progression and Achievement

When I and Professor Heron gave lectures I received feedback about our qualities of teaching, (i.e. teaching methods, organisation of content, stimulating sessions, appropriate teaching methods, responsive lecturer/tutor, helpful assessment, clear guidance, adequate support facilities and worthwhile overall). From the students that were present in the lectures through a survey I gave to the students. The results are outlined below in the graphs. From the results shown below in the graphs, it is clear that overall 89% of the students who took the survey either strongly agree or agree with each quality that was assessed and so are overall happy with our teaching.

Student A

Phill Race 2007 The lecture's toolkit.

Science Foundation Year - Chemistry 1/Test 2 (15%) 2009/10

Comments

Individual marks are listed in the table below against your UB number.

There is a wide range of marks:

12 students scored 80% or above

19 students scored between 60 and 79%

17 students scored between 40 and 59%

23 students scored under 40%

References

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