Charlie Smith recently presented a research paper titled “The student-directed learning landscape - Academia without academics?” at the 10th Higher Education Academy Annual Conference, which took place on 2 and 3 July at Aston University. The theme of this conference was ‘preparing for learning futures: the next ten years’. It focused on the future of the student learning experience, and explored how educators are preparing for it, and asked what the next ten years will hold, what will change, what needs to change, and how best to prepare for that change. The conference attracted an international field of 500 delegates.
Charlie’s abstract read:
“Higher education students are creating their own learning experiences through pedagogic methods in which they are charged with responsibility for their own learning. There is increasing adoption of learning and teaching methods that – rightly – nurture independence in students, such as self-directed learning and the development of self-critical analysis. Such approaches are frequently cited as evolving skills that are demanded in the workplace, thus increasing graduates’ potential employability. The adoption of such methods is transforming students’ learning and teaching experience in higher education, and empowering them to define their own learning trajectory. Do such emerging trends mean that the role of the academic is becoming ‘facilitator’ as opposed to ‘teacher’?
This session will outline the conclusions of two research projects that studied student-directed learning methods. Whilst these two projects constitute different pedagogic approaches, a common theme to both is the orientation of the initiative for learning toward the student. Whilst both research projects are within a particular subject area – architecture – they create cross-disciplinary conclusions. These conclusions are brought together collectively within the presentation, and become discussion points about student-directed learning. The increasing occupation of virtual, as opposed to real, learning environments will also be referenced in the context of self-directed learning.
These different strands are woven together in a presentation that is as much provocative as it is conclusive, but which questions the implications of students’ increasing responsibility for their own learning. It asks how are these pedagogic innovations changing the landscape of higher education? In particular, it questions what the role of the academic will become in this new landscape of student-directed learning. The session will discuss teaching practices that are transforming student learning, and changing the higher education experience. Whilst these approaches have the capacity to empower students in shaping their own learning, they also have implications in how students adapt to the transition from teacher-led to student-led learning, in supportive and inclusive ways.”