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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Out and About: Discussion on Educational Schools of Thought

The great thing about blogs is that even though it seems like two people are having a discussion, others can join in. As Stephen Downes and I have been exchanging talking points about the various schools of educational thought, Bill Kerr has added a number of ideas and insights to the discussion as well and then took it one step further and created a summary on the discussion called _isms as filter, not blinker. It is a good post and I suggest you take a look.

Bill Kerr then added his own insights and a comment that I find resonates with me:
It seems to me that each _ism is offering something useful without any of them being complete or stand alone in their own right
I couldn’t agree more. We need to take pieces from each school of thought and apply it effectively because…Cognitivism doesn’t explain 100% how humans process information and neither does Constructivism or Behaviorism. What we need to is take the best from each philosophy and use it wisely to create solid educational experiences for our learners.

So the next question you ask is “What is the best, how do we know what makes sense or what doesn’t?” I suggest that lower level learning (lower cognitive load) requires a behaviorist approach (memorize, recognizing, labeling) as does the expectation of outcomes that must be measured. I then suggest that procedural and rule-based learning requires an emphasis on Cognitivism and finally, problem-solving, collaboration and creativity require a view of Constructivism.

The issue many forget is that “learning” is not one thing…it is a multi-layered word that tends to get treated as if it were just one thing…and it’s not. It is multi-facetted and that is why developing new models for “learning” is so difficult…there are too many levels for one school of thought or one model to do it all.
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3 comments:

Pennyfree said...

Once again the blog information points to the fact that we should not cater to just one of the _isms, neither should we disregard either _ism, but we need to take the best of each and use them for the educational purposes of our learners.~~Penny

Dreana Marshall-Stuart said...

In the blogs, discussion on Behaviourism aimed at quantifying behaviour, to make it more scientifically observable. I do agree that Behaviourism is observable, and can effectively be measured through research, experiments, interviews, surveys, case studies, and questionnaires. Behaviorism focuses on a new behavioral pattern being repeated until it becomes automatic. I agreed with this premise especially when we look at the experiments conducted by Skinner in terms of conditioning.

The reality is that although cognition is not observable, we know it exists. Are we to conclude that cognition explains the thought process behind the behavior of a person. Yes, changes in behavior can be observed, but how do we effectively use these changes as indicators as to what is happening inside the learner's mind? The process of learning cognitively which was compared to that of the Central Processing Unit (CPU) or brain of a computer where we as humans process information through receiving, storing and retrieving it was disagreed upon in Stephen's response. I have somewhat to agree with Stephen based on my personal belief in the concept “GIGO” – Garbage In, Garbage Out. So although scientists believe humans process information like computers, we must also remember that the information computers receive, store and retrieve is what the user puts in. So if we indeed take in ‘garbage’ that is what we will store and retrieve – can we then consider that learning has indeed taken place.
I agreed with Bill Kerr’s comments that each –ism being offered on its own does have something to offer us however incomplete they maybe. I also agree that if we take bits and pieces from each theory we can use them collectively to our benefit. The suggestion to use the bits taken from each theory as a scaffolding process was also an excellent idea. It is true that no one theory can stand alone and be strong in itself, but if we apply different aspects of each theory to fill a particular learning need then we may be able to design a course that can be consider exceptional in terms of the learning processes. I think Bill said he best when the stated that the essence of good educational design may be had in taking a little bit from each school of thought. Kapp reiterated that “What we need to is take the best from each philosophy and use it wisely to create solid educational experiences for our learners.”
As instructional designers we are going to find ourselves applying both of these theories. For instance, as instructors we are going to find ourselves heavily relying on Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning, which was constructed from a cognitive perspective. We have now find ourselves shifting to a Cognitive form of teaching over that of behaviorism as we become more concern with the internal mental processes of the mind and how they could be used in encouraging effective learning. For example, in using the behaviorist approach to designing a lesson we will have probably broken down a task into small steps in an effort to shape the learner’s behavior. Now, if we were to use the cognitive approach we would have analyze the task differently. Yes, we would have broken the task down steps albeit smaller steps or chunks of information. We would have then used that information to develop the learning process to move from simple to complex learning, building on prior schema as with Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning.

Richard Williams said...

@Dreana.
In your comment you asked the question, " So if we indeed take in ‘garbage’ that is what we will store and retrieve – can we then consider that learning has indeed taken place."

Yes, learning has taken place. Although the learning may not have been the out come we intended to have occur, learning has taken place. I design instruction, we have to be careful to keep the "garbage" (or unintended learning) to a minimum so that what is being learned is directed toward the goal of the instruction. Just a thought.