Designing for Flexibility

Who ARE your learners?

catering for diverse contexts, circumstances, expectations, needs and interests

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How well do you know your learners?

A learner-centred approach to VET focuses on the needs, abilities, interests, and learning preferences of individual students.
The teacher becomes a facilitator of the learning process and assessment takes place when the learner is confident and ready. Students take an active role in their learning.

Each learner arrives in our course with a wealth of skills and experiences. They may have existing skills, strengths in particular areas and industry connections.
They also may bring existing difficulties or barriers and negative past experiences that will impact on their ability to learn and engage.
Our programs cater for a diverse learner cohort and this must be considered in any program design.
It's impossible to ascertain all their characteristics in advance but we can certainly draw some logical assumptions as a starting point from which we can modify our design elements based on more detailed evaluation as the program proceeds.

In this topic we'll discuss the nature of VET learners today and the implications for our learning design.
You will be encouraged to view your learners and their experiences and skills as a valuable resource that can be harnessed to enrich the course as a whole.
Too often we only see needs, barriers and the challenges these create for us as educators!

Core Activity

1. Use the video, key readings and relevant thought leaders podcasts below to add to your existing understanding of this topic.
While you are reading, watching and listening to the content reflect upon:
  • the strengths, experiences and passions learners bring to your program
  • the ways in which we can build choice into our modes of engagement, activities and assessment options
  • your own learning styles and preferences and how that influences the way you teach

2. POST your responses to the following questions to the DFF Facebook Group:
Which one of the topic resources seemed most relevant for you and why?
What tools/strategies do you currently use to find out who your learners are? What is working for you and what might you change?
How do you currently build choice into the learning experience for your students?
Do you think it is important to understand learning styles and preferences, our own and our students? Why?

3. READ the responses of other DFF group members to these questions and POST a reply to at least 2 - let them know what resonated for you in their response.

Key video resource

Watch the following RSA Animate video adapted from a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson

What ideas resonated with you in regard to increasing the flexibility of our courses?
How are you motivating students?
How can you enrich your chosen program to address learner strengths, learning styles, passions and to encourage creativity and critical thinking?
If your students were geographically dispersed how would you enable interactivity, collaboration and peer support to occur?

Key readings

Responding to learners: A guide for learning developers and learning support staff - JISC

Differentiating instruction is not hard if we tap into students passions - The Innovative Educator (2010)

Understanding learning styles - RMIT RTF project resource (2005)

NCVER report - Doing well: helping young people achieve their potential (2012) - NCVER_LSAYDoingItWell_2493-1.pdf

Relevant TAFE NSW eHub eCommunities

Relevant Thought Leader Series interviews

Program webinar recordings

Webinar 2: Who are your learners? Session handouts:

Additional supporting information

Learning styles: understanding your learning preference

Pashler H. McDaniel M Doug Rohrer D. and Bjork R. (2009), A Journal of the Association for Psychological Science, "Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence", December 2009 (Vol. 9, No. 3)

Technology based learning - problematising VET students readiness and preferences - Ian Robertson (2007)

Diigo Group tagged resources




The activities and documented reflections for this topic provide useful partial evidence for:
TAEDES505A: evaluate a training program
TAEDEL501A: Facilitate e-learning
TAEDES501A: design and develop learning strategies