Who are my learners? Part 1

Part 1

Knowing the objectives of the educational system and the learners’ characteristics are the two most important prerequisites for building a suitable learning environment capable of allowing effective learning to take place. As an academic in the University sector teaching medical sciences to students, I believe I understand the first prerequisite (the objectives of the educational system), which is, in my opinion, helping students to become competent, compassionate and ethical medical professionals. This goal cannot be met unless the students become self-directed deeply reflective lifelong learners (SDDRLLs) capable of higher-order thinking and problem solving. To achieve this goal an inclusive learning environment is needed. Moreover, students need to be invited to love the challenges of their field of study. The environment must also encourage student participation, reduce barriers and promote the desire to critically think and deeply reflect. All this must be made in a professional manner and in accordance with the learning needs and preferences of the students. Thus, I need to learn about my learners, and design an environment fit to their needs and preferences. Moreover, since the learners’ backgrounds is part of the learning  environment I found myself working to modulate it. This was emphasized by my father, a retired public health administrator, who always told me you cannot expect effective learning from someone failing to adhere to a healthy lifestyle. That is, his emphasis was on “healthy eating and sleeping” as the most important prerequisite for learning (i.e., without a healthy mind, which requires enough nutrients and sleep, one cannot expect the desired learning outcomes). Therefore, I now believe that the students’ lifestyles are part of the learning environment that I need to positively influence. Below a photo with few of my students after a workshop on this topic I organized for them.

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With few of my students after a workshop related to healthy lifestyles

The characteristics of my students become one of my interests, and also one of my duties. Therefore, I did two things, the first was easy and straight forward, which I will summarize below, and the second is more complex and eye-opening. Initially, I used the Felder-Soloman questionnaire to investigate the learners’ learning styles (1). The Felder-Soloman questionnaire results are depicted in (Table 1) below.

Table 1: Frequencies of students’ learning styles

Learning Style (%)

Reflective

Intuitive

Verbal

Global

48%

35.2%

16.6%

24.1%

Next, I designed and carried a survey to capture the learners’ characteristics. The survey attempted to capture information related to age, goals, motivations, family educational background, lifestyle, English language capabilities, digital capabilities, socio-economical status, culture, prior knowledge, and habits. The findings of this survey need a whole post that I will endeavor to post tomorrow.

Reference:

  1. Felder, R.M. & Soloman, B.A., Index of learning styles. Online version of the questionnaire, available at North Carolina State University https://www.webtools.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/ 

 

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