A survey was designed to measure how students perceive their ability to succeed in an academic setting and find out which aspects of learning fluency might need a greater emphasis during the activity design phase. In addition to the paper copies issued to the target audience, it is also available in a digital format to be used at the beginning of each class. Using this online survey, students will be able to see which aspects of learning fluency they struggle with in comparison with the rest of the class and the instructor will be able to see where emphasis should be placed in the teaching process.
Surveys were taken of all potential students that the researcher came in contact with. The method was not selective, but demographic data indicates that all participants fall within a 15 year age span. Half of respondents identified as male and the other half as female. GPA averaged at 3.2 on a 4.0 scale and every student anticipated some level of education beyond high school. All were informed that the completion of the survey was voluntary and that their results would only be analyzed in aggregate. They had an option to include their email address to view the results and half of respondents chose to do so.
In addition to demographic data, students completed 22 questions dealing with particular aspects of the 5 learning fluencies identified by earlier research (Jenson, 2015). The 22 questions were all phrased as a positive statement (with the exception of 3 that were discarded in the analysis as potentially invalid). Students answered the questions using a Likert Scale ranging from 1(completely disagree) to 5 (completely agree). They also had the option to complete a section meant to provide further insight on student success habits and personalities. This analysis was not completed for that optional portion of learner assessment as there was not sufficient data to produce significant results. Additional surveys will be added to this study as they come available to improve the validity of the statistical analysis that follows. To view the survey in its digital format, please use this link. https://goo.gl/forms/mCZhTY3LMrdVSO363
Statistical analysis of survey results revealed several factors of significance. An analysis of the averages revealed which factors of learning, in general, students felt most or least confident. Variance analysis showed which factors had the greatest disparity of answers. Finally, a quick look at the range of answers selected revealed the lowest and highest scores for each question.
Overall, respondents were more likely to agree with the prompts than to disagree. Only five questions received an answer of 1 (completely disagree) while there were 13 selections of 5 (completely agree). Two of the complete disagreements came from the questions that were negatively worded and discarded. Three questions had a range of only 1 point: (I want to succeed in education; Most people are smarter than me; I am generally awake throughout the day). Two questions had a range of 4 points (I have studied my personality type; I can fix most problems on my computer).
The questions with the highest level of agreement (average above 4-agree) included: I know what it takes to be a successful student; I learn more from conversations than from books; I prefer projects to tests; I want to succeed in education. Those with the lowest levels of agreement (between 2-disagree and 3 – undecided): I have a physical or mental barrier to learning; I know how to fix most problems on my computer; I am uncomfortable challenging others ideas; I feel like my teachers don’t understand me. The last two of this list were discarded as invalid because of negative wording.
A look at the variance showed which questions students tended to answer more similarly or differently than each other. The following questions had the least amount of variance: I am generally awake throughout the day (0.267); I learn smoething new every day (0.4); most people are smarter than me (0.3); and I want to succeed in education (0.267). Questions with the greatest levels of variance included: I feel like my teachers don’t understand me (1.5 – discarded); I have studied my personality type (2.0); I can fix most problems on my phone or computer (2.967); and I have a physical or mental barrier to learning (1.767). Standard deviation calculations matched those of the variance.
Survey questions measured two things: student preparation for and reaction to the learning environment as indicated by preliminary informal research. Example questions included: I am often bored in class; I have a well educated family; I have a physical or mental barrier to learning. The remaining survey question measured student familiarity with one aspect of the five learning fluencies: literacy, technology, intrapersonal, interpersonal, and academic. All questions were randomly ordered to prevent a bias by the student toward a particular section.
From the results, it is apparent that all the respondents wanted to succeed in education (question 22), and also felt like they knew what it took to be a successful student (question 2). This is confirmed by an average respondent GPA of 3.2 on a scale of 4.0. However, that GPA also left some room for improvement especially in terms of the questions that showed a great amount of variance like an awareness of personality type (question 14), or familiarity with technology (question 16).
Literacy fluency questions revealed that students did not feel they had strong reading skills (question 3), and would prefer to do things with their hands (question 17) or some kind of project rather than taking tests (question 21). This could be part of the reason why students indicated they are bored in class (question 8).
Technology fluency was under-represented in this survey, but the response to the single question on this subject included the whole range of answers (1-5), a high level of variance (2.9) and one of the lowest overall levels of agreement in the survey. This indicated that some students stand to benefit a great deal from training in this area.
Intrapersonal fluency was perhaps most precisely measured by this survey. Students tended to rank themselves as slightly less intelligent than others (question 10), and admitted to difficulty coping with stressful situations (question 12). About half were aware that they had a personality type (question 14), there was no real indicator of optimism (question 18), there was some sense of a moral compass (question 19), and everyone had some motivation to succeed in education (question 22). Perhaps the most surprising result was question 20 about a physical or mental barrier to learning. Nobody completely agreed that they struggled with this, but the average answer was between a 2 and a 3. These responses seemed to indicate that students feel generally competent, but realize that there may be unknown factors impacting their performance.
Interpersonal fluency seemed to be a well developed, or perhaps an insignificant, factor to students. All questions had similar and average levels of agreement. Most students got along well with others (question 5), and didn’t have strong feelings about teaching what they know (question 9). Unfortunately, the two survey questions discarded could have provided insight into student feelings toward teachers and learning through class discussion.
Academic fluency received some level of attention from students who had developed their own strategies for learning (question 6), and might sometimes have worked to improve their study habits (question 13). The real insight into academic fluency, however, came from question 4, which asked whether students learned something new every day. The selection of 3 (neither agree nor disagree) had very little variance among students showing that despite a rather average outlook on their learning fluency, they did not know how to apply it without some external guidance.
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Overall, responses to the questions were quite average. Students perceived that they know how to be successful when asked directly about this, but when analyzed through the lens of the five learning fluencies, the picture looks slightly different. This shows that students are unaware of what they could do to improve their learning fluency even though they don’t think they are particularly bad at learning.
Smith and Ragan (1999) suggested that such an inability to learn without some external scaffolding support could be the result of a classroom environment too consistently focused on supplantive learning. The proposed course, for which this analysis was completed, is meant to make up for the lack of training in learning strategy or learning fluency that results from the present formal learning environment. If students were given a goal to pursue in each one of the five areas of fluency, they might be able to more accurately predict and improve their performance both in and outside of the classroom.
The specific learning goal for the class is for students to create a personalized strategy for mastering one relevant aspect of learning fluency. A secondary learning goal is that students are equipped with the knowledge and resources needed to continue developing learning fluency on their own.
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