I am curious as to how some of the great teachers in the Moodle Community will respond to this paper.
Teaching with Moodle
The failure of Constructivist based teaching?
I am curious as to how some of the great teachers in the Moodle Community will respond to this paper.
But, what about the studies that show that there is "no significant difference" between online and F2F classes? Wouldn't online learning count as minimal guidance in many cases? Also, I've seen lectures suceede very well, based on the skills of the presenter. Doesn't the success or failure of any model really depend on the ability of the person teaching it, and not the actual model itself?
I haven't read the article, and probably won't waste my time on it, just because I pick so many obvious holes in it just from the title and the abstract (which I did read). Maybe someone else can point out how I am wrong about this and change my mind about reading it. But, to me, it sounds like someone just has a bone to pick with a childhood teacher.
"Not to be copied or quoted without the permission of the authors"
I can understand authors not wanting material copied entirely without permission, but not wanting quotation without permission is a new one.
Guidance is very important, which is why Moodle courses have structure and why Moodle tools allow participants to facilitate/collaborate/guide each other.
Constructivism is not a teaching method, it's a theory of knowledge. Note that Moodle doesn't use this term, we use social constructionism.
At the moment, both http://docs.moodle.org/en/Philosophy and http://moodle.org/doc/?frame=philosophy.html refer to social constructivism, yet give a definition that actually makes more sense for social constructionism, as I think we understand it.
This is so not my field, but I believe this is complicated by 'social constructionism' having a particular meaning in epistemology that appears quite different from Moodle's use of it as a social version of constructionist pedagogy.
We can easily ignore this and have in-house debates about the different meanings of ‘constructivism’ and ‘constructionism’ – but at some stage Moodle and the associated epistemology of social constructionism will have to argue its case in mainstream journals – otherwise we run the risk of being dismissed as irrevelant by senior academics, management, and policy-makers…
I’m personally very interested in the underlying philosophy of Moodle and have been exploring for a while now the different flavours of constructivism and beyond in my own work (eg.here) – and I guess I do get annoyed at the persistent presence of ‘learning 1.0’ theories in the literature. There is heaps of work to be done to get ‘learning 2.0’ established and recognised as a mode of learning that does work – and work much better ! for the kind of fluid, mobile, distributed, and connected electronic learning ecology that we all now inhabit. I’ve been leading a project for the past year aiming to do exactly that – was presented at MoodleMoot NZ last week (here if anyone is interested in the detail.) If I ever get the time I’ll try publish it in Educational Psychology
I agree...ignoring it, won't make it go away...it will just allow it to flourish.
Also, I personally believe the authors make some very good points in the paper. For example, where they state:
These results suggest that expert problem solvers derive their skill by drawing on the extensive experience stored in their long-term memory and quickly select and apply the best procedures for solving problems.
[Quick Note: My apologies to the authors for quoting them, but if they want to embargo the paper they shouldn't publish it on the Web until it's published in the Journal. ]
The quote above suggest a basic fact about learning that is hard to ignore. The fact is, before you can move on to higher levels of learning, you need to master the lower levels first. In other words, before you can truly "understand" or "synthesize" information you must have a good grasp of the basic principles and facts [knowledge] surrounding the subject you are trying to understand. Direct instruction is still a very effective way to teach facts, principals, basic skills, etc., where there's little or no room for interpretation or debate. It is a very good, effective way to provide a basic grounding in a subject.
The problem with a lot of constructivist or constructionist [choose your word ], is that they want to completely discount any other method of teaching and learning.
I had an excellent professor in my doctoral studies whose basic philosophy in every class he taught was: "First tell me what you know, then tell me what you think."
His point was real simple. You need to first understand what is already known about a subject--Learn the facts. Otherwise, any discussion we may have will be based on uninformed opinions.
At some point a teacher needs to teach the Pythagorean theorem--and I would say teach it through direct instruction. Then, the teacher and class can use a constructionist or constructivist approach to further explore its applications and uses.
Just my 2-cents...
I would say that the "basic fact" of learning that you mention is not a consensus. I believe you do not need to master lower levels of learning before sequentially moving onto higher levels. Learning is more holistic--that in constructing a project, you do a variety of lower and higher order learning content, strategies, and negotiation to achieve a purpose. Segmentalism and minute division of content and skills into discrete parts has been discredited as positivist science--not the only way to view the universe and not the only way to teach. At some point, the teacher needs to pose and facilitate the Pythagorean problem and force students to develop their own theorem. Those students will remember and apply the concept, while 95% those who were taught it directly will forget it or fail to apply it when the appropriate situation comes along which needs it.
P.S. One day I was wondering why I (a 190cm guy) could fit into a 180cm sleeping bag. It turned out I was sleeping corner-to-corner. Pythagorus to the rescue!
I would say that the "basic fact" of learning that you mention is not a consensus.
One thing I've learned over the years, is that very little is a consensus in education.
Another thing I have learned is that we, in the US, have moved so far toward the "experiential, student centered, constructivist, constructionist...pick you term" approach to teaching and learning in our public schools that kids are no longer learning the basics.
I was in McDonalds the other day and my order came to $5.10. I handed the young lady a 10 dollar bill and she plugged that into her computer...then I realized I had a dime and handed it to here. She was completely confused...didn't know what to do. The computer had already "told her" to give me back $4.90 and she didn't know what to do with the dime. I just took the dime back and took my $4.90 change and thanked her. True story.
That, in my opinion, is the result of our focus on "higher level teaching" without covering the basics.
1. In the old days Piaget was thinking that intellectual "grow" was realised by either of the two mechanism: Assimilation = integrating new information in an existing "think-frame" or Accomodation = changing the frame, to be able to include the new information in the modified frame. Piaget forgot that there is a third way of learning and your girl demonstrates it perfectly: just learn things in a fixed setting and be only able to demonstrate it in that exact setting. (Don't complicate the situation with your dime...) Other examples of disconnected learning (is that the name?) are the children shooting in the classroom: "Oh, is that mathematics tric also allowed in Science classes.."
You also do this every day yourself: you think that you organise chairs and tables in a mental furniture tree? So a chair is furniture, A kitchen chair is also a chair so it is also furniture. Now you: a chair in a car is a chair so it is ...? (My favorite example from the book of concepts, MIT)
2. the second point is the hierarchy of learning..
I will not reject that we all need basic skills, but some learning approaches prove that these are not always logic organised the way we think they should be: The famoust example of NOT following the hierarchy of teaching tradition is the medical school of Maastricht (NL)
When you enter that institute on your first day they give you a patient (on paper and video) and say: cure him... No, not first heavy anatomy and other basic skills first (Like I had to do and failed...) but jump in the water and swim like a doctor. (With well trained scaffolders and criterium tests around you.) This concept was developed 20 years ago and is exported to many medical schools In America, England.. maybe your doctor is..
"You also do this every day yourself: you think that you organise chairs and tables in a mental furniture tree? So a chair is furniture, A kitchen chair is also a chair so it is also furniture. Now you: a chair in a car is a chair so it is ...? (My favorite example from the book of concepts, MIT)"
"When you enter that institute on your first day they give you a patient (on paper and video) and say: cure him... No, not first heavy anatomy and other basic skills first..."
Yea...I get it. Is a chair a chair?, or is it a tree?, or is it the nut the tree grew from?, why isn't it that table that is formed from the exact same "things" the chair is formed from?...bla, bla, bla . Makes for good discussion and debate, but when I'm sitting in the chair (tree, nut, table, etc) in the doctors office waiting to be seen, please send me the doctor who didn't forgo the anatomy class .
We are all in agreement that simple and advanced concepts/skills are important to learn. The sequence is tricky. It is not linear--small to big.
I learned a language the wrong way. Four years of minute basics before I ever spoke to anyone in a comprehensible sentence. A back and forth sequence of holistic problems/experiences and then structured training would have been more successful. Right now, we are developing a Project Module for moodle so even very beginners of a second language can assess each other in presentations using a foreign language. At the same time, we are making a companion flash-card trainer to do more memorization work with the words they collect and find important. This combination of higher order projects and simple lower order training will work I believe.
As for the MacDonald's math problem, that really illustrates my point. Of course, I cannot be sure, but I would guess that young person probably had rote training, lost interest, and no experiential, on-job training in math. Or maybe, had trouble transferring a concept into varying situations. Many Japanese have that flexibility of understanding in math problems.
In Japan, education is known for extremely heavy rote training. Yet I was surprised when I was introduced to the elementary school math system in practice. Very little content-delivery, mostly concept-building with puzzles, games, stories, problems etc. Not so socio-constructivist, but definitely a constructivist approach to mathematics. The result is a society very literate in math--enough that high school grads in factories are given statisitical quality control issues to solve.
This is fascinating; dreaded high-stakes testing comes from Japan.
I am writing papers right now about teaching middle school students about Hurricanes. These students may, or have, suffered extreme weather as they live in the Southern US.
Their experiences and perceptions will create the learning moment; they will very likely research hurricane issues on the web on their own, or with the help of family. I want to implement computer concept mapping into their studies, further absorbing the kids.
A learning environment like this, if it can successfully embed required math skills into the concept building, is so assured of success that I don't think it can be derailed by an army of PDF paper-writers.
Having said this, I have only one worry about my class design: how to embed math learning into the weather studies.
I have had other concept building experiences, especially in my Linux Society mentoring organization. My associate and I, both have been laid off as a result of the tech crash, converted our professional Linux and Perl club into a high school mentoring program. We taught computer values as much as technology.. actually they did the tech, we did the value guidance !!
But tested two years later, they "bypassed" thier traditional collega's in knowledge and skills and... (better trained for real lifeskills AFTER the exam..?)
In the 80s we were young and trying to construct languange understanding programs (AI) and I still wonder how children can handle so easy all this fuzzy logic language of real life..
One who has had some anatomy classes,
One who has served an internship diagnosing and curing patients.
So.....I would choose neither of your alternatives. I would choose someone who has been prepared in medical school and has been through both (preferably starting with things like anatomy and ending with things like internships) with a lot of other "stuff" in-between .
Here is a free tip....if you ask objective, multiple-choice type questions, then be sure to include a correct answer among the responses .
There you do it again Steve: THINKING that that subject has to wait until assignment 101. The medical example I gave you proved that that is NOT so clear.
About the test question: it must been taken from real life: you have to choose from two bad options...
Hi Ger, and thanks for reminding us of good old Piaget. However, I beg to disagree with your expression "third way of learning".
Well, I expect Piaget would reply here that the salesgirl in Steve's anecdote had not really learned how to deal with customers paying their bill: she lacked the all-important mechanism (or skill) of accomodation. In other words, there are still only 2 ways of learning, assimilation and accomodation; the girl could not "accomodate" what she knew to a new situation; there is no third way of learning after all.
Just learning by heart is not enough for real life: dear to do a project and act, act act..n (and reflect with the help of Moodle..)
I tend to agree with Martin that this isn't directly relevant to Moodle, as the support here for scaffolded, social constructionist learning is quite a way removed from the 'minimal instruction', discovery based pedagogy that the authors are arguing against. I've blogged a few of my thoughts over at http://elgg.net/mberry/weblog/124841.html, but my main issues with the paper are:
- They've largely disregarded any social dimension to learning outside of the teacher-pupil dynamic;
- There does seem evidence of young people learning lots of complex stuff outside of formal instruction situations when they're well enough motivated (eg computer games, chess, coding...);
- Surely there's more to being educated than simply knowing stuff;
- Most of there examples are from maths/science/medicine; could one really learn art, music, sport, languages, writing, etc, other than by experiencing at first hand "the processes and procedures of the discipline"; and
- Test scores don't accurately measure education, merely how well one does on a test; teaching that prepares one for a test is likely to produce good test scores.
So, I think the call (for those with a passion about learning theories) is to get out and write and publish more. And, as commented here, it's not that hard to construct a paper and get published.
Also, just to note, when I said this:
"Doesn't the success or failure of any model really depend on the ability of the person teaching it, and not the actual model itself?"
It reads better to say this:
"In the classroom setting, doesn't the success or failure of any learning theory really depend on the ability of the person teaching it, and not the actual theory itself?"
Which is a debateable statement, but the truth is that a good teacher can still make a bad learning theory work - because the only real important factor is whether or not the student successfully learns. And a bad teacher can make a good learning theory fail.
Point is - it's not a case that education is neglecting the facts or basics. It's more that kids today have a different kind of consciousness, occasioned by the rich media ecology that they grow up in. The kid at Macdonalds has probably been bored out of his/her mind by dull teaching in a 'learning 1.0' mode. You can teach the facts in a boring, rote, mechanical way or in a fun, exploratory, social way. You can use Moodle(or BlackCT for that matter) in a content-driven, static ‘instructionist’ way or in a dynamic, social constructionist way. You can blend both and make online learning work in a way that engages learners and improves the quality of student learning outcomes.
The hard work is how to ‘prove’ this in the mainstream research that deans of education read….
(Sfard, A. (1998). On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One. Educational Researcher, 27(2), 4-13.)
This whole concept of "constructing" knowledge, if it ever existed, became unnecessary millenia ago.
Thank you for bringing up such a lively topic--one I always love to chat about. However, directing your question to the "great teachers" in Moodle suggests a little sarcasm. Was that your intent?
Even if it is and even if the article turns out to be a kind of academic trolling--I agree with Matt that the title is a give-away for its biased approach--I still want to join the discussion and offer a few thoughts from my view in teaching foreign languages.
In second language education, there are three big waves of educational theory...
- SLI--Second Language Instruction (focus on sequenced study of language structures and vocabulary--heavily behaviorist)
- SLA--Second Language Acquisition (focus on natural patterns of acquiring language outside of formal learning--heavily cognitivist, constructivist)
- SLS--Second Language Socialisation (focus on socio-collaborative communities and environments of learning--heavily socio-cultural theory of education)
- Moodle promotes behaviorist learning of structures and words (SLI) with typical use of the Quiz Module, Database Module, Assignment Module, and Podcasting Module.
- Moodle promotes cognitivist or constructivist learning (SLA) with typical uses of the Lesson Module, Blog "Module", and Project Module.
- Moodle promotes socio-collaborative learning (SLS) with typical use of the Forum, Chat, Feedback, Wiki and other modules.
- Many teachers stretch the use of modules beyond "typical" use, extending and broadening it to be inclusive of many theories. For example, if a teacher makes a glossary and publishes it to the class, it is using SLI assumptions that a teacher is best to assemble the learning. However, if the students put together the glossary, it is more socio-collaborative.
- Secondly, Moodle is evolving so quickly. Many of the non-collaborative, teacher-oriented patterns of Moodle will be removed when flexible roles are introduced in Version 1.7. Students can direct and construct learning more easily--for example making their own quizzes for the projects they create and present. Also if we add commenting and annotations to Blogs, for example, it may become more socio-constructionist than it is now.
Moodle's bias is in socio-collaborative learning, but actual practice is totally mixed or blended in theoretical approach.
I think this is key. Imagine a dimension of teaching & learning, from totally teacher centred (instructive/didactic) to student centred (experiential/constructivist/problem based, although I'm not sure that these are as equivalent as the paper suggests). The practise of teaching and learning normally occurs between the two extremes, and that is probably true for every learning situation covered in the paper, too. They do not seem to take into account where on that spectrum the blend lies.
An approach is to find the right blend for one's learners, where teachers use instruction to bring their students to a point where they can learn effectively using, say, constructivist approaches, but never relinquishing their role to summarise/guide/correct the students.
The section on using worked examples caught my eye (Pages 9-10) - do they suggest that students should that the most effective problem solvers are the ones who only ever look at solutions without ever practising problems solving themselves?
It suggests I should give my physics students more worked examples than I do (and I really will), but not to waste their time trying a few for themselves. Funny, because I thought the generous support they were giving each other was good for them; I'll tell them not to bother in future.
Thanks for the in-depth reply. My intent in addressing the "great teachers in the Moodle Community" is an honest address. No sarcasm intended. I respect both the moodle product and the moodle community. In fact, I feel that the innovation and creativity of the Moodle community drives the product past competing proprietary solutions.
That said, I would like to thank all those who have contributed to this discussion thus far. The ideas and debates generated from this discussion reveal the inherent strengths of social constructionism, which is one reason why I brought this paper to the attention of the Moodle Community in the first place.
I really found helpful and appreciate your break down of the different tools in Moodle and there respective pedagogical objectives. One beauty of the system is that Moodle enables instructors to use multiple teaching techniques to reach different objectives. The BIG question is whether or not all of us using this discussion board learned how to use moodle from direct instruction or through constructing ideas about the system. lol. joking of course.
In 1984 we had in the spirit of Papert Logo on Atari 600, C64, Apple II, where did that good all stuff survive? (Why did it never touch the mainstream of education?)
The example I think of is helping young children to be safe on the road. Parents protect their children but at some time have to 'let go' a little. I also suspect that even fully committed social constructivists may be heard to 'instruct' - "You must NEVER EVER walk across the road unless you know it is safe". One case where experiential learning should be used with caution
BTW, I don't agree with you Chris about professional plagiarism. Some very useful and scholarly work is a 'construction' of the work of others, and is anything but plagiarism. There can be novelty and creativity in constructing an argument.
This is analogous to social constructions in learning. As learners, we can learn from direct experience, from observing the experiences of others, from thinking about these (including writing about them) and from thinking about what others have written about these. 'Good' learners learn to balance these activities to suit what they are learning and 'where they are at', and 'good' teachers help to support this by providing structure and flexibility, and by encouraging 'thinking about learning'.
The Moodle Lesson module is perhaps a good tool for interactive information transmission, to help bring students to a similar level of knowledge.
For instance, one could have a lesson about a topic (content followed by questions--the Practice Principle), and then a discussion about the topic, followed by projects and peer review of the projects.
Dr. Richard Mayer has published a number of studies related to teaching basic concepts via eLearning, the Practice Principle coupled with appropriate content design can be accomplished with lesson module and an image editing program.
Thank you for your posting Micheal, I am looking at your materials. I very much want to teach middle school kids at least for a few years, then move onto mentoring and therapy.
My goal for constructivisms are in project based learning, or what I call project science and group learning.
In PBL the more confident kids pull up the bottom as part their community of practice. They get status from being supportive; the school gets points for producing a better graduating class.
I like it a lot but I am not a feel-good constructivist. Much of it seems to be based on very primitive ideas like people hunting down game with spears, or learning how to. I would like to see people critically analyse their communties and take action.
There is much to be said for individual work w/ mentoring help. That immediately brings up apprenticeship. I have been an apprentice and its no great shakes. The mentoring, I see as individual learning, or learning in pairs with situated supports. That is transformitave communication (Pea).
I put a little piece about construcitivsm and technology from a paper I just submitted on my blog; it's the first item. It has nice concept maps. http://linux-society.blogspot.com
Here is the paper itself. I am new to the debate, but the issues are old for me.
It was a dry run for writing about using knowledge construction to help kids hit by hurricanes. I approach their experiences obliquely, so as not to trigger trauma flashbacks. I feel knowledge building satifies the soul; it's the way things went down.
I am also working on the foundation of an action research site designed to help in the nick of time with information delivered to the right people: just in time activism:
Miles Berry says that the article is now published by Educational Psychologist (41(2). The old link was to a draft copy that will have been removed due to copyright restrictions. Educational Psychologist is a Lawrence Erlbaum Associates publication available in most academic libraries and includes an on-line publication.
I think that Maria was asking Terence about the Clark, Kirshner and Sweller's article, "Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching". At least that's the only paper that Terence referenced.
In any case, what a wonderful resource of articles you have provided through your posted link (Guided Experiential Learning). I'll be able to use this in my own research. Thanks