Monday, 10 May 2010

H800: Week 12 - Activity 2 - Reading Richardson (2005)

Note: This was originally posted in my OU Blog on 4th May 2010

Do you think the innovations described in Weeks 8 and 9 as 'learning design' would induce more desirable approaches to studying on the part of the students?
My understanding of the concept of 'learning design' (from Weeks 8 & 9) is that the focus should be on the learner. Furthermore, the tools we looked at, such as Compendium, Hybrid Learning Model, London Pedagogical Planner etc. were all designed to focus the mind of the 'learning designer' on the activities of the learner. It therefore follows, in my view, that these innovations are intended to induce more desirable approaches to studying.

Compare Marton's idea that some students regard learning as something that just happens to them with Sfard's account that you read in Week 3.

At a most basic level, I suppose Marton's view of 'surface learners' aligns with Sfard's 'acquisition metaphor' in that the learner takes a passive role, and the process of learning is primarily concerned with knowledge acquisition. Similarly, Marton's 'deep learners' take an active role in the learning process, and are therefore more closely aligned with Sfard's 'participation metaphor', whereby learning involves joining and contributing to a community of learners. However, I recall the extensive discussions about Sfard that took place in Week 3, and it was clear that such a simplistic dichotomy was not a very good representation.

Do the concepts, theories and evidence described in my paper fit your own experience as a learner? Which of Säljö's five conceptions of learning best fits your own definition?

I can relate quite strongly to some of the concepts described. As a learner, I think at various times in my life I have viewed learning in accordance with all five of the conceptions. Generally speaking, when I was younger my views were much closer to the first three of Säljö's conceptions, and as I've got older they are much closer to the conceptions 4 and 5. This seems to tie in with research highlighted in Richardson's paper (Rossum & Taylor, 1987) that "older students were more likely than younger students to hold the more sophisticated conceptions".

If you have (or have had) a role in teaching or training, do the concepts, theories and evidence described in my paper fit your own experience as a teacher or trainer?

I first became a lecturer in 1991 and at that time I had no formal training or education as a teacher. When I think about it now, I find it remarkable that we often appoint teachers in further and higher education purely on the basis of their expertise or experience in their subject, without any real evidence of their ability to teach. Thus, my early teaching methods were based largely on the approaches I had experienced myself as a student. Looking back, I feel a little embarrassed about that, since these methods were most closely aligned with Kember's (1997) first two conceptions of teaching, namely "teaching as imparting information" and "teaching as transmitting structured knowledge" (cited in Richardson, 2005).

Nowadays, I would like to think my conception of teaching aligns more closely with Kember's third and fourth conceptions, which refer to "interaction" and "facilitating learning". I would love to think that my teaching brings about "conceptual change and intellectual development in the student" (Kember's fifth conception), but I could not claim that with any confidence.

I was struck by one of the approaches to studying which Richardson refers to, namely a "strategic approach, based upon obtaining the highest grades". My colleagues and I often refer to our part time (day release) students as being strategic learners. Their prime motivation often appears to be simply getting the qualification in order to be able to progress at work. They do not readily embrace the loftier ideals of higher education - they want what they need to pass coursework and exams. With such students it is actually quite difficult to foster an environment in which this deeper intellectual development takes place.

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