Otago Polytechnic

An appreciation for how different strategies contribute to learning is starting to increase autonomous learning beyond the classroom.

Students transitioning to tertiary study in New Zealand are often coming to terms with a new educational system which values independence of thought and personal responsibility for learning. For those who start with English for Academic Purposes courses, this is an opportunity for them also to learn these capabilities also to prepare them for further tertiary study.

Vera Nistor, a Senior Lecturer with the English department at our Auckland International Campus, has developed an experiential learning model for her students, for her own Master's study. Experiential learning is based on the concept of 'learning by doing', which incorporates reflection by students and facilitation by the teacher. The goal is to enable autonomous learning by students, with a model that they could personalise to best suit their learning needs in any given circumstances.

  • In the first phase of her research Vera conducted focus groups with former students. Students did not understand how different types of class tasks were using different learning strategies, so were unable to apply those strategies in subsequent courses.
  • Next Vera introduced current students more explicitly to the learning strategies they were using. In an anonymous survey afterwards the students showed they recalled and understood the strategies but were had not connected these into a learning model.
  • Thirdly Vera worked with a new cohort of students to develop a learning model as a class activity, eliciting from them the contribution which the different learning strategies they had been using would make to that model.

Vera's students later gave examples of how they used this model autonomously outside their English classes, such as at work, in their pastimes, and in subsequent study, demonstrating the universality of the learning process.


March 2021