Written by: Jen Friberg, SoTL Scholar-Mentor at Illinois State University
At the end of March, I had the good fortune to attend the SoTL Commons conference in Savannah, Georgia. The conference was full of all the things you hope to find at a SoTL gathering: good ideas, a sense of community, and an opportunity to reflect and learn. Kudos to Diana Sturgis and her team from Georgia Southern University for a wonderful experience. I look forward to going back in the future.
One of my favorite presentations at the conference was delivered by keynote speaker Dr. Sarah Leupen from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Her address (Beyond Navel Gazing: The Evidence Base for Employing Reflective and Metacognitive Practices in our Teaching) offered timely and useful advice for those wishing to engage their students as reflective learners. Specifically, Dr. Leupen suggested five strategies – supported by ample evidence — that we, as course instructors, could use in order to accomplish this task in a scholarly manner:
- Teach students what we actually know about learning. Leupen cited a host of evidence related to how people learn and strongly advocated for instructors to share this knowledge with their students so they might better understand their own learning processes – what works, what doesn’t, and what changes in practice could be effective to improve learning.
- Use learning wrappers to have students reflect on (and learn from) their past performance on various types of learning assessments. Having students identify what they did (process of studying and preparation) and if it worked (satisfaction with their learning/performance outcomes) can help students identify effective practices in preparing for assessments.
- Have students teach content to each other. Leupen cited research that suggests peer teaching/discussion is most effective in helping students engage in high-level activities (e.g., analysis, synthesis, and evaluation), as when students have to reason, reflect, and explain, they have better learning outcomes.
- Use team-based learning. Implementing the trifecta of individual thought, peer-to-peer communication/discussion, and instructor facilitation has been found to be impactful in the learning process for students, for much as students can teach each other (see #3 above), they can also be very effective teammates, solving problems and simultaneously reporting on what they have learned.
- Train students’ attention to task. Stating that “natural times for reflection are disappearing,” Leupen advocated for the need to teach targeted “meta-attention” strategies to students via contemplative reading and reflective journaling in an effort to create a purposeful and regular outlet for non-interrupted reflection.
Dr. Leupen’s excellent presentation can be downloaded in its entirety at the SoTL Commons proceedings site. Other presentations from the conference can be downloaded here. For a list of other, upcoming SoTL conferences, check the Cross Chair website.