IMPROVING LEARNING IN HIGHER EDUCATION
With increasing competition on people’s attention through information technology and multimedia, educators have to provide strategies to ensure improved learning in their institutions.
I will report on an empirical study I conducted during a flipped classroom approach, also taking into account parameters tied to considerations on learning having to do with cognition (Wagemans et al, 2012) and aspects of visual perception (Biederman, 1987).
Recently in cognitive studies, the notion of interest has again come to the forefront (Renninger & Hidi, 2016). Dewey (1933) as well as many other educators pointed to the notions of interest, attention and curiosity as crucial for learning. Therefore we used these notions to choose disciplinary content or ways of presenting it, more apt at getting students to continue concentrating to reach higher levels of sophistication. We will discuss interest and motivation, engagement and interest, self-efficacy and self-regulation and achievement goals and the ways classroom activities and tasks can be designed around these notions.
Reviewing the literature on visual cognition, it becomes obvious that researchers have recently revisited the need to be willing to focus on something if one is to learn (Palmer, 1992; Palmer & Rock, 1994; Rock, 1983). This could explain the high impact of technology. From the vast spread of offerings, a person will willingly choose to concentrate on something of personal interest, hence this knowledge will be retained. Not only do the eyes need to choose what to focus on but following this there is the need to want to learn that specific content.
Moreover other researchers (Swain, 2014; DeKeyser 2014) believe that the data accessed will also require working on it to produce “modified output”. Specialists in graphic arts and design (Kunz, 1998; Jury, 1996: Samara, 2014) also constantly work on grabbing people’s attention for their products. Findings from recent research in this field points to the need of transgression and disruption in order to make people choose to focus on the things that they wanted them to focus on.These underlying theoretical notions were taken into account when planning the activities and tasks in the flipped classroom model.
The method used was qualitative. The study lasted 5 weeks with 4 class meetings per week with 46 participants in groups. Tasks were for instance, taking on a role stemming from the readings, or each group designing a task intended to be completed on a rotation. Data were collected with checkmarks on a grid on etic categories and notes on emic categories with triangulation with group product analysis.
Results show that interest was spurred by group participants' enthusiasm. When activities contained something odd (snowflake to be cut out first, talking about where it landed during some important event), participation was more cheerful. Time limits forced them to engage more fully. High task demands resulted in more negotiations and more metacognitive strategies. A mixture of levels of functioning was observed. A conclusion to be drawn is that perhaps, that the first discussion should be deciding on how to best approach the given task. A solution would be to give students more freedom in writing and assess mostly ideas. Better users of language took over when written product were expected, however the richness of the contributions came from the mix of students using different “Englishes”. Pathways for further research will be given