A paradigm of moderation and cooperation

My colleague Jim Julius posted on his blog some frustration at the perceived slowness of the shift shown here by Barr & Tagg in 1995:

I have issues with promoting this shift as the “right” thing to do. I don’t feel its rightness has been determined, especially in terms of student learning outcomes, though I definitely see the affective influences being positive. I also see as positive the focus on active learning and constructivism, but I do not agree with the dismissing of the discipline expert in the sidelined role implied by this model.

Instead, I offer (with my rather childish graphic ability) the following moderate, or cooperative, middle ground:

In some of the pressure to shift the burden of developing knowledge to the learner, I think that the cooperative nature of education may be overlooked, as well as the leadership role of the instructor. I simply do not believe that a basic understanding of the primary disciplines of our age can be obtained through guided discovery — too many of them are abstract and require developing skills that need to be articulated and modeled.

This is why cooperation is essential, a contract between teacher and student. As Stephen Downes noted, the role of the instructor is to model and demonstrate, and the role of the student is to practice and reflect. It is a cooperative or collaborative endeavor. Students must both receive and discover information, and although “knowledge” can never truly be transferred from one person to another, sometimes the information needs to be provided by the person with the knowledge (my terms here are “data” as the small pieces that need to be collected, “information” as the presentation of that data within the context of what’s being studied, and “knowledge” as the understanding of the significance of that data in a larger context). At other times, the instructor needs to provide only the context and the skills.

How it happens depends on the level, skills and understanding of both the teacher and the learner. I’m not sure real reform will occur until the pendulum swings back a bit.

3 thoughts on “A paradigm of moderation and cooperation

  1. Hi Lisa

    Your comment on Jenny Mackness’ blog ( http://bit.ly/nNv0aZ ) (#change11) about running a MOOC on “pedagogy and technology of teaching online” is what caught my interest πŸ™‚ I am doing my PhD in this area (proposal stage) and I share your opinion about how it seems to be suggested that there are “right” and “wrong” ways of doing this πŸ™‚ Of course there are some guidelines – but there is certainly room for the “teacher (and the content?)to be unshackled – not just learners” (I like Young, M., & Muller, J. (2010). Three Educational Scenarios for the Future: lessons from the sociology of knowledge. European Journal of Education, 45(1), 11-27. on this)

    Can you tell me more about the MOOC plse- perhaps a link? I might just dip in and out a little πŸ™‚

    (Rosemary Quilling)


    1. Hi! Thanks for the reference — I’m doing some research into the pedagogy of online classes and much appreciate it.

      Yes, you are welcome to dip in and out at Pedagogy First!, home of the POT Certificate Class. Just use the “potcert11” tag for your posts and #potcert11 hashtag at Twitter. “Formal” enrollment is closed but more participants are welcome for any and all of the units.


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