What Identifies Good Learning?

A summary of research done by Biggs and Tang (2011) show that good learning situations are distinguished by the following seven characteristics.

  1. The student has metacognitive control, and applies reflective learning
  2. The student spends time on relevant learner activities
  3. The student receives formative feedback
  4. The student has the appropriate motivation
  5. The student receives a base of interconnected knowledge
  6. The learning is social 
  7. The teaching is of high quality

In summary, it is important that the student is able to assess his og her own learning, by reflecting on their learning process in regards to the expected learning outcomes. Furthermore, relevant learning activities must be applied both within and outside the classroom. We remember more when the learning involves several senses. Feedback is important in both directions - from teacher to student, and from student to teacher. The learning from feedback is particularly good if the student dares to be wrong, and where these mistakes form the basis for working towards the learning goals.

The motivation of the students can be increased by helping the students make connections between the learning activities and the learning goals. It is also important to discuss suksess in a way that help the students see that they can actually reach them, as long as they make an effort. The knowledge base can be built together with the students, by allowing new knowledge to restructure the old, and helping the students see the connections within the course and with other relevant courses. Social learning includes giving the students opportunities to collaborate, and to discuss their different perspectives in order to explore an arena of reflection and challenge their own beliefs.

Finally, it is important to note how the lecturer structures his or her teaching. Two important factors are variation and tempo (Biggs and Tang, 2011). Do not let yourself be tempted to try the information overload approach (Skodvin 2006). As Gardner says: "The greatest enemy of understanding is coverage (Gardner 1993:24). Spend more time on the topics that are the most important for overview understanding, and make sure the students have understood a topic before moving on to the next. Create 'contracts' with your students to clarify what will be covered in the formal teaching activities, and what they will need to learn by themselves.

Biggs, J. and C. Tang (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university, McGraw-Hill International.

Gardner, H. (1993). "Educating for Understanding." American School Board Journal 180(7): 20-24.

Skodvin, A. (2006). "Mellom kateter og kaos." Forelesning i forskjellige varianter. I: Strømsø H, Lycke KH, Lauvås P, red. Når læring er det viktigste. Undervisning i høyere utdanning. Oslo: Cappelen Akademisk Forslag.

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