Posted on March 20, 2018 at 9:59 AM
By Adrian K. Reynolds
Over the past few months, I’ve been on a quest to answer this one question: How does my mission to create opportunities for students to develop self-regulated, active learning1,2 skills support diversity and inclusion?
In this quest to raise my level of critical consciousness3, or, in my African American Vernacular English, to “stay woke”, I’ve asked, how do the learning opportunities I’ve provided for students foster a culture of inclusion for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, race, age, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, origin, language, ability, or political beliefs? Well, I thought to myself, as a Black male teacher of Spanish in the K-12 school system, then later as a college instructor of English as a Second Language (ESL), and now as an academic enhancement specialist in the medical school setting, the learning opportunities I’ve created for students from all walks of life have, I believe, reflected meaningful contributions to building a culture of diversity and inclusion. Not being completely satisfied with this response, I continued along the path of critical self-reflection.
During a science of learning workshop for underrepresented minorities in the health sciences (part of a summer program run by our medical school), I asked a group of rising high school seniors, “How many of you have ever taken a course or even a brief session on learning how to learn?” To my dismay, only one hand went up—it was an AP psychology student. Referring to my explanations of evidence-based learning strategies such as retrieval practice, spaced practice, and varied practice4,5, one student uttered in a tone of disappointment, “How come no one has ever taught us this stuff?” I tried to remain hopeful, wishing I’d have better luck with another group of students (a combination of college and post-baccalaureate students) in the same summer program: I asked the very same question. Yes, you probably guessed it. Once again, one hand went up—it was a psychology major. As I continued to reflect, I wondered, how inclusive has the learning environment (high school and college) been for the other 46 students in both groups combined, if they’ve never received formal instruction in evidence-based learning strategies?
Regarding STEM disciplines, in particular, too many of our learners, especially those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, do not have equal access to formal instruction in learning how to learn. In teacher training programs, prospective teachers have access to learning the science of teaching, but in our learning institutions, science of learning curricula for all learners, regardless of their academic ability, zip code, or field of study, are in short supply. Preparing all our learners to be innovators, critical thinkers, and leaders across multiple disciplines require not only subject matter expertise, but equally important, the use of self-regulated learning strategies that will motivate lifelong learning and allow them to solve complex societal problems. Furthermore, the learning gains resulting from the transition to a competency-based, time-variable framework in the health professions6 will heavily depend on learners’ self-regulated, active learning abilities. Regrettably, however, our education system at all levels has been structured around the teaching of content knowledge at the expense of teaching learners how to acquire such knowledge.
Now back to my opening question: How does my mission to create opportunities for students to develop self-regulated, active learning skills support diversity and inclusion? I think I’ve found the answer: By fostering the development of self-regulated, active learning skills, I am contributing to leveling the playing field for learners from underserved, low-income communities who have limited access to resources such as adaptive learning technology; the most up-to-date study aids, textbooks, and test prep materials; one-on-one academic coaching; and high-quality teaching.
Adrian K. Reynolds, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Professional Practice and a Medical Education Academic Enhancement Specialist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
- Barry J. Zimmerman (1990). Self-regulated Learning and Academic Achievement: An Overview. Educational Psychologist 25(1): 3-17.
- Danielle S. McNamara (2010). Strategies to Read and Learn: Overcoming Learning by Consumption. Medical Education 44(4): 340–346.
- Paulo Freire (2013). Education for Critical Consciousness. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
- Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, Mark A. McDaniel (2014). Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
- Marc Augustin (2014). How to Learn Effectively in Medical School: Test Yourself, Learn Actively, and Repeat in Intervals. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine 87(2): 207–212
- Catherine R. Lucey, George E. Thibault, Olle ten Cate (2018). Competency-Based, Time-Variable Education in the Health Professions: Crossroads. Academic Medicine 93(3): S1-S5.
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