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Learning types

In this contribution, Neil Hughes explores Diana Laurillard's contribution to teaching and learning in HE.
Scene from a play in which a student is sat on a desk holding an apple for her teacher.
© University of Nottingham

In Educating Rita, a film and play by Willy Russell, Rita, a working-class hairdresser from Liverpool, enrols on an Open University degree in English Literature.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

The film shows how through a combination of her own motivation, social interaction with her tutor and fellow students, sustained practice and immersion in an academic culture, Rita is able to acquire the knowledge, literary discourse and scholarly practices that she so strongly desires. This has a transformative effect on Rita’s life, providing her, as she says, with ‘the power to make choices’. It also, incidentally, appears to rejuvenate Frank, her tutor, played by Michael Caine in the film.

How students learn and the transformative impact that education has on their lives, features prominently in Diana Laurillard’s work. In her view (2012: 4), a consensus has gradually formed in research in the fields of Psychology and Education over the last century about what it takes for learners to learn. She distills this consensus into 6 learning types (acquisition, inquiry, discussion, practice, collaboration, production), which she explains in this video.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

By clarifying how people learn through different types of individual engagement with content and social interaction, Diana provides a strong basis for designing teaching interventions such as the ones that proved successful in Rita’s case.

Discussion and collaboration

In the case of discussion and collaboration, for example, Diana (2012) interrogates the methods considered effective for building and supporting discussion-based social interaction and the role that digital technologies such as online forums might play in the process. The potential of discussion forums to stimulate social interaction and contribute to the development of conceptual knowledge and skills also figures prominently in Garrison and Vaughan’s (2008), Blended Learning in Higher Education. In it, they argue (2008: 36-37) that forums are effective tools for promoting reflection, critical thinking and deeper explanations.

As many of you will know who have used discussion forums in the context of campus-based courses, it require more than just opening a forum to get students to engage with this type of task. The main pedagogical challenge is how to motivate students to contribute in a sustained and meaningful way in an activity that as Laurillard (2009: 146) explains, decouples social interaction from time and space. In the next step, we will explore a novel strategy that might help you to achieve this goal. If in the meantime, you have any suggestions of your own, based on you own experience, please respond to the social prompt below.
© University of Nottingham
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Blended and Hybrid Learning Design in Higher Education

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