Knowing the Learner

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To understand your learners, it is necessary to compile information about them so you can develop a learner profile. This profile can include: demographic information (gender, age, ethnicity, location etc.), learner characteristics - learning styles and preferences, literacy and numeracy, prior learning etc., and learners' needs and skills for learning. You will be guided to think about your learners' attributes and develop a profile.

Knowledge of these aspects will assist you in understanding the need to design activities that encourage deep learning.

Learner profiles: the rationale

To effectively meet the learning needs of students, classroom teachers must begin with an understanding of the needs of the learners, both collectively as a classroom unit and as individual students. A classroom is a community of learners, each with unique learning preferences, interests, strengths, needs and potential. Source: Rocky View Schools
Questions to consider
Who are my learners? How many of them will there be? Where are they going to be studying? What are their ages, their previous educational experience, their life and work experience? What kind of people are they? How do they prefer to learn? Why can some students confidently tackle the subjects they study and succeed? How do they do this?

You may feel that you know your 'typical student' quite well already, but have you really thought about their learning preferences and whether your course meets their needs? The needs of all 'stakeholders' have to be considered of course but the learners are at the centre of our considerations when we are designing for deep learning. What do you do already that encourages deep learning, and what could you do more of in your teaching?

Developing a learner profile

The diagram illustrates a possible Learner Profile for participants in this particular teaching qualification. Developing one can assist in designing an equitable and accessible learning environment that suits all learners in a particular group.

Learner profile3.jpg

Note: this learner profile was created using a PowerPoint slide and saved as a jpeg. There are many other options for creating a profile. You are encouraged to consider creating a mindmap, a table, video or audio and written text to describe your learners.

OP icon activity.gif


Questions to guide the development of a learner profile.

Use the following questions to help you to start thinking about the characteristics and learning preferences of your learners. Later on you will be asked to create a diagrammatic profile for them.

  • What are some of the personal characteristics of the learners (age, gender, cultural background, profession, background, family life, etc.)?
  • What is the educational level of the learners?
  • Will there be any barriers to their learning such as literacy or numeracy issues, or lack of computer skills?
  • Why are they taking the course?
  • How will they use their knowledge?
  • What do they already know about the topic?
  • Are there any prerequisites?
  • How will they be studying this topic? (Face to face, distance, blended etc.)
  • Are they novice or expert learners?