Friday, 30 October 2015

Productive Failure and Inspiring Learning - providing affordances

Is there evidence that "instruction" is not the best way of having learning occur? The traditional teach and test method seems rational, but is it how we learn? Does acquiring learning in this way inhibit a richer learning?

A post in Quartz pointed me to a paper by Manu Kapur and June Lee on Productive Failure (Designing for Productive Failure in Mathematical Problem Solving - National Institute of Education, Singapore; 2013). The researchers wanted to compare providing complex problems without scaffolds with traditional lecture and practice:

"...seventh-grade mathematics students from intact classes experienced one of two conditions: a) productive failure, where students solved complex, ill-structured problems on average speed without any instructional support or scaffolds up until a teacher-led consolidation, or b) traditional lecture and practice. Despite seemingly failing in their collective and individual problem-solving efforts, students from the productive failure condition significantly outperformed their counterparts from the other two conditions on both the well-structured and higher-order application problems on the post-test. The second study, conducted in another school with significantly lower academic ability students, replicated the findings of the first study. Findings and implications of productive failure for theory, design of learning, and future research are discussed."

This does remind me of the very open "Investigations" approach to learning in Mathematics and the current "Inquiry" approaches of the IB Primary Years and Middle Years Programmes.

The paper describes how students learning by Productive Failure (PL) outperformed the ones by Lecture and Practice (LP). But what is even more interesting is that the PF approach did not shut off other ways of thinking or structuring problems whilst the LP way cemented one way. The WAY of learning enabled opportunities, affordances, to a more complete set of methods and ways of thinking (representations).
From the conclusion:
"...but the process of exploring the problem and solution spaces for representations and methods for solving the problem may have engendered sufficient knowledge differentiation that prepared them to better discern and understand those very concepts, representation, and methods when presented in a well-assembled, structured form during the consolidation lecture (Marton, 2007; Schwartz & Bransford, 1998). Furthermore, it is plausible that having explored various representations and methods for solving the complex ill-structured problems, they perhaps better understood the affordances of the representations and methods when delivered by the teacher during the consolidation lecture. In other words, when the teacher explained the “canonical” representations and methods for solving the problem, they perhaps better understood not only why the canonical representations and methods work but also the reasons why the non-canonical ones—the ones they tried—did not work."

Does this apply to "older" students too? Stephen Downes' latest talk on "Learning through practice" has the following slide (#17):

Here, Downes places practice firmly before content under the "Personal Learning" approach. It is the affordances again, that enriches the learning achieved by this approach. Although his slides are about cMOOCs, they are worth reviewing since they take learning into the more adult sphere.
Having gone through several cMOOCs (including the whopper #change11 which really changed how I thought about this process) I can see the connections between Kapur's Productive Failure and Downes' Personal Learning. Inspiring.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

"Learning" vs "Instruction"

I am concerned about using the word "instruction" to describe the setting for teaching and learning. It seems so one directional.
If you are to "instruct" you must carefully define what it is you are going to instruct and pass the instruction on in some way. The WAY that learning takes place is crucial for determining the success of the learning (open to receiving the learning in the first place, latched on to existing knowledge, using it, recalling it later, ...). Too often it is seen as transmission and one-directional.
Two separate thought-joggers about this from today's blog trawl:
1. "Learning based on INQUIRY rather than AQUIRY" - Nigel Gardner's title for his LinkedIn post sharing "It takes a village to raise a SOLE" (Self-Organised Learner).
2. It's the way you do it: Karl M Kapp's SlideShare presentation "Don't Think Like an Instructional Designer - Think Like a Game Designer".
Really worth a look at - how to keep excitement and learning alive in the classroom.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Learning Styles - a debunked but pervasive myth

Cathy Moore's "How to respond to Learning Style believers" is a useful summary of the main arguments surrounding the Learning Styles myth. She links to Tesia Marshik's TEDx talk, which I prefer (PREFER) as a first source of information about this. Marshik points to how we may differ in our abilities to recall our sensory memories, but she makes the point that most of what we learn is stored in terms of meaning, not in terms of raw memory. She provides a great chess player example and makes the point that we should reflect critically and not just accept the generally held view about Learning Styles.
However, I preferred (PREFERRED) to listen to Marshik's video, glancing at the odd slide she presented. She told it as a story (could that be why we like TED Talks so much?).
However, Moore's blog page with links and a well thought out written piece is more useful for researching and unpacking the issues.
All this does not mean that we should use one teaching style! Nor that we have just one type of learner in front of us in the class! Creating rich learning environments is what good practice is about, including being aware of what some preferences might be, but creating resources to accommodate different "learning styles" is just a waste of time.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Subjectives instead of Objectives - my notes from Week 1 Rhizo15

Week 1 (Starting Wednesday 15th of April 2015.
Video from Dave Cormier ("facilitator" for Rhizo15)
Talking about Learning Subjectives as opposed to Learning Objectives, world is an uncertain place, right answers only occur in story books, so how to provide enough structure so that people can know what we are talking about.
Take a Learning Subjective and state what it means.
Link in post to:
Confessions of a worried teacher with the idea of using Emergent Outcomes instead. Intent of LOs (Intended - ILOs) is good (Biggs developed this?) but "it all too readily becomes a closed circuit".
"Emergent outcomes are conducive, I feel, to the connectivist approach and rhizomatic learning in that knowledge and learning are seen to emerge from the context of learning or practice."

(Below from Emergent Learning Outcomes Aberystwyth University by Elena Korosteleva and Giles Polglase, 1 October 2011).
Emergent Outcomes from Hussey and Smith's model of emergent learning outcomes (ELOs); compare with ILOs and also Ipsative LOs (student defined). So (at least) three LOs at play.

"Learning fulcrum" exists whereby intended learning outcomes, ipsative learning outcomes, and emergent learning outcomes needs to be balanced. (Why? There are levels of satisfaction in each - if these are reached in ILOs and IpLOs, then all is well).

Difference between Objectives and Outcomes?
To me Objectives are what you set out before starting and Outcomes are the results, what happens after the event. Adding "Intended" in front of Outcomes confuses the process. Rather work with Objectives to start with.

Then, is an ipsative learning objective/outcome a Subjective? I like this term...

Objectives and Subjectives are different from Emergent ones - doesn't "emergent" imply after the activity has started? In other words, there are Emergent Objectives and Emergent Subjectives, which come to light whilst the activity(ies) is under way.

Do these terms work?

Friday, 10 April 2015

Leadership - Federman's definition of Contemporary Leadership

Sometimes you come across an article or post which resonates deeply. Thank you Mark Federman for waking me up from a blogging slumber and addressing the important yet sometimes ephemeral aspects of leadership.
Things have changed. Attitudes towards hierarchy and motivation are very different now and there are many perspectives on what works. Teams carry out the work because we get better results by working together - empowered members who devise their own collective solutions to problems. But what should a leader be concerned with to enable the best results to be obtained?
I have kept the five main points here (for my reference) but please read the complete article (particularly for the explanation of point 5).

  1. Contemporary leadership is not about “leading.” It’s about creating a very particular environment. 
  2. Contemporary leaders don’t drive for goals. They navigate for intended effects. 
  3. Contemporary leaders base their organizational culture on individual autonomy and agency, collective responsibility, and mutual accountability. 
  4. Contemporary leadership employs strengths-based, appreciative practices. 
  5. Contemporary leaders recognize that one’s work integrates with, rather than balancing in opposition against, one’s life. 
"By removing a considerable amount of pressure imposed by Industrial Age command-and-control precepts of “good management,” organizational leaders can direct their attention towards creating and enabling the optimal environment for their members to engage with one another, achieve personal and mutual aspirations, and have one heck of a good time doing it."