Learning how to Learn workshops

When thinking about UIUC students, we imagine effortless, academically successful, high-achieving students. Yet, learning in college does not come easy for most of those students. For many of them, high school was relatively easy, and succeeding required talent and quick memorization; however, college comes with higher hurdles and requires a more advanced skill set, one of which is learning to learn. 


Dr. Shelly Shmidt, professor of food chemistry from the College of ACES, recognized the need for UIUC students to learn how to learn. In the summer of 2022, she partnered with Dr. Amy Leman from the College of ACES and Dr. Saadeddine Shehab from the Siebel Center for Design and implemented the Human-Centered Design approach to explore and design learning opportunities for students to learn how to learn. 


By empathizing with multiple stakeholders, such as faculty, academic advisors, teaching assistants, and students, it became apparent that a “learning how to learn ecosystem” is needed. The system will compromise learning how to learn learning experiences for each stakeholder in order to foster students’ acquisition of the learning how to learn strategies and behaviors. The purpose of the LhtL ecosystem is to create and inspire life-long learners who are able to succeed in, around, and beyond the academic classroom.


Since the summer of 2022, the team has been engaged in designing and prototyping learning experiences for the different stakeholders that will later be part of the learning how to learn ecosystem. Student stakeholders are the central element of the system as they are the stakeholders that are most significant to the process. The learning experiences created for them by the team after many drafts and iterations include engaging in an Illinois eText entitled Learning How to Learn, accessible to all on Illinois’ etext platform.

This eText is filled with key concepts, evidence-based learning strategies, student stories, and more that will guide students through establishing productive and lasting study habits that result in high academic success. The learning experiences also include students’ workshops that introduce students to key learning how to learn strategies and assist students in applying those strategies to their ongoing learning challenges. 


Teaching Assistants (TAs) are the second component of the system and serve as the link between students and faculty. TAs interact on a smaller scale with students in discussion groups and therefore have more of a personal relationship with them. This allows TAs to ensure LHtL principles and techniques are being understood and implemented. For TAs, the team created workshops on LHtL, where they learn definitions, techniques, and principles and then learn how to teach them to their students. 


Faculty are the third component of the system. The process of creating a learning experience for them is currently being built, with research being conducted to personalize this experience for these stakeholders. This experience will also be a workshop where, like the TAs, faculty will learn about LHtL principles and techniques, but will be provided with practical  suggestions to implement them into their curriculums and classrooms. 


Since the creation of the first iterations of the learning experiences that constitute the LHtL ecosystem, in 2022, four TA workshops and three student workshops have taken place. While the faculty workshops are still in the ideation phase, many interviews have been conducted in order to gather data and have a deeper understanding of what our faculty need. Future steps will include planning for and implementing learning how to learn experiences for all three stakeholders in one workshop followed by evaluating the impact of the experiences on each of the stakeholders.