CCK08 Paper #2: What could be

“Enjoy a creative stroll in rethinking ‘what could be'”

Yes, educators’ roles are changing. But not in a radical, decisive way, as if the actors only needed to memorize a new text and change their costumes. There is still the stage director and the theatre principal (the reality of the actors’ current position), the audience (the students who might desire the Nuremberg funnel), and the actors themselves (who might not always be the ideal cast for the juvenile beau). And they all have a certain attitude towards the role in question and a certain understanding of the whole script.

The main difference in the understanding of the instructional play is about how tightly coupled the curriculum and its “outcomes” are. Some think that simply the right content needs to be packaged in the right way and then the students will be well equipped for the rest of their lives. But a similar mindset can be found within the connectivist camp: Compose the right activities by mapping the right tools to the desired pedagogical principles, and then the students will go out and discover the right connections. To ensure short-term control, meticulous measurements and assessments are invented. And to make the program planning future-proof, rehearsal of complexity and unpredictability is included, as well.

One might suspect that such strong desire to control the educational progress is a matter of the personality of the respective actors, or even that teachers were particularly prone to such behavior. Or else, one could attribute this or that behaviors to varying abilities (as Dan Willingham says: “Good teaching is good teaching”).

But I think both the personality and the ability explanations of the different behavior styles are unsufficient (while definitely contributing). I think, the major styles and preferences difference is a cognitive one, a matter of how one likes to think about things and how one sees the world,

  • more focussed in a narrow, goal-directed context, on facts, and rules,
  • or more associatively interested in wider contexts embracing diversity, imperfect simularities and patterns, acknowledging uncertainty and unespected, indirect effects.

Of course I cannot prove this conjecture or even give references, and I know that cognitive styles are a can of worms and readily equated with superficial VAK nonsense.

But the task is to ask “What could be”. So I picture myself in a school where teachers simply are aware of their own cognitive style, and therefore concede students their styles, as well.

The first consequence of such a hypothetical wonderland would be that research studies concerning styles could be designed and performed without bias (or more precisely, with mutually neutralizing biases). And I would suspect that this would end the “no significant difference” findings and refute Willingham’s nonexistence doctrine of learning styles.

Secondly, practices could be evolved that synthesize the two conflicting approaches. Probably, such a synthesis would not simply be a mixture of a fixed set of connectivist and traditional component ingredients. Nor would it be an optimal, fixed proportion determined with a slider scale. Rather, the most appropriate way will probably be determined in each unique situation by the practitioners who know how to find the balance and the corridor (Csikszentmihalyi‘s flow) between patronizing the students with controlled design, or overcharging them with premature single-handedness.

Here I trust the experience of the practitioners (disclosure: I am not a teacher, but the flow concept applies also to my discipline).

References? I take the liberty to make this a sloppy paper rather than a formal one.

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3 Responses to CCK08 Paper #2: What could be

  1. Jenny Mackness says:

    Hi Mattheus – I always enjoy reading your posts. I’m interested in this comment that you’ve made.

    But a similar mindset can be found within the connectivist camp: Compose the right activities by mapping the right tools to the desired pedagogical principles, and then the students will go out and discover the right connections.

    I’m wondering if this is true. I think that there has been an attempt in this course to ‘Compose the right activities by mapping the right tools to the desired pedagogical principles’ – but although the intention was obviously that students would go out and find connections – I’m not sure that it would have been assumed that they could find the ‘right’ connections.

    I would see the teacher’s role as being just that – helping the student to make the ‘right’ connections. (Has that been apparent in the ‘teaching’ on this course?. Simply designing a course will not necessarily ensure that students make the ‘right’ connections. And there is no one ‘right’ way of helping students make the ‘right’ connections and in fact no one ‘right’ set of connections. Context is the key. The teacher needs to be a good judge of what fits the context and adapt the approach accordingly.

    I’ve been thinking aloud here – so I’ll now go away and decide whether I really believe what I’ve just written 😉


  2. thanks his fits with my response (which stands at twice the word count so far. will post onto when its polished up.) i love reading your blog and can manage to source or way find to your references. Many thanks!

  3. x28 says:

    Thanks for the nice comments. And thanks, Jenny, for bringing such a positive turn into my perhaps overly gloomy depiction of the present.

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