Developing the autonomous lifelong learner : tools, tasks and taxonomies

Clark, Wendy and Adamson, Jackie (2008) Developing the autonomous lifelong learner : tools, tasks and taxonomies. In: ENAC 2008, 27-29 August 2008, Berlin.

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This paper describes an action research project undertaken with undergraduate students at levels 4 and 5. Responding to the recent focus on lifelong learning and portfolio based personal development planning (PDP), this ongoing project encourages students to adopt a deep, active approach to learning, and thus take responsibility for their own learning. Assessment is widely recognised as an important influence on student learning. Recent conceptual shifts in thinking about assessment have highlighted the importance of developing students as autonomous learners by viewing assessment as a learning tool rather than a measurement of knowledge, and portfolios are mentioned as one of the modes appropriate for the new thinking about assessment (Havnes and McDowell, 2008). Therefore, the modules forming the basis of the project, in which the PDP concept was integrated into the curricular content and supported by the use of an ePortfolio, were designed following the precepts of Biggs’ theory of ‘constructive alignment’ (Entwistle 2003). This fits well with the PDP/ePortfolio philosophy for encouraging learner autonomy, as well as fulfilling the assessment for learning (AfL) requirements for formative feedback and lowstakes opportunities for practice before submission for rigorous summative assessment. Although there is still ongoing debate about the criteria to be used for the assessment of portfolios (Smith and Tillema, 2008), social scientists such as Baume (2002) and Biggs (1997) have shown that a qualitative view of validity and reliability can ensure adequate rigour for summative assessment. However, it is necessary to ensure inter-rater reliability as well as to make the learning goals and assessment criteria transparent for learners (Havnes and McDowell, 2008). A taxonomy for portfolio evaluation has therefore been developed which is easily understood and applied by tutors and students. In order to study the impact of this learning environment, a variety of data has been collected and analysed. This includes: • student achievement of the stated learning outcomes of the modules, assessed in accordance with our taxonomy for portfolio evaluation; • “added value” as indicated by a correlation of UCAS entry points with summative assessment results and a measurement of student engagement; • the quality of student reflection and self-evaluation demonstrated in the reflective commentaries. Results from these analyses show a positive impact. In order to provide more empirical evidence, students this year have completed the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI) questionnaire (details available at: This profiling tool serves a double purpose: it provides students with a vocabulary to describe their own thought processes and to articulate their ideas, and it provides statistical data to tutors which indicate development of both cohort and individual student’s learning characteristics over time. Preliminary analysis of these data, together with student opinion obtained in written commentaries and in debriefing interviews, shows that the learning environment created has brought about positive change. We welcome discussion of ways of evaluating student progress towards learning autonomy, in particular of the effectiveness of the ELLI profiling tool as a measurement of learning power development.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: X200 Research and Study Skills in Education
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering
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Depositing User: EPrint Services
Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2009 09:10
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2019 00:25

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