Instructor’s top takeaways from OTL Conference

Instructor’s top takeaways from OTL Conference

Attendees at the 2014 OTL Conference: Empowering Students to be Self-Directed Learners, were asked to share specific ideas and teaching methods that they gained at the conference and plan to implement in their classes. Here are some of the most common responses:

At the beginning of class

  • Be more specific at the beginning of the class (and quarter) on the goals.
  • Have students write their own goals and identify learning plans.
  • Include self-directed learning elements in the learning objectives of my syllabi.
  • Introduce students to self-directed learning concepts.

During class

  • Add active listening confidence questions during class.
  • Stopping during class to allow reflection exercises.
  • Use of mind maps to help students connect major theoretical and conceptual thoughts.
  • Have students “read-recall-review” aloud in class or in groups.
  • Use in-class reflective assignments about our material and our activities.
  • Use pair & share reflective activities.
  • One Minute Papers to gauge their learning progress.
  • Molly Smith’s RDQ method.
  • The idea to pause before, during, and after an activity for reflection.
  • Make more use of visuals to illustrate learning.
  • Use a Visual Summaries Matrix to see what I need to do differently.
  • Have students engage in structured weekly reflections.
  • Asking students to share their “muddiest point” as a way to check on student understanding and self-reflection.
  • Have students engage in group study in class.

Along with assignments/tests

  • Use “wrappers” around assignments, tests, and or video/podcasts.
  • Have students fill out the rubric when submitting assignments.
  • Ask students to reflect on their performance through “test autopsies” (after an exam, give students a form to evaluate the points they lost and why).
  • Have students write 300-word abstracts of their papers.
  • Include time for peer review of papers during class.
  • A pass/fail self-assessment on how they (students) studied for weekly quizzes/tests and how that affected their grades
  • Choice is key–allowing for choices more often when it comes to assignments.

At the end of class

  • Students write a letter to the next cohort about how to succeed.
  • Use Knowledge Surveys to get a sense of students’ confidence level before and after learning.
  • Use reflective assignments but grade based on Pass/Fail.

Overall emphasis on self-directed learning

  • Throughout the course, be aware myself and help students be aware of the learning process.
  • Integrate an exercise about learning into each class.
  • Make students aware of how their “context” affects their performance.
  • Make sure that experiential learning reflections address the actual learning process rater than focusing primarily on the result.
  • More “how” questions – How have you changed? How can you change? How will you start? How will you succeed?
  • Remember Julie Morris’ Karate Kid metaphor.
  • Personally reflect on my own teaching – remember that the best students can be the worst teachers.
  • Being more intentional about incorporating metacognitive, emotional and physical aspects in the planning, monitoring and evaluating phases of teaching.


For more information and ideas, visit our webpage about self-directed learning.

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