Student approaches to learning

Summary of Week 1 of Introduction to Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (FutureLearn – UNSW Sydney)

There are many theories on how students learn. The key theories and educational approaches that shape this course are:

  • Constructivism. The process where students learn by constructing knowledge and meaning from their experiences.
  • Student-centred learning is a basic principle of constructivism where the students’ needs and interests are the starting point. Students have an active role and responsibility for learning while teachers facilitate.
  • Deep, surface and strategic approaches. Students who adopt a deep approach to learning will seek to understand meaning, while students who adopt a surface approach see learning as coping with tasks in order to pass assessment. Strategic learners use both approaches to achieve their goals.
  • Experiential and work-integrated learning. Experiential learning is an ongoing process where experience is generated through our ongoing engagement with the world. It is one of the foundations of work-integrated learning programs, where theory and practical knowledge is intentionally integrated.
  • Reflective practice. There is no agreed definition, but one is deliberately thinking about action with a view to its improvement.
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