Saturday, August 20, 2011

Learning Philosophy: EDUC 8845 - Blog Post #6

As my Learning Theory and Technology course comes to a close, my final assignment is to post my learning philosophy. I feel a little ill-equipped to do so however. Articulating a philosophy is tantamount to developing a magnum opus, which is usually the result of years of research and work that develops across a lifetime of practice. Still, I suppose I can at least summarize my current perspective in the hopes that it catalyzes my future thinking.
I believe that learning is about the construction of meaning in a social context. It’s as much about transforming the self as it is about possessing knowledge. The goal of instruction should not be to impart knowledge but to provide the skills necessary to connect within a community of practice, be it a professional community or a social one. I also believe that we all find meaning and purpose in different ways and without those drivers in our lives, we fail to meet our potential. When individuals have meaning and purpose, however, they make connections with the world and the people within it, forever altering both themselves and the world around them.
Learning theories are characteristic of the social conditions in which they arise and thrive. Behaviorism is situated within a historical period marked by industrialism; Cognitivism softened the rigid edges of behaviorism and applied an information processing metaphor, a product of the era of emerging technological advancement; Constructivism was born of a post-modern perspective in which society began to question its fundamental assumptions regarding the nature of reality and knowledge; and connectivism seeks to blend biological explanations for learning with a social phenomenon marked by interactive web technologies and social communication and collaboration. One might, based on this observation, suggest that we actually know very little about learning and that all of our theories are biased and subjective perspectives on the world. Yet, if we accept that these learning theories are socially constructed devices for making meaning, then we begin to understand that they are useful, both in guiding our practice and in helping us understand ourselves.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

New Technologies: EDUC 8845 Blog Post #5

Two years ago I was attempting to introduce an additional assessment method to the institution where I work. The assessment method is known as a proctored essay. It represents the online equivalent of a bluebook examination frequently administered by classroom instructors in higher education. I believed that the current battery of assessment methods we relied on was too limited, preventing us from assessing specific skills and abilities considered important in some courses. For example, in a U.S. History course, a multiple choice exam might allow you to assess a learner’s grasp of basic facts and knowledge, but there was no reliable method of assessing whether students could explain detailed events or articulate cause and effect in a more complex manner. While a project-based assignment could go beyond this cognitive assessment, it didn’t always fit perfectly either.

Needless to say, the response to the proposal was not favorable. The executive team reacted poorly to a pilot we conducted where students voiced considerable resistance to the method. Many of them voiced a preference for multiple choice examinations, which frankly did not surprise me given that the multiple choice exams required less of the students than the proctored essay.

Looking back on the situation, I could have more effectively applied some of the principles in Keller’s (Driscoll, 2005) ARCS model to improve acceptance of the new assessment method by both students and the executive team. First, I would have included more detailed information to both parties in the form of introductory materials that would hopefully activate their attention. For students, this would have raised their curiosity and better prepared them for the proctored essay format. For the executives, it might have raised the issue as a problem (lack of a reliable assessment method) rather than something simply being adopted. I would also have included more information regarding the usefulness and importance of the method to students and executives. For students, I would have better explained how this method actually assesses something relevant to their program and eventual careers. Many of the students were in an initial teacher licensure program, so the assessment method would better prepare them for the types of discussions and teaching experiences they themselves would be engaged with. Finally, I would have provided more opportunities for students and the executives to gain confidence. Perhaps I could have supplied the executives with data on the use of the assessment method in other institutions and demonstrated the advantages this method provided when dealing with accreditors who are always interested in the assessment of higher order thinking skills.

Rajagopal Rajesh published a useful blog post on ARCS found here.While the application of ARCS in my above example doesn't necessarily apply to instructional design, the principles are still relevant to motivation in general and thus, to any situation in which you are attempting to garner support, acceptance, and the success of a change, be it in the classroom or the boardroom.

Driscoll, M. (2005). Psychology of Learning for Instruction (3rd ed.) Boston: Pearson.

I commented on the following blogs for this assignment:

Brandi Renfro
Toni Toney