Active Acquisition

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‘Acquisition’ is one of the original learning types used in the ABC curriculum design method that we have localised to UCEM. It has been derived from  Diana Laurillard’s Conversational Framework and is defined ‘as what learners are doing when they are listening to a lecture or podcast, reading from books or websites, and watching demos or videos’.

Acquisition is often perceived to be a more passive activity, downloading information from a knowledgeable source such as a text book or a recorded lecture to be memorised and regurgitated. Reflecting our pedagogical approach to provide a more participatory and engaged student experience, we wanted to present acquisition as something that need not be passive. To do this we are designing entry points to our learning resources such as guided reading questions, collaborative annotation, consolidation and expansion activities. The focus is flipped from what the student needs to read/watch/listen to what they should be able to do in response to it and the questions they have as a result. Active acquisition leads naturally into more collaborative and reflective activities, which when grouped together into learning tasks provides a holistic learning experience that flows into student outcomes.

Here are some examples we have implemented in our module design:

In Design Integrated Project 1 students are asked to familiarise themselves with Tuckman’s team development model through watching a short video with embedded quizzes. They then search the e-library for articles on managing virtual teams and discuss their specific challenges. They are then tasked to design a team building activity to brainstorm ideas to address these challenges which they can then implement into their own group work. The initial active acquisition task provides students with the foundations to anticipate problems they may encounter working together  and address these from the start.

In Law for the Built Environment, students as asked to read the module descriptor and annotate keys terms as red, amber or green reflecting the extent to which they understand them. As they move through the module they collectively build an online module glossary with the aim of turning all red and amber terms to green. For this module the student analysis of the module descriptor and subsequent collaborative research ensures that they fully understand what is expected form them and are directly building knowledge to meet the learning outcomes.

In Interpretation and Adaptation of Buildings students are provided with word clouds of significant charters and reports on sustainability. They are asked to discuss the themes emerging from each word cloud and their possible provenance before discovering what the documents are and studying them. They reflect on the personal importance of themes that have emerged before developing their own sustainability manifesto. This task helps students to explore the reading  at a deeper level through encouraging them to ask questions and hypothesise about the sources before studying them.

In Management, Finance and Science, students are asked to collaboratively annotate the module assessment brief with questions and ideas. Reflecting on the annotated brief, each student is then tasked to find and share one resource to support the development of their assessment. The tutor can then feedback on the relevance of the resources found and provide further guidance if required, whilst the students have access to a bank of assets. Approaching the module assessment through an active reading exercise supports the students in developing a clear understanding of the tasks they need to undertake, and provides some initial feedback on their research approach.

More on the UCEM learning types can be found in the Learning Design Centre.

I work in learning design in the Online Education Department at the University College of Estate Management. I have particular interests in critical digital pedagogy, inclusive practice, and open ways of teaching and learning.

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