Taking Charge of Learning: LML at the University of Wisconsin

In the higher education setting, the Let Me Learn (LML) Process® is an invaluable tool that can allow students to take control of their learning and help instructors empower them to do so.

We spoke with two educators from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire: Cindy Albert, Instructional Designer at UW-Eau Claire’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL); and Jan Larson, Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism and also part of the CETL as a teaching fellow. They discuss the online Let Me Learn sessions they recently took part in and how they share the knowledge and insights to others in their educational community.

How did UW-Eau Claire become involved with Let Me Learn?

Cindy Albert: I was first introduced to Let Me Learn in October 2008 when Dr. Christine Johnston came to our campus and did a two-hour presentation. After the presentation, we sent out an evaluative survey to see if anybody was interested in taking this module to the next level-learning more about it and incorporating it into their classes. We had good results with that questionnaire. It turned out that nine people were able to commit to the six online sessions. We had more people who were interested, but the timing didn’t work out.

Jan Larson: I was able to attend the presentation, and I was curious enough to pay attention when they sent out a notice offering us a chance to be part of a learning community related to the Let Me Learn Process.

Both of you were among the small group of faculty and staff who participated in the LML online course. Can you describe your experience with those sessions?

CA: I liked the format. The software was fairly easy to use. Chris was our facilitator, and she had an agenda for us. We had a lot questions from our group, and she was always able and willing to answer everything we had. She was very willing to e-mail and call and talk with people individually. When she was in town here, she even opened up her schedule so that anyone who wanted to meet individually with her was able to do that.

JL: I found that our sessions were productive. We had workbooks to work on in between sessions and little assignments that were useful, but not time consuming. They helped us think about first how we learn, and, through that process, we could think about how our students learn. So I found the online sessions worked out quite effectively.

How have you applied the LML Process throughout the UW-Eau Claire community?

CA: Graduate students were exposed to this, as well as some undergraduates. Large classes, small classes-it was just a real nice mix. Some people adapted the materials, others used it exactly as it was presented. It was a diverse group. We had good conversations.

JL: I have an introductory news reporting and writing course of 60 students, and then we break up into four smaller labs of 15 students each. I’ve used the materials in both the large class setting and then when we’ve been in our smaller lab groups. All of those students have taken the [Learning Connections Inventory (LCI)] assessment survey and have been working through portions of the workbook to better understand themselves as learners.

In what ways have you been able to use LML in the classroom?

JL: When I have the class all together, I talk about some of the broader issues. I explained the science to them and I explained how we were going to use the patterns. And then Chris helped break them up into learning groups-or learning communities-smaller groups of three or four people each, and I’ve had them break up into the smaller groups both in the smaller class setting and in the labs.

They practiced when we were in class as a group so that I could all at once have them going through this process. I had some academic apprentices in the room who walked around and helped them practice on an assignment that had nothing to do with our class, just some practice exercises from the workbook. Then today in the smaller lab setting I had them decode an assignment that they’ll be doing for me, and then we talked about it.

This morning I gave them an assignment handout. They’re going to have to write a profile story, a news feature on one of their classmates, and I asked them to decode the assignment. And one young woman-she scores very high in Confluence, quite low in Technical, and probably use as needed with her Sequence and Precision-wanted to look at the assignment through her confluence pattern. She was trying to decode the assignment and affix to technical aspects confluence. So we were able to have a discussion about how we try to see assignments based on our learning patterns, and I thought that was a good discussion point for all the class to understand-how our learning patterns affect how we see the world, how we see our assignments, and how it can prompt us to sometimes miss what’s required of us because we’re so busy trying to shoehorn a task into our specific learning patterns.

And I had that actually happen a couple times today with students. They would see the assignment through their favorite learning pattern. It was good for us to identity that, acknowledge it, and then re-look at it and figure out, “Okay, what do I really need to do?” And students were talking about, “I’m going to have to tether this, or I’m going to have to forge this particular learning pattern.” It was a good exercise.

Are there particular ways that you have observed LML making an impact on students?

JL: Most of our students are very good with all this. I had one young man today tell me that he doesn’t like sitting down and circling all the words-he just wants to get on with the task. But again, that’s part of his learning pattern. He doesn’t see the need, he just wants to jump into the assignment. And that’s fine; I give the students permission to get out of this what they will and to try to make connections. I have had some students who have verbalized that they are enjoying this process and they see how it is affecting their learning, and then I’ve had others who’ve said, well, I can take it or leave it.

CA: I totally agree with the Let Me Learn research and I’ve seen it work now, with college age students as well as elementary age students. I think that it really gives students an opportunity to take control of their learning and understand that they really are in charge. It has less to do with the instructor they have and more to do with how they take in the assignments and information. It gives students a little more control, and I like that.

It’s a pretty powerful structure once you understand it, and it really opens up some doors for learners who traditionally don’t fit into the patterns that teachers want them to. It kind of gives everybody a place to know that they’re okay and that they can learn too. I think it’s very inclusive. It gives power to students so they can make choices.

Do you have plans to continue using Let Me Learn at UW-Eau Claire in the future?

JL: I would be willing to continue working with this. In fact, I’ve been asked if I want to continue the training, and I’m probably going to because I do see that it has merit. I appreciated being able to take the course, and I am finding the process useful. It’s taking me time to absorb it all so that I can use it effectively, but I do find it worthwhile, so I’m planning to use it again in the future if I’m able to.

CA: In October we’re going to host a regional Let Me Learn workshop right here in Eau Claire and we’ll be inviting people from a large area. We hope people not only from our campus, but other campuses in our region can benefit from this.

We hope to take the Let Me Learn process to another level on our campus, and hopefully have our freshmen take the survey every year. That would be the ultimate goal, whether it be from just one college or from all four of the colleges on our campus. We have a First Year Experience program (FYE) and part of that could be, in the future, to take the LCI and use that throughout their four or five years of college.

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