Friday, September 22nd, 2023

Independent Learning


What sort of student do I want to be? 

According to a study by Biggs (1994), there are three kinds of learners: surface learners, achievement-oriented learners, and deep learners. The table below describes each kind.

Type of Learner Motivation Strategies
Surface Just wants to pass Focuses on surface meaning. Does the minimum amount of study and reading. Studies at the last minute. Memorizes information. Reproduces ideas from source texts.
Achievement-oriented Wants to get good grades Focuses on the task demands. Finds out what the instructor wants. Follows up all the required references. Manages time carefully and hands in assignments on time. Accesses learning support services. Keeps good notes.
Deep Excited by learning Focuses on the topic. Reads widely. Relates new ideas to previous knowledge. Thinks analytically. Discusses the topic whenever possible.


What is active learning? 

Take an active role in studying. The more actively you participate, the more you will enjoy your studies, and your grades will probably be higher. Some of the features of an active learning style are contrasted here with a passive learning style. 

Active Learners… Passive Learners…
Prepare for lectures and tutorials. Arrive on time but with no preparation.
Question (overtly or in the head). Do not question the lecturer or tutor—just accept that what he/she says is right.
Consider the broad picture (relate details to whole).    
Focus on details (eg ‘What does this wordmean?).  
Take notes and think analytically while reading.


Copy sections of the textbook and reproducethem in essays and exams.
Discuss your subjects with other people. Never talk about your subjects.
Take brief notes in lectures. Copy all the information from overheads /transcribe full text of the lecture from a tape.

Use your study time to: 

  • organize your notes.
  • prepare for lectures and study sessions by reading ahead and answering questions.
  • revise your lecture notes and making sure you understand the key concepts.
  • make concept maps of the material covered in the course.
  • complete assignments.
  • search for relevant or related information.
  • read and take notes.
  • prepare for exams.

It is likely that you will spend a large portion of your time reading, but studying means much more than just reading! Time spent reviewing and organizing your notes, and time spent planning and drafting assignments is time well spent. 

Simply reading through your notes or looking at books does not constitute effective studying. Effective studying is an active, participative actitivity.


How much work do I have to do?

This really depends on how much you are prepared to do. There is no end to the amount of work you COULD do for any assignment or exam. It depends on how much time you have and what your priorities are. You should aim to do the best possible in the time available—remembering that there are other important things in life such as your health, your friends, and your family. 

Some points to consider: 

  • What exactly does the lecturer expect from me? (ask to see a model answer if possible).
  • How many marks are allotted to this assignment/exam? (see the subject outline).
  • How much do I care about this topic?.
  • Are there any reasons why I should/should not put extra effort into this particular topic?.


Do I have to attend my classes? 

Whether you attend classes or not is up to you. Many instructors reason that students are adults who can choose. It may be possible to listen to the lecture online, get someone else’s notes or simply read the textbook. 

Generally, it’s never a good idea to skip classes. There’s always something you can gain from being in class, and you may miss something really important—such as what is on the exam. Even if your lecturer seems to be repeating what you have read in the textbooks, lectures offer a different medium of learning which can enhance your understanding.


Keeping up

The college semester is short and intense. You will cover a lot of work even in the first few weeks. Once you get behind, you will find it very difficult to catch up, especially in subjects like Accounting, Foreign Languages, Computing or Economics. That is one reason why you need to establish good study habits right from the beginning. 

Be quick to notice if you are getting behind, and do something about it as soon as possible. For example, you could put in some really solid study time. If you are anxious, get a study partner or talk to your instructor.