November 6, 2014

Hase & Kenyon (2007) self-directed learning

Hase, S., & Kenyon, C. (2007). Heutagogy: A child of Complexity Theory. complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education, 4(1), 111-118.

Hase and Kenyon argue that the notions of pedagogy and andragogy are deficient. Teachers merely facilitate students to acquire knowledge and skills, which they maintain is not learning. Acquiring knowledge and skills allows students to be competent to recall and use that knowledge and those skills in familiar situations. In contrast, learning demands change. However, we need to remember that comfort hinders change. Change occurs in response to distressful needs (and intense desires). Hase and Kenyon define learning as an emergent and integrative process that changes behaviour, knowledge, understanding and becomes incorporated into people’s existing attitudes and values. Learning empowers students to be capable to react and adapt to unfamiliar and unanticipated situations drawing on all their holistic knowledge, skills and values. Hase and Kenyon define capability as beyond competency: being able to adapt to unknown and changing contexts, having appropriate values to work collaboratively, and knowing how to learn.

Pedagogy and andragogy appear to remain teacher-centered with little micro or macro involvement from learners. Curricula are inflexible, which is disappointing because “it is impossible to predict the extent and effect of bifurcation”, i.e. separation of planned curricula and learners’ changing needs. In contrast, heutagogy is self-determined learning. Learner-centered and learner-directed learning which occurs as result of personal experiences. Students become the key drivers and designers of learning processes, activities, objectives and assessments. Heutagogy requires a living flexible curriculum that is able to change as students learn.

Hase and Kenyon recommend action research and action learning as meta-methodologies to empower learners to experiment with real experiences in real world contexts. Action research and action learning provide flexibility to understand unpredictable and complex social phenomena, give ownership and control of the learning to the students, and can also be trialled and tested in subsequent cycles. Alongside action-learning, teachers need to provided personal coaching.

Adaptive systems (Bertanafly, 1950; Akoff & Emery, 1972; Emery, 1971, 1986; Emery & Trist, 1965) and Complexity Theory are worth investigating in relation to learning (Davis & Sumara 1997; Doll 1989; Doolittle, 2000). At the time of writing, Hase and Kenyon were still researching the usefulness of heutagogy as a concept, and questioning how learning occurs in complex adaptive systems and how these systems harness and facilitate learning.

April 7, 2014

Mitra (2014) future learning

Mitra, S. (2014, April). The future of learning. Plenary given at 48th Annual International IATEFL Conference, International Association of Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Harrogate, England.

Mitra’s plenary shook things up. Passionate Twitter comments applauded for and reeled from research that shows that groups of children can learn most things on their own. Mitra is changing traditional learning-cultures and examining autonomous and collaborative learning outside schools.

Mitra showed that children’s test results decreased as distance from Delhi increased. Many factors were constant:  school funding, buildings, and quantity of teaching. But Mitra questioned the quality of teaching. Mitra asked teachers, “Would you like to work somewhere else?” In Delhi, teachers were happy; 100 miles away, teachers wanted to move closer to Delhi; and 250 miles away, teachers answered “Anywhere but here”. Good teaching is rare in remote places. Throughout the world, test-results decrease as remoteness increases (e.g. socio-economic- and ethnical-remoteness). Good teachers and less-able teachers who up-skill, migrate to better contexts. Mitra experimented with removing teachers from learning contexts.

However computers affect learning, computers will affect learning in similar ways in different contexts. So in 1999, Mitra installed computers for dis-advantaged children in India. To keep conditions constant, Sugata provided no adult guidance. After nine months, children had learned computer literacy skills and functional English. Children learned autonomously and collaboratively when teachers were not present. In two months, other children learned English pronunciation, and other children learned advanced molecular biology of genetics, going from 0% to 30% in pre- and post-tests. Observation changes children’s learning behavior, so Mitra recruited a ‘grandmother’ who merely observed and admired, supplying comments such as “Fantastic!” In two months, the children’s understanding of molecular biology improved to 50% in post-testing. In England, groups of children cluster around computers to solve deep cross-curricular questions like “Why is it that almost all men can grow a mustache but most women cannot?” In our digital-world, children can learn most things by themselves, but in autonomous and collaborative ways.

Mitra examines phenomena as theoretical physicist. In the Theory of Chaos, things remain constant in Ordered Systems, and things are random in Chaotic Systems. But where Ordered and Chaotic Systems meet, Self Organizing Systems occur and order appears out of disorder.  Mitra creates Self Organized Learning Environments (with beamed in ‘grandmas’) to facilitate children’s autonomous and collaborative learning.

Children need internet access, big interesting question and room to learn in autonomous and collaborative ways.  In our assessment-driven educational-cultures, changing assessments could instigate changing questions, curricula, pedagogy, teaching, and learning!