Deep Approaches to Learning

Deep Approaches to Learning Stipends
Spring Quarter 2011

Note: This program was run Spring Quarter 2011.

The Center for Faculty Development is offering stipends to make small-scale changes to your courses to promote deep approaches to learning among your students.

What do we mean?

Have you ever graded assignments where you've wondered whether your students have really grasped the material or are just good at faking understanding? Can they transfer the skills and knowledge to the next level of your discipline or are they just imitating disciplinary norms well enough to get by without genuinely learning? Many faculty experience this niggling doubt, and it relates to the approach to learning that students use in each course they take.

For the last 30 years, researchers in Sweden, Australia, the UK, and now the USA have been studying the different approaches students take in their classes to find ways for us to design our curricula to avoid "imitation subjects" and instead foster approaches to learning that help students grasp both the subject matter and the intellectual skills we expect in our various academic disciplines.

What do we know?

The research tells us:

  • that students' approaches to learning are not "fixed" attributes but are responses to the learning environment. (So in the same term, a student may take a deep approach in one course and a surface approach in another, based on the circumstances and requirements of each course.)
  • that students' approaches to learning can therefore be changed.
  • that course design is the key to promoting deep approaches to learning.

How will it work?

You'll meet with one of the Center's Peer Consultants – seven faculty from across the university who are great teachers and have completed a program on faculty consulting – to identify which small-scale adjustments in your course design can promote deeper approaches and ultimately give you greater satisfaction and confidence in your students' achievements.

You'll go over materials that help you diagnose potential sticking-points in your courses and devise solutions that fit your circumstances. Based on that conversation and the notes you take, you can redesign your course and then send the Center the old syllabus, new syllabus, plus the materials you used with your Peer Consultant to receive your stipend. As with our Rubric Stimulus Package, we're offering stipends of $50 for your course diagnosis and redesign.

We hope you'll take us up on this opportunity to promote student learning and – just as importantly – gain a greater sense of satisfaction that you've designed your classes to maximize student potential. You should end up with far fewer concerns that you're reading "imitation" assignments and far greater confidence that your students can progress in your field having internalized ideas and disciplinary ways of thinking.