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Learning & Understanding

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Scott Johnson
12 January 2013

My interest is in learning and understanding and if it is possible to achieve this in education at an institutional level? Is it possible to teach groups as effectively as individuals? I  didn't do well in school yet love learning while understanding that being a self-directed learner is not the norm. To model education after courses in the style of the many cMOOCs I've been involved in is not applicable to the students I encounter every day at the community college where I work as an asssistant ID.

How do we nurture the independence, self-confidence and "voice" necessary for more people to participate equally in education and life?

With a history in art education and working in the building trades, learning design intrigues me. Can we design in a manner that need not be supported by simulations and metaphore but from that distributed intelligence base that thradespeople and artists seem connected to? Is there a language that speaks to the body as well as the brain that can be conveyed somehow electronically in online learning design? How do we describe "understanding" and "literacy" in a way that is accessable to everyone?

As a starting point I offer this segment that speaks of the difference between experimental science and psychoanalysis:

Experimental science deals with large classes of individuals, that is, individuals who are more or less indistinguishable, or whose differences can be washed out in statistical analysis without destroying what made them interesting to study in the first place.

Psychoanalysis does not deal with large classes of individuals, but with singal individuals whose differences may not be washed out without major loss of significance.

Dealing with large classes of individuals permits scientists to produce a body of theory with highly specific predictive value that can, to a considerable degree, eliminate the need for direct and detailed investigation of individual cases.

Dealing with single individuals does not permit psychoanalysts to make theoretical generalizations of the type that may be substituted for direct experience.

Experimental science conducts its investigations by relying on an established body of experimentally derived theoretical knowledge.

Psychoanalysis does not rely for its investigations on an established body of knowledge, but investigates unique cases using a technique of creative exploration.

Expertise in experimental science is associated with knowledge of a body of theory.

Expertise in psychoanalysis consists of the capacity to work in ignorance of theory—to see what is looking at without theoretical preconceptions.

From: “Building Out into the Dark - Theory and Observation in Science and Psychoanalysis” Robert Caper 2009 Routledge

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Heather Peters
10:00pm 12 January 2013


Hi Scott,

Thank you for your constructive and thoughtful comments on my 'cloud' about the project I am hoping to complete. I am a bit sketchy on all the instructional design technical terminology as it is not my area of expertise but I'm open to learning. I also find that a lot of the terms provide 'labels' for things I have observed in my teaching.

I actually think that being self-taught is an excellent way to develop understanding and am a big fan of it myself. It is unfortunate that employers tend to place greater emphasis on certificates/etc at the expense of acknowledging the passion and abilities of people, like yourself, who are self-taught.

"How do we nurture the independence, self-confidence and "voice" necessary for more people to participate equally in education and life?"

The above statement really resonates with me. I tend to think of this in terms of 'social justice'. Why should people who did not have opportunities to learn and develop skills be forever shut out of the system?

In New Zealand (where I am located), government priorities are driving educational institutions to screen students as funding is based on qualification completion. What about the people who take one or two courses? What about those who need to try the same course more than once to succeed? Should they be neglected? Is not providing opportunities for those students just as, if not more, important as providing opportunities for people who have a history of academic success?

My field is a sub-discipline of psychology - behaviour analysis/experimental behaviour analysis - and is often viewed as a 'poor cousin' by other psychologists. And we tend to be misunderstood, so to speak. But, you can see the results of the field everywhere: in educational settings, organisations,  health, sports, communities.

What I as a behaviourist am interested in is the individual experience and much research is published based on case studies of a small number of people. We are less worried about statistical significance than whether the basic principles and theories relate to individual behaviour. Something may help 95% of people, which is great, but what about those 5% not helped? They deserve to be supported as well and are the people I want to reach.

Behaviourists consider how the individual's experience relates to the outcome of their behaviour (which we consider to encompass anything you say, do, feel, etc.) and design programmes to address the needs of that person. What does that person find rewarding? What motivates them? What resources do they have to draw on? What is their history?

While we use different terminology for those questions are is the basic idea behind the theory. Then we do try to see if those findings can be generalised to more people to reach a wider group of people the field is largely based on the findings from individuals. 

Cheers,

Heather

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