In our model of Small Group Learning (SGL), we ask students to prepare for the SGL class by independent study of a text, online module or lecture, directed by the faculty.  This “Directed Independent Learning” (DIL) is often used, but how well is it used?

If we view the DIL as a way to have a “second” teaching session with the students, this allows us to give support, explanations and/or a rationale for the reading or viewing they are doing.

A recent study advocated 10 minute “supportive” podcasts as a way to help students understand the purpose and the key concepts and terminology in a reading prior to a group learning task.  The instructors chose podcasts as a way to connect with students and allow them to listen anytime and anywhere.

Whether you use a podcast, or simply write in the Teacher’s Message in MEdTech, here are some possible aspects of “teaching” with readings you can incorporate in your “DIL” teaching.

  • An introduction that explains why the reading had been chosen and how it links with course content or upcoming tasks;
  • Guidance on the key elements in the assigned reading on which students should focus;
  • Elaboration of particularly difficult content, including different ways of phrasing or explaining essential theoretical concepts;
  • Background on any concepts new to students and not explained in the reading with the goal of creating a context for the reading;
  • Grounding questions described as “designed to help students relate the material to their personal/professional reality.” (p. 82) In other words, questions that encouraged students to think about how the material applied to their interests and circumstances.

What are your thoughts on using this as a method to connect with students outside the classroom?

Taylor, L., McGrath-Champ, S., and Clarkeburn, H. (2012). Support student self-study: The educational design of podcasts in a collaborative learning context. Active Learning in Higher Education, 13 (1), 77-90.