Sunday, 5 May 2013

Octel Week 3: What is learning? + Activity 3.1

CC-BY-SA: Bill Moseley

This week, we were asked to:

Here are a couple of examples: 

Know that: 
I went to a photography exhibition and learned that in Ethiopia, in the 13th century, churches were carved out of rock.
I learnt the meaning of ‘heuristics’ – this is one of those words that I’ve frequently come across, but always forget what it means. Therefore, it’s probably fair to say that I haven’t really learnt it and will probably soon forget. Which is what Google’s for right? (my learning resides in the machine…)

Know how: 
I went to a bicycle maintenance workshop and refreshed my knowledge of how to maintain brakes, check for chain wear and so on. This type of thing is available online through numerous articles and YouTube videos, but I found that going to a physical space, seeing somebody going through the processes on the bike in front of me and having the ability for hands-on practice improved the experience and made me more likely to retain and build on what I learnt.

Know how + knowing in action:
Being involved in a couple of MOOCs, I’m constantly learning something at the moment. If I sit down for an hour or two to browse content links, read other participants’ posts, look at the Twitter feed and read a few forum posts then this is all part of the learning process. But to answer the question ‘How did you go about learning it?’ is more difficult. Looking at the Week 2 learning outcomes, I should now be able to define, identify and propose various things, which is I guess what I was trying to do with my previous blogpost.

As for this week’s activities, I’m being asked to describe and critique, situate, design and recognise. I’ve been skim reading some of the learning theory resources, quickly rejecting some as irrelevant or uninteresting to me and focusing in more depth on those that seem more pertinent and useful. I read through and make notes, building on what I think I know already, being exposed to new ideas and trying to relate these to my own experience and prior knowledge. The next step will be to share these and hope to benefit from other participants views and contributions about them, and thus continuing to refine and build on my own knowledge.

To give a concrete example of this, I’ll go on to Activity 3.1 ‘Theories of active learning’.

How did I choose which theory to look at?

If it is the case that “it is the goal of the learner that is central in considering what is learned.” (Savery & Duffy, 2001), then it’s probably worth asking how I chose which theory to look at. I wanted to look at some of the more recent theories related to learning, but I’ve been reading a fair bit around Connectivism recently so decided to discount that option. I didn’t see the benefit of going over the same old behaviourist, cognitivist, constructivist paradigms and I clicked on some of the other links and just didn’t like the look of them. I found the PBL, Enquiry-Based Learning and Communities of Practice links interesting, but in the end I decided to look at a theory which I’d heard a bit about, but hadn’t looked into in detail – Heutagogy.

Blaschke (2012) defines heutagogy in the following way:

“Heutagogy applies a holistic approach to developing learner capabilities, with learning as an active and proactive process, and learners serving as “the major agent in their own learning, which occurs as a result of personal experiences” (Hase & Kenyon, 2007, p. 112). As in an andragogical approach, in heutagogy the instructor also facilitates the learning process by providing guidance and resources, but fully relinquishes ownership of the learning path and process to the learner, who negotiates learning and determines what will be learned and how it will be learned (Hase & Kenyon, 2000; Eberle, 2009).”

This seems to resonate with my own experiences of learning in a MOOC environment. I do feel that the emphasis for learning is very much on me, the learner, and that this is an active process where I am deciding which activities to engage in and when, who I engage with and also one in which I consider the way I’m learning and build up my meta-cognitive awareness. This puts it very much at odds with the current models prevalent in Higher Education, which still largely rely on transmission models.

In terms of being aware of my own learning, as I was reading an article on heutagogy (Does Pedagogy still rule?)I realised that some of my assumptions were being challenged and that some of my thinking was altering as a result. For example, the author describes how the current context of high student – staff ratios and the amount of content in many courses is leading, if anything, to a move back towards transmission models of education as a coping mechanism. Heutagogy is therefore not so relevant to an undergraduate context which is heavily dependent on conveying a set amount of information which then needs to be assessed in reasonably standard and transparent ways. This idea that the current Higher Education context is actually a barrier to the development of more progressive education strategies (and heutagogy is particularly appropriate for a Web 2.0 type environment) and may result in a shift back towards more traditional models was a very interesting, and also worrying, idea. This, in turn, led me to wonder:
If this MOOC was assessed, what would the assessment look like? Does the cMOOC model not lend itself very well to assessment? Is it therefore more relevant to lifelong learning and CPD than to more traditional Higher Education contexts?  Would embedding assessment in this type of course necessarily affect/change the type of activities suggested? Lots of questions, fewer answers, but then I guess that's the learning process.

References: See Diigo Octel group


  1. I really love the concept of heutagogy and want to build it into my teaching even at undergraduate level. Perhaps there is a logic to having students create their parallel e-learning space(s)in which the heutagogy takes place (to put it very crudely)?

  2. I've just discovered that there's a Russian word 'obuchenie' which means both teaching AND learning... I was reading a Fred Garnett post on the PAH continuum and the open context model of learning which might interest you if you haven't seen it already

    1. Cheers Jim!
      NB: shared your post on this with the LDHEN jiscmail just before you joined the List!