Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Learning design - a definition

spirals19 by pizzodisevo
So far in the oldsmooc the definitions of learning design are all teacher centric because the teacher is always in charge of designing the learning. I think we probably need to throw away the established theories and the models - even though Ida has done a fabulous job of collating them on the wiki - and begin afresh using a truly learner-centric model - even the Arcs model by John Keller that Ida states is more learner-centred is teacher-led. This would mean moving to a constructivist/connectivist framework, and leaving cognitive/behaviourist approaches behind.

I think the role of teachers is to mentor and to teach critical thinking, scaffold metacognition and to guide students in how to be self-directed and self-regulated learners - our role is to guide students to develop their own strategies for learning, and to obtain and manage the information they need - access, filter, evaluate and create - and in doing so they will develop the knowledge they need to reach their learning goals. Teachers are thereby freed up from hours of designing and developing content and activities, and can support student learning more effectively through mentoring.

Unfortunately, the spiel about learner-centred learning still occurs around curricula where the learning outcomes for courses and qualifications are set by the organisation, and teachers still set the learning objectives for each module.  Even if students already have skills and knowledge, they are often required to sit through the same stuff again, so they become bored and switch off and they disengage. Sure learning outcomes do guide the students and helps them know what they need to understand about a topic, but surely they should be the ones to decide the meaning that they need to extract from a learning experience, and what learning experiences they need to achieve their dreams?

So I am a fan of learning design whereby students take 'the reins' and the teacher mentors and facilitates the process. Is there a name for this type of learning design yet? Individualized learning design is a term used by Suny Empire State College.

I really like the idea of enabling students to 'pick and mix' the courses they want to take and decide the shape of their qualifications, so assessment of prior learning is going to be key to this, as is constructivism and connectivism as approaches to learning. I really like the individualized learning design and mentor model (with learning contracts and student-designed degrees) practised by Suny Empire State College - read more.

Learner-designed activities
Back to the idea of learning activities designed by students for students ....Lets say for argument's sake that the topic they need to explore is around creating an identity on the Internet. If using individualized learning design, the students may have decided that they need to do this to up their profile for the future and to connect to others while they learn. For some many it will be more beneficial professionally to have an Internet presence. So creating an online presence and identity becomes one of their learning goals. A student might say:
  • Who do I want to be? 
  • Where will I show myself on the Internet?
  • What do I want others to see? 
  • What tools can I use to achieve this? 
  • What do I know already and what do I need to know? 
  • Who can help me with this? 
Some students will go it alone. Others will join with peers, and some may ask the teacher. From my perspective, the role of learning design is handed to the students - the teacher may support the students with questions to get them started, but the only thing the teacher might provide is guidance with the task that the students has decided to undertake, in discussion with his or her mentor (teacher): 
  • Create an identify for yourself on the Internet.
  • Share what you learn with others.
I wonder what others think? Is this a cost-effective model of learning?


Dave McQuillan said...

Hi Bronwyn,

I agree to some degree & disagree to some degree to your central point, that we should abandon cognitive/behviourist approaches.

There is clearly benefit in getting students involved in setting their own learning goals. Putting them in the driver's seat must surely improve the perceived relevance and student motivation.

However your argument ignores the fact that students when they enter an area of study typically have a low level of understanding of what is actually needed to be a successful practioner. There is real value in the role of an expert learning designer who can assemble learning experiences which comprehensively prepare a student for the realities of the workplace (and sometimes industry requirements).

I also wonder about student motivation. My experience leads me to believe that less structured learning experiences work well for the more motivated, higher-achieving student, but that those students who are not so motivated & skilled at learning benefit from a more structured approach.

I think that the aim should be balance. Rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water, the teacher should take the best of all approaches. Cognitivist & behvaiourist approaches have their place.

Bronwyn hegarty said...

Yeah, yeah I know balance. And I agree, many students would feel sort of weird if they were given the opportunity to learn in a constructivist fashion after passing through a more prescriptive, e.g., the NCEA system, and were unfamiliar with having more freedom to think. Constructivism does not mean lack of structure though which is a common misconception, and whatI am proposing is a more individualized structure - rather than a one-size-fits all model of learning.

I wonder if we introduced this approach in high school when students are fresh from the more constructivist primary school years (rapidly becoming less so with standards) if students would be more open to learning creatively?

And yes this form of learning design does need lots of scaffolding....I totally agree, but that is the beauty of a mentoring approach - don't you think? The scaffolding can be more closely customised to suit the individual.

x said...

I'd be interested in what you think about Action-based Teaching, Autonomy and Identity. Leo van Lier

I read that as being supporting a move towards autonomy and learner-centred learning of the type you are describing.