3.1a Working on the key skill of improving own learning and performance
Improving learning and improving your performance may sound simple enough, but experienced learners know that there is not always a direct route from a particular learning experience to improved performance. Many factors can affect this link – motivation, resources, support and feedback. You need to acknowledge that these, and many other factors, can and do influence the outcomes of your efforts. In other words, many influences can come along to knock learning off track. It is also important to acknowledge that there are limits to learning at any one time and that learning takes place in the broader context of other priorities and commitments, with improvement taking place over weeks or even months.
If it is true that learning is just one factor in a set of factors that influence performance, it is even more important that efforts to improve learning be as effective as possible. Everything directed towards maximising learning needs to be done well. This includes using the three-stage framework to help you structure your learning.
The three-stage framework for this key skill involves you:
developing a strategy for using skills to improve your learning and performance; this includes reviewing what you do currently, setting targets to make changes and using skills to improve your learning and performance, and planning how you will meet your targets;
monitoring your progress and critically reflecting on your learning and performance; this involves you knowing how to manage your time, use different ways to learn, and seek and use feedback;
evaluating your strategy and presenting outcomes of your work; this involves bringing together what you have learned and identifying ways to further improve your learning and performance.
In working on this key skill, as with all other key skills, you will be learning two different things at once. You will be using skills to help you improve your learning and performance as well as using the processes of the three-stage framework to help you learn how to learn more generally.
Working on this key skill involves you consciously being aware of what you are learning and the skills you can use to improve your performance.
This is always going to be difficult to ‘measure’ but to help you assess your own capabilities, and demonstrate how you have used skills to improve, it is important to keep a record of your learning, perhaps as a log or diary, as part of your Skills File. A small notebook (electronic or paper) or exercise book is ideal for this. Keep it with your study materials so that you can make brief notes when you feel it is appropriate. You may not wish to make entries every time you study or tackle a learning task; you may decide to use it once a week, or even each time you submit a piece of work to your tutor or manager. Use your Skills File to keep your notes and comments together and to collect examples of your work and feedback requested and received. Keep in mind that the main purpose is to keep an ongoing record of:
what you are learning, that is the skills you are developing;
ways you are using to learn, for example working with colleagues, formal training, independent study; and how well you have learned. This should include a judgement on the ways you have used to learn;
the feedback you receive and the use you make of it; and
critical reflection on your learning and performance overall.
Making a start on this key skill means establishing what you want to achieve with reference to your current capabilities – your strengths and weaknesses – as well as areas you need to develop for the future. You can then plan carefully how you intend to do this alongside your study or work activities. This is likely to involve you identifying particular pieces of work, for example, projects or assignments, where you can practise your skills. You also need to build in opportunities to get feedback to help you check on your progress. Feedback may be from a variety of sources, including your tutor, manager, other students and colleagues. But you also need to take initiative and control in planning and monitoring your progress and reflecting on how you intend to improve further. Thus, working on this key skill (as with the other key skills), involves you planning for learning.
Many students combine this key skill with one or more of the other key skills and/or your main area of activity. For example, you may wish to improve your information literacy skills. You could then use examples of your work to show your performance in information literacy skills supported by records to show the methods you used to develop your skills. The common structure of the key skills should help you do this.
If you are aiming for key skills assessment you need to present examples of what you have learned and a commentary that includes details of your strategy to improve your learning and performance, records of your monitoring and progress checks, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of your overall strategy.
Click here to open the Bookmark for this section. It describes the key skill and gives the criteria you need to meet. You should keep it to hand by either printing it out or simply keeping it open on your desktop throughout this section. The notes that follow guide you through the process of developing a strategy, monitoring your progress and evaluating your strategy and performance.