I came across this description while preparing a short form case study for a project I’ve been involved in, and thought I’d better make a note of what was described as the qualitative outcomes of education.
As teachers, we should strive to create environments:
In which learners are empowered, are safe to express themselves, to ask and respond to peers’ questions without feeling oppressed, domesticated or silenced
That encourage intellectual freedom to ‘think-aloud’, ‘try-out’ new things and reflect on lessons learnt
In which the psychological distance between knowledgeable others (peers and experts) is reduced
In which learners are equal partners in knowledge production (participatory parity)
“When I look around at the risk/reward curve for higher education it’s grim. We’ve really gone past the point where raising tuition higher than inflation and then financializing the payment system has become abusive. I certainly never intended for myself an academic career and, were the academy to suffer, I’d just go do something else. I don’t have a commitment to it or to really, frankly, almost any institution that assumes that it has to be stable forever.
Plainly, universities are the kind of institutions that are ripe for pretty radical reconsideration. Probably because the founding story of many institutions and particularly the ones that we think of as the kind of original avatars of American higher education was “notable gentlemen X donated their library.” Right? So literally just access to written material became an important enough gesture that you would organize a university around it. And whatever [laughs] — whatever it is people need more of today, it ain’t access to written material.”
I recently attended a workshop by Professor Sue Clegg from Leeds Metropolitan University. The aim of the workshop was to provide support for staff who are conducting research in higher education. The workshop considered appropriate paradigms and methodologies, discussed strategies for data collection, data analysis, and interpretation.
Lots of literature bemoaning the fact that research in higher education lacks a theoretical base
Highlighted the anxiety behind using theory, but not clear what it means to use theory
As researchers, we often feel that we need to appeal to an authority to give our data a sense of legitimacy
“Intellectual craftmanship” – there isn’t a rulebook, research isn’t pure and it’s often “messy”
The movement from theory to data and back again isn’t linear
“Sometimes a theory just grabs you, and makes sense to you”, but you can also be “intellectually promiscuous”
Learn to use your life experience in your intellectual work…you are personally involved in every intellectual product you have worked on (Wright Mill, 1959)
There’s a lot of critical literature on the nature of reflection and it’s lack of transparency. There are things that can’t be articulated, or are not articulated well. Seemingly transparent, “good” processes (like reflection) are not self-evidently good
Anecdotally, students don’t know “how” to reflect. They often give back what they think they’re supposed to…what is the “right” answer, they write reflections according to a script. BUT practitioners in certain fields have reflection embedded into the professional consciousness (as in physiotherapy), and see it as a dominant path to development. “Science” as a field doesn’t allow much room for the self in research.
Evidence based research / practice in higher education and the social sciences is often procedurally rigorous, but not scientifically rigorous
Some things work in some circumstances, but we don’t know how or why
“Where” does something sit in the curriculum? Or is it deeply integrated and spread throughout with little to specify a location?
Introduced to the notion of the “kind” teacher
The future is not empty and open, it is already stratified. Black students in this country don’t have the same life options as white students. In the UK, working class students don’t have the same options as middle class students
Having said that theories are often messy, one also needs to pay attention to them
Research philosophy and paradigms
Having a philosophy and situating yourself within a paradigm tells your reader what your stance is, locates the research in a broader context, guides (but doesn’t determine) the approach or method, and brings a coherence to the legitimacy of the knowledge claims you make
The dominant form of realism has historically been positivism, which equates broadly to things that we can see and touch and hear, and a relationship between cause and effect. Positivism tends to “flatten the world”
BUT, often the cause of an effect can’t been observed e.g. positivism can’t explain the complex interaction between patient and therapist
Realism is important in the sense that it is falsifiable, i.e. the experiment can produce results that show the hypothesis to be wrong
Much research in South Africa is grounded in material reality and a desire for real social change
Speaking about philosophers being “interesting writers to think with”
Experimentation maps onto positivist or critical realist assumptions. Interpretive approaches are more tricky
Pluralism at the Method level can be good thing, as the quantitative / qualitative dilemma is about having the argument at the wrong level. Have multiple perspectives at the Method level
It is important to have thought about the problem and make knowledge claims that are appropriate to the approach you’ve used in terms of validity, reliability, credibility
Where am I coming from, and what assumptions am I making about my knowledge claims?
Theories can be fashionable and used only to lend credibility to an argument i.e. inserted after the fact. Theories can be thought of as a framework to think with.
Writing for publication
We don’t always pay attention to the “obvious” things when it comes to writing
If teaching is immediate gratification, writing for publication is deferred gratification
Sharing your work with others is part of participating in a larger conversation
Writing doesn’t have to be empirical, can be new insights or new ways of framing issues. Think about writing short “thought” pieces. What are the alternative places to publish that can get ideas out quickly, to be widely read, to establish yourself in a field?
Much of writing is about defining and understanding your audience. Do I write for a discipline specific or interdisciplinary audience? Are there multiple audiences? Are they practitioner audiences?
How do you demonstrate the impact of your work?
Is there a moral obligation to publish results that are new and innovative? Writing and sharing can be a virtuous activity.
Research the journal you’d like to publish in BEFORE starting writing. It’s easier to target your writing for an audience / journal, than to write a generic paper and “massage” it to fit something after the fact.
we need to toss out the old industrial model of pedagogy (how learning is accomplished) and replace it with a new model called collaborative learning. Second we need an entirely new modus operandi for how the subject matter, course materials, texts, written and spoken word, and other media (the content of higher education) are created.
“Teachers who use collaborative learning approaches tend to think of themselves less as expert transmitters of knowledge to students, and more as expert designers of intellectual experiences for students — as coaches or mid-wives of a more emergent learning process.”
The bottom line was simple: professors should spend more time in discussion with students.
“Collaborative learning has as its main feature a structure that allows for student talk: students are supposed to talk with each other . . . and it is in this talking that much of the learning occurs.”
With technology, it is now possible to embrace new collaboration models that change the paradigm in more fundamental ways. But this pedagogical change is not about technology
this represents a change in the relationship between students and teachers in the learning process.
Today, universities embrace the Cartesian view of learning. “The Cartesian perspective assumes that knowledge is a kind of substance and that pedagogy concerns the best way to transfer this substance from teachers to students. By contrast, instead of starting from the Cartesian premise of ‘I think, therefore I am,‘ . . . the social view of learning says, ‘We participate, therefore we are.‘”
one of the strongest determinants of students’ success in higher education . . . was their ability to form or participate in small study groups. Students who studied in groups, even only once a week, were more engaged in their studies, were better prepared for class, and learned significantly more than students who worked on their own.” It appears that when students get engaged, they take a greater interest in and responsibility for their own learning.
“The scandal of education is that every time you teach something, you deprive a [student] of the pleasure and benefit of discovery.”
Like Guttenberg’s printing press, the web democratizes learning
Rather than seeing the web as a threat to the old order, universities should embrace its potential and take discovery learning to the next step.
One project strategy, called “just-in-time teaching,” combines the benefits of web-based assignments with an active-learner classroom where courses are customized to the particular needs of the class. Warm-up questions, written by the students, are typically due a few hours before class, giving the teacher an opportunity to adjust the lesson “just in time,” so that classroom time can be focused on the parts of the assignments that students struggled with. This technique produces real results. An evaluation study of 350 Cornell students found that those who were asked “deep questions” (questions that elicit higher-order thinking) with frequent peer discussion scored noticeably higher on their math exams than students who were not asked deep questions or who had little to no chance for peer discussion.
The university needs to open up, embrace collaborative knowledge production, and break down the walls that exist among institutions of higher education and between those institutions and the rest of the world.
“My view is that in the open-access movement, we are seeing the early emergence of a meta-university — a transcendent, accessible, empowering, dynamic, communally constructed framework of open materials and platforms on which much of higher education worldwide can be constructed or enhanced. The Internet and the Web will provide the communication infrastructure, and the open-access movement and its derivatives will provide much of the knowledge and information infrastructure.”
The digital world, which has trained young minds to inquire and collaborate, is challenging not only the lecture-driven teaching traditions of the university but the very notion of a walled-in institution that excludes large numbers of people.
If all that the large research universities have to offer to students are lectures that students can get online for free, from other professors, why should those students pay the tuition fees, especially if third-party testers will provide certificates, diplomas, and even degrees? If institutions want to survive the arrival of free, university-level education online, they need to change the way professors and students interact on campus.
The value of a credential and even the prestige of a university are rooted in its effectiveness as a learning institution. If these institutions are shown to be inferior to alternative learning environments, their capacity to credential will surely diminish.
Professors who want to remain relevant will have to abandon the traditional lecture and start listening to and conversing with students — shifting from a broadcast style to an interactive one. In doing so, they can free themselves to be curators of learning — encouraging students to collaborate among themselves and with others outside the university. Professors should encourage students to discover for themselves and to engage in critical thinking instead of simply memorizing the professor’s store of information.
The Industrial Age model of education is hard to change. New paradigms cause dislocation, disruption, confusion, uncertainty. They are nearly always received with coolness or hostility. Vested interests fight change. And leaders of old paradigms are often the last to embrace the new.
whilst the educational technology community has tended to espouse constructivist approaches to learning, the reality is that most Virtual Learning Environments have tended to be a barrier to such an approach to learning
In such an age of supercomplexity, the university has new knowledge functions: to add to supercomplexity by offering completely new frames of understanding (so compounding supercomplexity); to help us comprehend and make sense of the resulting knowledge mayhem; and to enable us to live purposefully amid supercomplexity.
A teacher/instructor/professor obviously plays numerous roles in a traditional classroom: role model, encourager, supporter, guide, synthesizer. Most importantly, the teacher offers a narrative of coherence of a particular discipline. Selecting a textbook, determining and sequencing lecture topics, and planning learning activities, are all undertaken to offer coherence of a subject area. Instructional (or learning) design is a structured method of coherence provision.
When learners have control of the tools of conversation, they also control the conversations in which they choose to engage.
Course content is similarly fragmented. The textbook is now augmented with YouTube videos, online articles, simulations, Second Life builds, virtual museums, Diigo content trails, StumpleUpon reflections
Traditional courses provide a coherent view of a subject. This view is shaped by “learning outcomes” (or objectives). These outcomes drive the selection of content and the design of learning activities. Ideally, outcomes and content/curriculum/instruction are then aligned with the assessment. It’s all very logical: we teach what we say we are going to teach, and then we assess what we said we would teach.
Fragmentation of content and conversation is about to disrupt this well-ordered view of learning.
How can we achieve clear outcomes through distributed means? How can we achieve learning targets when the educator is no longer able to control the actions of learners?
I’ve come to view teaching as a critical and needed activity in the chaotic and ambiguous information climate created by networks. In the future, however, the role of the teacher, the educator, will be dramatically different from the current norm. Views of teaching, of learner roles, of literacies, of expertise, of control, and of pedagogy are knotted together. Untying one requires untying the entire model.
For educators, control is being replaced with influence. Instead of controlling a classroom, a teacher now influences or shapes a network.
The following are roles teacher play in networked learning environments:
A curatorial teacher acknowledges the autonomy of learners, yet understands the frustration of exploring unknown territories without a map.
Instead of explicitly stating “you must know this”, the curator includes critical course concepts in her dialogue with learners, her comments on blog posts, her in-class discussions, and in her personal reflections.
How do individuals make sense of complex information? How do they find their way through a confusing and contradictory range of ideas?
When a new technology appeared, such as blogs, my existing knowledge base enabled me to recognize potential uses.
Sensemaking in complex environments is a social process.
Imagine a course where the fragmented conversations and content are analyzed (monitored) through a similar service. Instead of creating a structure of the course in advance of the students starting (the current model), course structure emerges through numerous fragmented interactions. “Intelligence” is applied after the content and interactions start, not before.
Aggregation should do the same – reveal the content and conversation structure of the course as it unfolds, rather than defining it in advance.
Filtering can be done in explicit ways – such as selecting readings around course topics – or in less obvious ways – such as writing summary blog posts around topics.
“To teach is to model and to demonstrate. To learn is to practice and to reflect.”
Learning is a multi-faceted process, involving cognitive, social, and emotional dimensions.
Apprenticeship is concerned with more than cognition and knowledge (to know about) – it also addresses the process of becoming a carpenter, plumber, or physician.
An educator needs a point of existence online – a place to express herself and be discovered: a blog, profile in a social networking service, Twitter, or (likely) a combination of multiple services.
Without an online identity, you can’t connect with others – to know and be known. I don’t think I’m overstating the importance of have a presence in order to participate in networks. To teach well in networks – to weave a narrative of coherence with learners – requires a point of presence.
the methods of learning in networks are not new, however. People have always learned in social networks
Education is concerned with content and conversations. The tools for controlling both content and conversation have shifted from the educator to the learner. We require a system that acknowledges this reality.
E-learning context is very important. It is common to find educators who perceive e-learning as internet-only education that encourages a static and content-focused series of text pages on screen. Others envisage the shallow and random online messages that are typical of a social real-time chat session, and wonder how that type of communication could add any value to academic discourse. Some may have experienced e-learning done poorly, and extrapolate their experience into a negative impression of all e-learning.