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Science Students’ Learning Power

‘CLARA-fying’ learning – developing the learning power of Science students using group coaching as a novel strategy for large subject scaling

Alison Beavis, Andrea Leigh, Peter Meier (Science), Georgina Barratt-See (Student Services Unit/Higher Education Language and Presentation Support), Ruth Crick (School of Education & Connected Intelligence Centre) and Simon Buckingham Shum (Connected Intelligence Centre)

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Self-empowered learning, or ’learning power’, is a key element in the learning journey of students. This project will expose students to an activity that aims to strengthen an individual’s learning disposition, attitudes and values, providing an opportunity to develop a language around exploring their unique sense of identity as a learner. The Crick Learning for Resilient Agency (CLARA) questionnaire tool will be implemented into a large enrolment, first-year science subject with a novel approach to coaching conversations explored as a viable strategy for achieving scalability. Building learning power will ensure students are equipped to embrace complexity and evolve as resilient, self-aware and assured learners.


Dispositional Learning Analytics . . .

The genesis of CLARA

Blog Post introducing the most recent research, detailed in:

Ruth Deakin Crick, Shaofu Huang, Adeela Ahmed Shafi & Chris Goldspink (2015): Developing Resilient Agency in Learning: The Internal Structure of Learning Power. British Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 63, Issue 2, pp. 121-160DOI: 10.1080/00071005.2015.1006574. Open Access Eprint:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00071005.2015.1006574

Dispositional Learning Analytics Workshop, July 2, 2013, Stanford University

Dispositional Learning Analytics Workshop held at the 2013 Learning Analytics Summer Institute, introducing delegates to the work of Ruth Crick, Chris Goldspink (Incept Labs, Sydney), Dave Paunesku & Carol Dweck (PERTS Lab, Stanford University) and Nelson Gonzalez (Declara, currently in pilot at UTS).

Distillation of a decade’s research (as of 2012) for the Learning Analytics community

Buckingham Shum, S. and Deakin Crick, R. (2012). Learning Dispositions and Transferable Competencies: Pedagogy, Modelling and Learning AnalyticsProceedings 2nd International Conference on Learning Analytics & Knowledge, 29 Apr – 02 May 2012, Vancouver, British Columbia, CA. ACM Press: New York, pp.92-101. 10.1145/2330601.2330629. Eprint: http://oro.open.ac.uk/32823 / Video Replay

Project news. . .

Abstract: Building learning power is critical for fostering the lifelong learning skills of students, ensuring they are equipped to embrace complexity and evolve as resilient, self-aware and assured learners. This journey often starts with engaging students in an exploratory discourse about learning using a reflective, self-assessment questionnaire. The Crick Learning for Resilient Agency (CLARA) questionnaire tool was selected for this purpose and implemented into a large enrolment (n=770), first-year science subject at an early point in the semester. The CLARA tool reports on eight identified dimensions: curiosity, creativity, sense making, belonging, collaboration, hope and optimism, mindful agency and openness to change. These dimensions represent the essential personal dispositions that allow students to engage deeply as learners (Deakin Crick et al., 2015). The results of the questionnaire are presented on a profile chart as a visual representation of learning power.

Following the questionnaire, a coaching conversation is conducted to create the ‘pace’ for students to identify their unique sense of identity as a learner and to begin to ‘own’ their learning journey and formulate a particular purpose or desired outcome. The coaching conversations are a critical post-questionnaire activity as students are encouraged to embrace learning power as being malleable. However, the typical approach involving individual conversations are a time consuming activity at scale, limiting the implementation in large enrolment subjects.

In this project we explored group coaching conversations utilising trained mentors as a viable strategy for achieving scalability. Second and third year science students were recruited as mentors and trained in the fundamentals of mentoring, and more extensively in the CLARA tool and the website we designed to support both mentor and student self- guided exploration of the learning dimensions. The training workshops were centred on preparing mentors for guiding a group conversation about the learning profiles of fictional students generated by the project team. The purpose of using fictional profiles was to remove any potential anxiety students may feel if asked to explore their personal learning profile in a group environment. The fictional profile discussion was designed as an initial step for preparing students to then feel empowered to engage in a self-guided exploration of their own profile. The profiles also made it manageable and safe for the mentors, to avoid burdening them with potentially complex 1:1 coaching.

In this presentation, we will report on the outcomes from this pilot study including how the CLARA learning profiles have been used to shed light on how students come to learn, with this new insight informing our preparation of targeted resources and activities that are relevant and contextualised for science students. The outcomes of the group coaching conversation will also be explored and we believe the outcomes of this approach will inform practices associated with scaling the use of the CLARA tool for large class sizes.

  • Sept 2015: Report to the UTS First Year Experience workshop
  • May 2015: The project team were joined by two CLARA Student Mentors for their presentation at the NIC@CIC symposium
  • Jan-April 2015: Implementation of the CLARA program for all first year Science students, including:
    • Design of fictional archetypal Science students and learning power profiles
    • Mentor training program
    • Student coaching
    • Mentor and student debriefing