Saturday, May 19, 2007

OMG! I'm an Educational Heretic!

The Oxford Canadian Dictionary defines a heretic as " the holder of an unorthodox opinion in a subject, field". By that definition, I am most certainly an educational heretic as I now believe less and less in "traditional" education.

Before I tell you why I think I'm a heretic, let me first define what I mean by "traditional" education:
  • Content is provided for the learners by teacher, textbooks, other resources
  • Classroom-centric
  • Delivery methods and styles matter
  • Rows of desks, teacher at the front of the room
  • Teacher or learner-centric
  • Presentations, lectures, tests, assignments all derived by teacher/facilitator
  • Formal grade-based evaluation - it's all about the grade - higher the grade, greater the success
  • Formal assignments, specific requirements, styles, content
And now here is how I see adult education should be (and I do this as much as is possible):
  • Facilitator provides scaffold for new learners, courses, concepts, then fades as learners assume responsibility for their learning
  • Learning-centred
  • All learning styles supported - learners given options on how to complete course deliverables
  • Outcomes based - learning outcomes must be clearly defined, consistent ,and measurable
  • Problem-based and project-based learning - collaborative small team and group work
  • Content is discovered, shared , and owned by the learners - facilitator gives up ownership of content (use blogs, wikis, RSS aggregators, and other tools to provide support)
  • Delivery and location agnostic - classroom, blended, online, mobile...
  • PLEs developed -learners create their own Personal Learning Environments - what works best for their own learning styles
  • Facilitator provides the framework for a learning environment that allows learners to succeed - learners own the learning environment
  • No grades - competency-based assessment tools and techniques used - requires the creation of detailed competencies based on valid learning outcomes
  • Cognitive apprenticeship used - facilitator and learners model best practices and behaviours
  • Extensive use of rubrics - initially created by facilitator, then created by learners (scaffold and fade)
  • All evaluation rubric-based and evaluation schemes developed by learners with assistance from the facilitator
What I believe in is learning environments where the learners are given the opportunity to define for themselves what success is, and to pursue that success by being engaged in and responsible for their own learning. This approach actually means more work for me not less, as I have to be prepared for multiple approaches, styles, and learner requirements, but the results are worth the work. You end up with engaged, active, participatory learners who are focussed on learning as their measure of success.

I guess the extra work is the price I pay for my heresy...

(Photo "YKK Genba 1992" by hyperspace328 Photo "Chairs" by Night Owl City )


Kelly Christopherson said...

Well, I guess that would put many of us in the same category. Here's hoping that, in time, we all become heretics as we move from a system based on grades and finite knowledge to one based on competency and creative knowledge. Here's to all the heretics!

Ian H. MacLeod said...

Right on Kelly - thanks for the comment. Competency and creative knowledge just make so much sense to me.