#Design 4 Learning 2014

Semi live , late blogging from the Design for Learning Conference, 27 November 2014, The Open University, Milton Keynes.

Dr Tessa Eysink, University of Twente, Keynote “Learner performance in inquiry learning environments”

Work in progress comparing Inquiry learning with expository instruction. The research was focused on the design and use of small Learning Objects in Psychology: 60 of them. The topic “Classical conditioning”, “used world-wide” was chosen for the trial. The underlying issue to be addressed was that learners find it hard to generate hypotheses interpret data, collect data, and so on. Therefore, learning must be supported.

What other processes are there? Tessa outlined four approaches all of which were purported to improve learning. (Some do. Some don’t.) All appeared very cognitivist in their underlying epistemology.

  • Inquiry Learning
  • Hypermedia Learning
  • Observational Learning
  • Exploratory Learning

The trial models were all implemented in the same VLE and “Only the instructional method differed.” This, to me is questionable. The implementations all looked the same at arm’s length, though each was described as a separate environment. Learners were described as of high, middle and low ability. This categorisation was presented as unproblematic. The “High ability” learner was the norm. The other two differed in degree to which they resiled from the norm.

“Inquiry Learning” was “Problem-based Learning” “Hypermedia Learning” was expository or didactic, content-led learning: read all about it, where “reading” may be replaced by consume hypermedia. “Observational learning” was, in essence, apprenticeship or knowledge engineering. Learning comes from observing (or watching a video of…) an expert and emulating or decoding the practice. “Exploratory learning” appeared little different from Inquiry learning. PBL without the problem; self-directed hypermedia learning (?).

A few lessons were presented.

  • In the trials Inquiry learning was the most effective and efficient. No surprises, there. While I agree with the lesson, nevertheless it was annoying to see the exposition of a foregone conclusion.
  • Generating the subject matter by the students (Learner-led curriculum) leads to learning gain. This was interesting, but if supported by evidence, I did not notice it.
  • It appeared that the trials were focussed on providing tailored instruction for high ability learners: opens the way to complex, abstract assignments. But questions inclusivity?
  • Modelling practice is a helpful adjunct to PBL. But this session modelled expository practice, not inquiry learning.

At the end of the conference, key contributors were asked for three things: a hunch, a wish, and a prediction. My hunch, wish and prediction:

  • Hunch: what is needed to design instruction is not so much research (leading to the formulation of a grand narrative)¬† but sensitive observation in the the learning context (petits receipts): in the classroom, action learning, etc
  • Wish: educators would learn that everyone is equally remarkable, wonderful and wise to the ways¬† of their world.
  • Prediction: Performance monitoring dashboards will not improve learning.

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