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Types of Learning Reflection

June 25, 2012

Summary of Chapters 1-8 (Smith & Ragan, 2005)

Chapter 8 – Declarative Knowledge

Declarative knowledge is simply statements of objective knowledge and facts. It is often foundational for other types of learning such as problem-solving.  New declarative knowledge needs to be linked to existing knowledge. Learning strategies include mnemonics, elaboration, imagery, analogy, organization, chunking, linking, graphic organizers, and rehearsal.

Very little if any of my information literacy instruction falls within declarative knowledge. When it does, such as defining Boolean Operators, I attempt to use the attention arousing techniques described in the chapter such as discussing how it relates to daily life and linking it to their prior knowledge.

Chapter 9 – Instruction Leading to Concept Learning

Concept learning is the ability of the learner to apply knowledge across disciplines or situations. It often involves understanding the concept to be able to generalize or discriminate from known concepts to other areas. Effective instructional strategies are inquiry approach and expository approach.

I find that analogies and scaffolding from prior knowledge are especially effective for concept learning. During information literacy session, we cover Boolean Logic; this is often a new concept to first year students, although they intuitively understand it from previously searching Google. I start this session by playing a game where they stand up if they meet certain criteria. Following discussion of the results and pointing out the analogy to searching, they are then able to generalize how Boolean operators work in structured library databases.

Chapter 10 – Instruction Leading to Learning Procedures

Procedures consist of a series of linear or decision-point steps that lead to a clearly defined outcome(s).  Procedures often are sub-sections of more complex learning outcomes and strategies. Before instruction, procedures should be carefully and clearly written in narrative or graphic form. A didactic approach often works best for procedures instruction, although exploratory strategies may occasionally be utilized for learner comprehension.

I agree that a didactic method works well for procedural learning. When teaching procedures in small library workshops, I demonstrate each procedural step on my ipad. I then walk through the class to make sure each learner has completed the step successfully before moving on to the next step. I also clearly write out the procedure for myself before class. When I move this instruction to online tutorials, I will also upload the instruction sheet for learners.

Chapter 11 – Instruction Leading to Principle Learning

Principles are rules that describe the relationships between two or more concepts. They can be generalized from known situations to new situations. While the ability to state a principle is declarative knowledge, the ability to apply the principle is the goal of principle learning. Learners must understand the underlying concepts before they are able to understand and apply the principle.

As I teach students in information literacy classes the concepts of Boolean logic, I then move to practical application of this principle and the impacts that it will have on their information searches. For example, if their initial search lists too many results to review, they should add another relevant search term with an “and”, and they will get fewer and more focused results. Students are encouraged to practice this principle in class with searches related to an upcoming assignment.

Chapter 12 – Problem-Solving Instruction

Problem solving is the ability of the learner to apply previously learned declarative knowledge, principles, and cognitive strategies to successfully solve a new unknown problem, within a single domain. The strategies students use when solving problems include defining the problem, planning a solution, implementing the solution, and evaluating their solution.

Problem solving is often the ultimate goal in information literacy instruction. When faced with a research question, librarians and teachers want students to be able to combine their previous knowledge of information resource types, searching principles and cognitive strategies to be able to effectively search new resources for relevant information. I often discuss real-world examples, and give students adequate opportunity to practice with examples that are relevant to their needs or interests. While I often cover declarative knowledge and principles, I typically do not have time to delve into cognitive strategies, as discussed in the next chapter summary.

Chapter 13 – Cognitive Strategy Instruction

Cognitive strategies are techniques that learners utilize to control their own learning process. They consist of learning strategies and thinking strategies. Cognitive strategies apply across domains.

It is often difficult to employ cognitive strategy instruction in my information literacy classes because of severe time constraints and the need for principle and problem solving instruction. My hope is that students are becoming aware of their cognitive strategies during their secondary and higher education years and can therefore apply those strategies to the unfamiliar domains of information literacy.

Chapter 14 – Attitude Learning

Attitude learning outcomes are defined by the learner choosing to do something such as stop smoking or obtain recommended prevention screenings. It consists of cognitive (knowing how), behavioral (engage in the behavior), and affective (understanding why) knowledge. Instructional strategies include demonstration, practice, and reinforcement.

While I do not address attitudes specifically in information literacy, I attempt to demonstrate an ‘information-literate’ lifestyle as a professional librarian, through my facebook postings, and through my personal blog. I do discuss being information literate throughout one’s life with my upper level classes. We discuss how they can access and evaluate internet resources when they may not have library databases readily available following graduation. We discuss the importance of evaluating all information to make the best choices for their professional and personal lives.

Chapter 15 – Psychomotor Skill Learning

Psycomotor skill learning involves coordinated muscular movements to achieve the desired outcome. It is the coordination of activity and cognition that make this part of instruction design. Practice sessions are critical for psychomotor skills learning and they can be massed or spaced out over time.

After much reflection, I cannot think of any connections from psychomotor to information literacy! However, it is important for me to keep this strategy in mind for personal reasons such as teaching my nieces and nephews psychomotor skills!

Smith, P. L., & Ragan, T. J. (2005). Instructional design. Hoboken, N.J.: J. Wiley & Sons.
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