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Comprehensive Learning Approach

Sunitha Prabhu, Guest post. 05 September 2018, 6:49 am
Comprehensive Learning Approach

The success of any tertiary teaching and learning approach lies in enabling the learners with practical and work-ready skills that apply to a real life scenario. The challenge lies in providing every student, irrespective of their background, a seamless and relatable learning experience that builds upon past experiences and learning. Creating suitable courseware and teaching resources that appeals to all students, while providing holistic and quantifiable learning to make them work-ready, and perhaps industry-wanted is an overarching need of the day. 

In the recent past there is a drive by tertiary education providers in New Zealand to incorporate teaching and learning approaches that engage students and enhance their learning experience. Tertiary education providers are currently defining their own teaching and learning directions. 


The Comprehensive Learning approach

The Comprehensive Learning (CL) approach aims to promote active, authentic, flexible and scenario-based learning, incorporating the principles of my work place - Wintec's Ako: Teaching and Learning Directions 2017-2020 (Wintec, 2017).  The objective is to provide 'authentic learning', i.e. "a wide variety of educational techniques that enable students to relate to, and probably solve real life problems", as defined in the Glossary of Education Reform (Great Schools Partnership, 2013). 

Learner centred approaches to education found favour with educationists many decades before the current hype and usage of Information Technology (IT) tools.  We took this approach as it enables students to reflect on their learning while also giving them control over what they learn. It encourages collaboration and group learning, preparing them to be work-ready. These principles echo with Wintec's Ako: Teaching and Learning Directions 2017-2020.

Ako, as defined by Pere (1982) in her seminal book, allows for work integration, learning, and flipped classroom approach, besides scenario based approach to learning. This allows the tutor and the student to collectively select a scenario from their combined experience, experiment with it and then be responsible for the results. While this is enacted, the tutor acts as an elder and a guide, who also learns from the process. This method emulates the traditional practice of allowing a student to blossom in the care of an elder, while still retaining the independence of selecting what, when and how to learn a critical life lesson. The learners experience a student centred paradigm to education, which enables authentic and inquiry based learning.

Another important factor that was considered while creating this approach was as a means to reduce, if not eliminate, the motivation of students to have opportunities to plagiarize.


The design of CL approach

To address the requirements of the education directives, four teaching and learning concepts were determined as the design tenets of the CL approach:

  • Learning by doing it yourself - relevant learning material in the form of activities that students can perform on their own to achieve specific outcomes while also learning through this experience;
  • Work-ready - prepare learners to understand and demonstrate the values the employers are looking for in a work environment;
  • Flexibility - involve the learners in deciding what they want to develop confirming to the context and applicability.  The use of customizable courseware adds value to students past experience and learning, while enhancing their current knowledge;
  • Scenario based learning - encourage learners to use prior knowledge and experience and critical thinking in a risk-free and a close to real-world environment.

As it engages learners on a continuous basis and encourages them to work through the term, it tends to reduce the conditions for students' excessive mental stress as compared to the traditional "single-shot" effort close to assessments' deadlines, and hence reduces the motivation to plagiarize.  

This approach is currently implemented in some of the IT and Business courses at Wintec. The value in adopting this and the comprehensiveness of the approach will be strengthened through more implementations and wider adoption of the approach in subjects other than those in IT and Business.  

This was first published and presented at CITERNZ 2018. You can read the full paper here.


Sunitha Prabhu is a senior academic staff member at the Centre for Information Technology, Wintec.



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