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Rethinking learning for the meta-learner in higher education



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The broad purpose of this dissertation is to stimulate the conversation around both the purpose and conceptions of learning in higher education. In the current environment where knowledge is complex, uncertain, and changing there is a need to prepare students to be life-long learners capable of evaluating multiple knowledge claims and solving ill-structured problems. I offer the term meta-learner to articulate how in an environment where knowledge has no boundaries there is a need to understand, take ownership of, and control one’s own ways of knowing and personal learning such that learning allows for opening oneself up to the possibilities associated with knowledge uncertainty and complexity. Personal epistemology is the essence of how the learner knows and so I consider the beliefs about knowledge and knowing associated with the meta-learner as a preamble to discussing three broad views of knowledge. The opportunity for the learning and the development of the belief system associated with meta-learners is explored within the three learning theories: individual, social constructivist and activity theory. I propose an alternate conceptualization of learning for the development of students as meta-learners. The nature of this study is conceptual and as such it represents just one conception, my conception, of what is required from learning within academia if the meta-learner is to take control and ownership over the process and outcomes of the learning experience and participate in the knowledge creation process. When problems are ill-structured and complex, learning must be anchored in a personal belief that there is value in knowing oneself, others, and the world. I maintain this belief is associated with the ability of the learner to conceive of the possibilities learning holds, creates, and inspires. Learning must be about creating possibilities that strengthen the learner’s will to venture forward in an environment where knowledge is uncertain, complex, and changing.



learning in higher education meta-learner



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Educational Administration


Educational Administration


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