Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Identify the Important Things to Learn for Student Success

Students need to know what parts of your instruction are most important. It is very easy for students to get lost in the details of your instruction. If you consciously identify the important elements for the students, you are providing the structure to which they will attach details. Students need you to provide this structure, identify the connection between these elements and the big picture view of the content, and to provide the rationale for why they should focus on these elements. Helping students to understand the overall structure and the important pieces of that structure allows you to discuss with students how you expect them to progress in regard to skill and knowledge development.

Most instructors are very good at delivering oral cues to identify the most important parts of their instruction. You will hear phrases such as “The first major point is…”, “Note this point…”, “This point is very important for understanding…”and “This point will be on the test.” These oral cues help focus student attention on the important elements. Distance educators should be more intentional about writing cues and directional language in their courses. This should help focus attention on major points while excluding details.

Some additional ways to identify important elements in a distance course include:
  1. Use bold text to identify important elements
  2. Use numbered lists
  3. Use headings to identify important elements
  4. Provide an outline of the material to give a big picture view
  5. Insert intentional pauses in the material to allow the student to process information

Svinicki, M. (2004). Learning and motivation in the postsecondary classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

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