Sunday, October 12, 2014

MCOs of Learning and Instruction

[This is my first post for #ccourses!]

One area of research learning scientists is concerned with is what Reigeluth and Merrill (1978; Reigeluth, 1983) call MCO variables in instruction; Methods (teaching strategies; manipulate-able by instructors and learning designers), Conditions (e.g. disciplinary goals, constraints, student characteristics; not manipulate-able) and (desired) Outcomes.

One of Unit 1's readings by Randy Bass (2012) reminded me of MCOs and the what and how to improve learning in these times. He put forth some changes instructors and institutions would need to make in light of the current learning and instructional conditions (possibilities!) and desired outcomes for learning in higher education.


Desired Outcome

Bass wrote that higher education was in a transitional stage, moving from an instructional to a learning paradigm, citing Barr and Tagg (1995) for that insight.

I want to extend this thought by adding that critical pedagogists have advocated for an approach to treat the student as a co-creator of knowledge for a considerable time. As a teacher, one of my desired outcomes of learning is for the student to recognize that his/her uniqueness is treasured. For this, I thank a teacher (or two) in my years of education who practiced the content (as John Seeley Brown was cited in the article as saying) and challenged me with questions such as, "Where is your voice in this writing? I want to hear it."

Paolo Freire (1970/1993; Pedagogy of the Oppressed) is opposed to the dichotomy of the teacher as the content expert and the student as a receptacle waiting passively to be filled by the teacher's content. He believes in dialogue, where "no one teaches another, nor is anyone self-taught. People teach each other, mediated by the world, by the cognizable objects which in banking education are "owned" by the teacher" (Freire, 1970/1993, p. 80).

[Add note here about bell hooks (Gloria Jean Watkins)]

However, expecting students to be co-creators of knowledge is not frequently as well-received as we think it would be, by the students themselves, and, sometimes, their parents. This leads to the question I have:
  • How do we prepare students to practice "learning to be" co-creators of knowledge and courageously take ownership of their learning? I'm aware that there are a few subsystems here that we are impinging on in the ecosystem of education: students, faculty, leadership/administration (at multiple levels), programs/departments, parents, accreditation agencies. Yes, I honestly believe that there are some students that need to be inducted into a new way of learning.  
Image taken from Greer, M. & Rubinstein, B. (1978). Will the real teacher
please stand up? A primer in humanistic education. 2nd Ed. Santa Monica, CA: Goodyear Pub.
Image Description: 4 circles (What I want to teach, what I want to learn,
what you want to learn, what you want to teach) overlap in the middle (What we
discover together). Mary Greer and Bonnie Rubinstein's names are printed at the bottom.


Methods of Instruction/Teaching

Having established the desire to put integrated learning design, experiential, and participatory learning as a vision of the reinvented curriculum in the post-course era, Bass offers a team-based design of instruction (as opposed to an individualistic approach). He shares a version articulated by Patricia Iannuzzi, Dean of Libraries at University of Nevada-Las Vegas. The team could consist of co-instructors such as writing center specialists, librarians, instructional technologists and others.

It has been argued that piecemeal changes, as opposed to systemic change, will not be sustainable in the long run. However, for transformation to happen, Bass makes a strong and valid point, that present conditions for informal self-directed learning can no longer be ignored. It is not that courses can never be the site of high impact practices, but we have to think beyond the notion that the formal learning space has to be the primary place of learning. It is no longer so in an era where students can google for content, interact with people from all corners of the globe, learn on the go and even have their own online study rooms to learn together.

The questions I have are:
  • What and how do you sequence, synthesize and organize different macro and micro teaching strategies across fields and disciplines to make the learning as seamless as possible in a third space?  
  • Are teachers ready for this? Boundary crossing entails relinquishment and constant negotiation. What is our role in helping them get ready for this?

Someone asked, How do you assess such “messy” (participatory) learning?

Bass has given sort of an answer in his statement, "I don't know if every college course has to function like this." That is, the new learning design could be a blend of various learning and teaching strategies. Connected learning can thus be assessed along a variety of parameters (besides the networked participatory feature) as distinguished by its other features of being interest-driven, production-centered, academically oriented and peer-supported.

I close with a reminder of the sort of learning we desire to inspire in our students, found in a book I brought back from a recent Singapore trip:

Quote by Arthur Combs. In Greer & Rubinstein (1978, p. xxv)

Image Description:
From "What Can Man Become?" by Arthur W. Combs
The kind of openness characteristic of the truly adequate, fully functioning personality the experts are describing for us comes about as a consequence of the individual's own feeling of security in himself. It is a product of his feeling that he is important, that he counts, that he is a part of the situation and the world in which he is moving. This feeling is created by the kind of atmosphere in which he lives and works. It is encouraged by atmospheres we are able to create in the classroom and the halls and laboratories that help young people to develop a feeling of trust in themselves. 
What causes a person to feel outside, undermines and destroys his feeling of trust? Differences must be respected and encouraged, not merely tolerated .... The goal of education must be the increasing uniqueness of people, not increasing likeness. It is the flowering of individuality we seek, not the production of automatons. This means differences of all kinds must be encouraged, appreciated, valued. Segregation is not only socially undesirable; it is demoralizing and diminishing as well ....
This kind of openness we seek in the free personality requires a trust in self and this means to me, we need to change the situation we sometimes find in our teaching where the impression is given the student that all the answers worth having lie "out there." I believe it is necessary for us to recognize that the only important answers are those which the individual has within himself, for these are the only ones that will ever show up in his behavior ....

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