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Reflecting on learner intent

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Of all the factors that affect student learning, a student's desire to learn may be among the most significant. The quality of one's effort to learn and the persistence and striving a student exerts are determined by the student's aim and commitment to fully achieve the desired learning in a specific situation. This is learner intent. Students involved in this study had no difficulty speaking about their intent; in fact, their intent seems to be either predetermined habitually or situationally determined. In either case, reflective reasoning--thinking about one's learning effort and the quality of that learning--can be a catalyst in the formation of worthy intent. Without exception, all participants in this study regarded learning as a worthy endeavor. Still, students often lost their desire to learn when faced with deadlines and other conflicting intentions. When this happened, students tended to justify their decision. The quality of one's intent may depend on the source of one's reasoning. If learner intent is formed because of a fear of failure or a need to succeed, then the effort is often draining, and seldom will a student do more than the bare minimum to achieve their academic goals. In contrast, a learner whose intent comes from a passion to learn, a hope of enabling their abilities, or a love for the topic, generates energy and a desire to do more; it lifts, exhilarates, and can inspire an exceptional learning effort. This type of intent leads to expertise. Understanding learner intent and how it develops may provide valuable insights into how one should teach. This paper describes the results of a study involving learner intent and the need for reflection in the development of worthy learner intent. Both teachers and students can benefit from a better understanding of learner intent. Worthy learner intent is derived from honest reflection by students. Teachers can consciously attempt to help students become reflective practitioners. Such openness will lead, we believe, to a richer, more fulfilling experience for anyone who is committed to improving learning and teaching.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA; e-mail:

Publication date: 2003-10-01

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