Friday, 21 September 2012

Learning Plans

Individual learning plans, independent learning plans, personalised learning plans I really don't mind what our students call them I do encourage them all to use one and when they do it is usually a  good decision.

As described in earlier posts we do work based online learning where students can study asynchronously without the restriction of timetabled lectures, live streamed workshops, summer schools and all that stuff that can be great in its own right but just doesn't fit with everyone's life / work patterns.

We do provide a recommended study schedule that maps activities in a suggested time-frame. There are many variations and this is a very simplified example but it may well go something like:

Week Patch / learning outcome Suggested activity Assessment product.
1 All Read through the resources, raise any uncertainties in the community discussion. In your reflective learning journal create your own personal learning plan. No assessment product - preparing for study.
2-3 Patch 1 LO 1. This may be a literature review or a knowledge consolidation activity. Analytical report on theory.
4-5 Patch 2 LO 2+3 Planning and preparing for research activity. Present a proposal.
6-8 Patch 3 LO 3 Implementing theory through real world research - often reflection or inquiry based. Initial research report.
9-10 Patch 4 LO 4 Reviewing research activity - analysis and findings. Evidence based presentation of analysis and findings.
11 Stitching All LOs Retrospective commentary identifying meta-learning, may include re-evaluation of theory from Patch 1 in the light of the experience of applying the theory. Reflective account - may be first person, alternative genre.
12 Preparing for hand-in Time for a meticulous proof read for meaning and grammar. Honed and refined e-portfolio.
Uploaded by 5 pm on hand-in day.

Blimey that was very simplified but will serve a need in this post.

So what does a student need to do to turn that into an ILP? Not easy to answer as all students have different contexts, cultures and personal lives, these all exert forces that push and pull at the time available for study. Again simplification is going to have to suffice.

Generally the detail of life happens in hours, days and weeks, not so much in chunks of weeks. So the first step is developing a usable framework. Gantt charts, spreadsheets, flow charts (hand drawn or digital like Cmap), tables, pages in a paper book, sections in a Word document, slides in a PowerPoint, Etherpad - there are many ways to approach planning. 

So its time to think things through.

The planning:
Week 1 - Tuesday is busy at work + evening meeting, Wed-Thurs evenings free, Friday doctor + shopping. Weekend is free. =>3 hours per night Wed-Thurs read module resources and monitor discussions. Saturday is family time. Sunday pm 2-4 work on ILP, 7-9 read everything again - do I know what I am doing?
Week 2 - Residential outdoor activity trip with year 5. Mon - Thursday. => Can't guarantee good connection so need to download literature to iPad on Sunday before I go so I have a chance to read it if I get some free time during residential. Friday evening + Saturday am is family time but I need to pop into the online community as well. Study Saturday pm + most of Sunday - read and make notes in Learning journal/share ideas in online community.
Week 3. Staff meeting Wed evening, otherwise fairly OK week. => 2 hours each Monday + Tuesday evenings write up notes into critical review.  Thursday 3 hours to look for / review additional literature and add to notes. Friday  - Sunday evenings complete literature review - turn notes into proper text. 30 mins each day in VLE discussions.

And so on, transfer the thinking onto a clear framework that is editable. Do not just plan then hide the plans away - they are dynamic and need annotation if they are to be of high value.

Using the plan:
Week 1 went OK I even think I think I know what I am doing.
Week 2 very little free time at residential. Children do not sleep it seems. Need to add a late night on Saturday to get through the literature on time.
Week 3. Oh Blow, news on Monday am that OfSTEDare coming in week 5 so week 3 Thursday is also an after school meeting, I need to negotiate less family time on Saturday and block out Monday -Wednesday of week 5 as non study days. 
And so on.

If a plan is created then stuck on a wall and forgotten it is not much use at all.

If a plan is created then stuck on the wall and not annotated to show what was achieved, and not adapted to cater for unexpected circumstances, it shows how much was not done and makes you feel less than happy - that is not conducive to good learning.

If a plan is created, referred to on a daily basis, annotated and adapted to cater for unexpected events, including barriers and opportunities, then it is a useful device that tracks successful learning and engenders a feel-good feeling - that is conducive to good learning.

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