Quinebaug Valley Community College
Danielson, CT

Learning Strategies Projects

The Learning Strategies projects shared here represent a sample of efforts carried out by students in anthropology and sociology courses taught at QVCC by Brian Donohue-Lynch. As such they are semester projects developed by individual students out of their personal/professional interests in relation to the focus of each class.

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Learning Strategies

Each of us knows already in so many ways, how to learn what we want or need to know. Even very young children develop their own strategies to find out what they need to learn in order to have fun, to develop skills and hobbies, to "succeed" in a variety of social settings each day. As we mature in our social roles and responsibilities, we continue to find our own strategies to make our way through--in school, at work, in relationships, in personal development, and more.

The projects reflected here are the result of asking students in a variety of sociology and anthropology classes to practice paying deliberate attention to their own learning strategies in relation to the course(s) at hand. Their initial assignment is given early in the semester, and they are asked to take a series of steps over the course of the semester, to think "widely and wildly" about their future learning strategies once they have completed a particular course.

The Project Assignment

For these assignments, students are asked to look at the topics, issues and concerns of a particular course, and then through private as well as class discussion to identify one topic that might be an ongoing interest once the given course is over. This topic might be something that is practically relevant to one's work, family life or professional development, or it might simply be a personal interest. Once each person has surfaced this for her/himself, each is then to consider strategies one could continue to use in the future to learn about this topic.

For this project, "strategies" are just about anything one might do to continue to learn about a topic, issue or concern. As such, they are not to be presented as one-time steps, such as "I will read a book about ________." Instead they are to be thought of as processes, to identify and use the ongoing resources and experiences one can rely on effectively for continued learning. Some of these may be more obvious and tried, such as identifying periodicals that regularly deal with the issue (s) a student might have chosen; staying in touch with these periodicals would then be an effective learning strategy. Other strategies may be "off the beaten path," and are limited only by the student's imagination. Students in fact are encouraged to "think widely and wildly" about strategies--to think about them "in the best of all possible worlds, if you had unlimited time and resources." In this way, students are asked to imagine strategies beyond some of the more commonly identified, as well as to recognize and develop those strategies that otherwise might seem too obvious or taken-for-granted.

An example of one strategy "beyond the obvious" would be from a "Health, Healing and Culture" course in anthropology. To continue to learn about alternative healing practices beyond "western medicine," one could find ways to experience health and healing practices of other cultures/societies on an extended basis (like doing anthropological fieldwork; volunteering in a "non-western" medical/health context etc.) Toward this step, a student would then have to identify at least one concrete source or avenue for carrying out such a strategy, like the name of an organization that sponsors this kind of volunteer work or field experience. For their completed strategy, the student would highlight the step he/she could take, and be sure to include at least one practical piece of information about a contact person, organization etc. that would be useful in carrying out the step.

An example of a strategy that might seem "too obvious," would be one related to watching television. Periodically almost any type of television show may deal with the topic or issue a student has identified as her/his interest. The strategy here would be to identify a number of shows that would fall into this category in general (such as one's favorite talk-shows, evening news-magazine shows etc.), and then to find information about each that would help put oneself in touch with them in the event they carried a report or show on one's chosen topic. Such a strategy would help a person become more than a passive viewer. It could, for example, enable one to access transcripts of shows, give viewer feedback and opinions, even to contact the guests or specialists more personally who are highlighted on a given presentation.

For this project students are asked to come up with about ten strategies in all, each of which is to have some kind of practical information attached to it to enable others to carry out these strategies as well. Students have to go beyond simply generalized statements (such as "I would continue to read everything I can about this issue..."), toward steps that provide practical connections. And in order to encourage these to be more than library exercises, students are also "given" one strategy: to identify eight to ten library resources that are periodical in nature, dealing with one's interest. This is the only strategy that is to include reading resources, which are then to be listed in appropriate bibliographic format. For the remaining strategies students are asked to go out of the library and into the life beyond its walls.

Presentation

Finally, students are asked to think creatively about how they will present their final collection of learning strategies. Some may choose simply to "write a report," resulting in a structured list of strategies introduced by a brief description of the topic chosen. Others may choose to use media such as video, desktop publishing, developed "visual aids," and more. Each project, if not already in a written form, is to include a brief written part that contains a concise statement of the topic chosen and its connection to the discipline we are studying; it is also to include in appropriate bibliographic form the library resources identified in the "given" library-strategies step.

The final projects are then to be shared in class, and if possible to be maintained on display in some form for others both inside and outside the class to view. In-class presentations carry this process a step further by giving students peer- feedback about specific topics and strategies; it also highlights for the class as a whole the potentially broad range of topics and learning strategies that might be personally relevant to people both within the formal classroom setting as well as outside in "the real world." As technical resources develop at QVCC, students will be encouraged early in the process to prepare their presentations in some way that can be displayed electronically. Some of these current projects have already been done by students with this in mind. Others have been translated after the fact through scanning, retyping, etc., with the students' permission.

For further questions, comments or suggestions please contact Dr. Brian Donohue-Lynch at QVCC: (860) 774-1160 ext. 335
Anthropology/Sociology Quinebaug Valley
Community College
Danielson, CT  06239

 

Last Modfied, May 06, 2007