Case Study: Encouraging Learner Autonomy through Small, Self-selected Research Projects

Poster Exhibition April 2 2014

Poster Exhibition April 2 2014

This case study outlines a way in which two tutors have challenged students to develop as autonomous learners by researching and presenting posters at a public exhibition.

A first-year, second semester module in D&S concerns the ways in which the public interacts with history and highlights the similarities and differences between producing work for a public and an academic audience. In previous years, the students selected a topic from a defined list and worked in a small group to research the topic and give a short presentation of their findings. The two tutors wanted to encourage students to become more autonomous by allowing them to select their own topics within a very loose set of constraints, and help them develop alternative skills by requiring the students to create and present a poster on their findings.

The students, working in groups, researched their topics, created a poster and presented it at an exhibition open to the general public, with a prize being awarded to the best posters by a local published historian. Despite this being a formative activity, student engagement and participation was extremely high and the quality of the research and presentations was equally high. Student feedback showed that they enjoyed taking ownership of their own research project, felt like ‘real historians’ instead of history students and it helped them, at a very early stage of their course, to develop ‘real life’ skills that were transferable across the whole course.

This approach would work equally well in other disciplines beyond History and you can read more about this approach by reading the two-page case study entitled: Encouraging Learner Autonomy through Small, Self-selected Research Projects.  If you are willing to share your experiences in teaching online in a similar case study, please contact us through the Suggestions link.

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