You raised some interesting questions for me about not necessarily evading instruction that plans for specific knowledge, but also making room for the much needed knowledge of complexity, ambiguity, fluidity of concepts, interest, wonder, awe and curiosity. You described these as being vital preconditions and outcomes of any learning experience and went on to say that these things …
“… shape the complex readiness (cognitive, affective, social, etc.) of students for the learning experience at hand, and that learning experience in turn shapes the students’ readiness (cognitive, affective, social, etc.) for the next experience.”
Your words on the topic carry a lot of weight with the scholarly research you have done on these issues over the years. Once again, you have caused me to step back, think, and reflect on my own instructional design practice.
You inspired me to write a follow up post:
Blended Designs that Anticipate Serendipity | http://myblend.org/blog/item/blended-designs-that-anticipate-serendipity
Wonderful post, Gardner. I have been contemplating these same issues and mulling over much of the same material for some time – though the VTS is new to me, and fascinating. I have been digging into the past a bit and re-tracing the tracks of those various movements that sought to inspire real wonder and curiosity (Dewey’s “genuine problems,” Rogers’ “freedom to learn,” etc.) I am continually struck by what a subtle art it is to create a true space where wonder flourishes. One word (“more” instead of “else” in the example above) can make the difference. The subtleties of the art have made me skeptical of technique and methods. They can be helpful, but if not employed by a truly engaged mind with a “a sense of exuberant discovery” (open to discovery about the world, the self, others, etc.) they go awry so easily. Right now I am reading “Freedom to Learn for the 80s” (an update to the Rogers original) which includes some remarkably thorough studies on the effects of Rogers’ “person-centered” pedagogy. Some of those studies shed some light on the need for more wonder and curiosity among teachers. Here’s a gem: “In one sample of 692 hours of secondary school teaching provided by ninety teachers, the total time devoted to thinking behaviors by all teachers combined was one hour three minutes.” The researchers conclude, “They neither modeled nor requested thinking from their students” (p. 205). btw, your post reminds me of the essays by Mark Edmundson in Why Teach. Have you read it?
Some thoughts – FWIW (The numbers are more for the sake of my brevity and thinking things thru than anything else. Apologies for any overstatement of the obvious in places.):
1) Behavioral objectives use behaviors as *evidence* of learning. Behaviorist methods focus on *conditioning* of behavior. There is a key difference between the two (design and analysis versus process).
2) In my experience with them, learning paradigms are focused on creating environments for constant and varied levels of learning, rather than places where knowledge or understanding is passed down or simplified.
3) In order to determine whether learning has occurred or not, we must define learning.
4) Understanding happens in the mind of the learner. Teachers are not mind readers.
5) Behaviors (and objectives) help to define understanding and measure learning.
6) Common and clear points of reference between teacher and learner are necessary when measuring learning.
7) Use of the word “understand” tends to function as a cipher for many, promoting subjectivity at the expense of clarity.
8) Complexity necessarily includes essential elements.
9) Concepts of simplicity and complexity can become inverted when we conflate details with simplicity.
10) Complexity ≠ uncertainty or subjectivity
11) Applying objectives or outcomes when designing learning environments is not a way to resolve a trivial design problem. It is a means to clarify the expectations the teacher has for the learner, measure learner progress, and analyze both simple and complex modes of learning.
12) The Caroll and Rosson paradoxes cannot be remediated by omitting the essentials any more than ignoring the complexities.
13) Objectives are not limited in use to lower or simple modes of learning.
14) As objectives focus on learner behaviors, they can measure process and attitude as well as results. (Whether or not teachers use them to do so, is another issue.)
15) The complexity of subjective and symbolic concepts is not generally analyzed by recourse to more subjectivity and symbolism.
16) Subjective learning can be measured in objective ways.
17) Measurement and structure are not the whole. Learning is not limited to the specific objectives. Rather, the objectives define the minimum expectations, the waypoints of learning. A well designed course will allow learners freedom to expand and individualize their learning beyond the objectives and will elicit this learning wherever possible.
18) Objectives and outcomes are a key part of the branch the proverbial teacher stands on. We chop at them at our own peril.
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I was teaching my first year at Andrew Lewis High School. I was at that game and I taught Eddie Joyce, Jr., Gee Sprinkle, and many other players. It was depressing to watch the game because the Titans looked like pro football players. Football was “king” in Salem and the loss was devastating. I think this game helped prompt the re-classification of high schools in Virginia based on size. TC Williams had a much larger student body than Andrew Lewis.