GP 12 Recognise the time it takes to learn

In essence

Good learning takes time and not only occurs in the classroom but also outside of class and the confines of a single semester. Students need time to understand and value how they learn so that they can construct their knowledge and develop their skills in ways that lead to deep learning. Students also need help to establish effective learning and time management strategies to manage their busy lives.

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What you can do

If you want students to learn in deep and transformative ways and work towards achieving significant new views or understandings, then it is essential to recognize that learning takes time.

Give students time to notice, make sense, make meaning, work with meaning and transform their learning.

To keep students motivated and not procrastinate, ensure the assignments are interesting, use a range of skills, provide clear instructions and use incentives and rewards for starting early.

Give students many opportunities to learn, apply and demonstrate their understanding in a range of ways, for example writing, debating, explaining, experimenting, creating and critiquing.

You can help students develop effective time and self management skills. For instance, use the following Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs):

  1. Productive Study-Time Logs
  2. Chain Notes.

What it looks like

The learning process can be understood as occurring in five stages (see below). It involves time on the part of the learner to fully engage in:

  1. Noticing
  2. Making sense
  3. Making meaning
  4. Working with meaning
  5. Transformative learning

(Moon, 1999).

Students continue to use effective time management and self-management abilities for their learning. A follow-up survey in a recent study showed that 2 years after an initial survey, participants had significantly increased both their use and perception of the usefulness of the self-management skills initially developed in the study (Gerhardt, 2007).

Myths busted

Perceived difficulty or time required to complete assignments does not appear to affect students’ tendencies to procrastinate. Even though personality factors play a part in individuals’ inclinations to procrastinate, recent research shows that teachers may be able to influence such tendencies by paying attention to the design of assignments (Ackerman & Gross, 2005).

How it is applied in teaching contexts

E-learning: To maximize learning time and ensure that students and staff spend as little time as possible managing the logistics of the environment, consideration need to be given to the types of learning activities used, the ways learning support can be embedded and the development of a communications protocol. Taking these issues in hand means that time for learners and teachers can be better spent focusing on learning outcomes. Read more Ley (2005).

Tutorials: Designing tutorials to help learners develop effective self-management abilities can be a useful investment for supporting their way to independent learning. This article describes and reviews the material used. The tutorials focus on self-assessment, goal setting, self-monitoring and self-regulation. Specific emphasis is placed helping students develop time management skills. Read more Gerhardt (2007).

Why is it important?

Learners need to be given time to think after hearing instructions or new information particularly if they are to engage in higher cognitive thinking (Tobin, 1987). They also need to be given many opportunities to apply their understanding in new ways in order to enhance their learning. Learners should be able to practice and perform what they have learnt in a range of ways that are appropriate to their discipline, such as writing, debating, explaining, experimenting, creating and critiquing (Gardner, 1999).

What is it and how does it support learning? What does recent research say?

Learning occurs in stages that commence with noticing and eventually move to transformation. Learning in the ‘noticing’ and ‘making sense’ stages of Moon’s (1999) model (see What it looks like) is likely to occur in the presence of the learning material and therefore will generally only involve surface learning outcomes of reproduction and assimilation. The integration and further consideration of meaning that characterizes learning in the last three stages comes about when learners reflect on or reason their new learning with what they already know or have experienced (Moon, 1999).

Deeper learning generally occurs and is more effective when it is not bound to the formal learning environment or physical space and is given space to emerge later. Transformative learning in particular is the result of learners’ persistent work towards enhancing understanding and is often accompanied by strong emotional responses or intellectual excitement (Moon, 1999).

When learners are given a number of opportunities over time to perform and practice what they understand in new ways, they are more likely to review and amend what they know as well as internalize abilities to self-assess and judge their own performance (Gardner, 1999).

Confidence in personal time management skills could be one factor contributing to student retention in first year (Goldfinch & Hughes, 2007). Recent research by Gerhardt (2007) provides a model for helping learners develop effective self-management skills, particularly for the short term where they must balance busy work and personal responsibilities with their study commitments and for the long term when they enter their professional careers.

Procrastination reduces learning time and affects academic performance but teachers may be able to influence such tendencies by paying attention to the design of assignments (Ackerman & Gross, 2005).