Bookmark: Living In A World Of Motion

There were three notable chapters in my book this week, and I placed a bookmark on the page with the paragraph that wove them all together in a lovely way.

Chapter One: Last night I returned from an accreditation team training, and the theme of most of our discussion in the meeting (as well as the discussion on the airport shuttle bus) was “change in higher education.”  We watched this video to provoke our thinking:

Chapter Two: I have been collaborating with a new wonderful set of colleagues — Lisa Blaschke, Stewart Hase, and Chris Kenyon — to design and launch an international Community of Practice focusing on advancing the theory and practice of heutagogy. And if there’s one thing heutagogy is about, it’s about learning and change. (An aside: we’ve not launched yet, but when we do, here’s our Twitter handle: @HeutagogyCoP)

Chapter Three: I am teaching our PLA Seminar: From Experience to Learning this term. I’ve connected with wonderful, amazingly smart and caring adult learners, many of whom are starting to write about their own learning experiences and challenges with change in their PLA essays. (Have I mentioned that I really love teaching this course? I wish I could do so more often!)

book3dBookmark: I just finished devouring Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown’s book, A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change.

These three chapters of my week converged when I read this paragraph from the book’s chapter titled, “Embracing Change:”

Change motivates and challenges. It makes clear when things are obsolete or have outlined their usefulness. Bot most of all, change forces us to learn differently. If the twentieth century was about creating a sense of stability to buttress again change and then trying to adapt to it, then the twenty-first century is about embracing change, not fighting it. Embracing change means looking forward to what will come next. It means viewing the future as a new set of possibilities, rather than something that forces us to adjust. It means making the most of living in a world of motion.

The book reflects a lot about learning in online community-based gaming – which I know next-to-nothing about. But now I think I’d better learn. (GULP! I never thought I’d say that!)

(Unless, of course, Pinterest provides the same experience, by any chance? Because I’m getting really good at learning with Pinterest!)

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Rearranging Our Sense of What’s Possible

In his recent post titled Napster, Udacity, and the Academy, Clay Shirky writes a few very important things about the future of higher education that I believe we need to pay attention to. This paragraph sums up why:

Once you see this pattern—a new story rearranging people’s sense of the possible, with the incumbents the last to know—you see it everywhere. First, the people running the old system don’t notice the change. When they do, they assume it’s minor. Then that it’s a niche. Then a fad. And by the time they understand that the world has actually changed, they’ve squandered most of the time they had to adapt.

MOOCs, I believe, are currently a place-holder for Big Changes A’ Comin’. I actually don’t think MOOCs as we know them now (in all of their various forms) will BE the change; I think they are instead indicators that change is happening now. And Shirky says why:

The possibility MOOCs hold out isn’t replacement; anything that could replace the traditional college experience would have to work like one, and the institutions best at working like a college are already colleges. The possibility MOOCs hold out is that the educational parts of education can be unbundled. MOOCs expand the audience for education to people ill-served or completely shut out from the current system …

I, for one, do want change to come to higher education — I deeply want improved access to meaningful and significant learning experiences. But I don’t think of students as an “audience for education.” This implies a somewhat passive, receiving role for learners. (And thus the MOOCs that are recordings of superstar professors giving their lectures aren’t that exciting for me.)

Change – Thank you zacklur on Flickr for allowing this image to be used.

The change I want to see is focused not on how content is delivered because content delivery is not learning (though this will surely be part of it), but in how we engage learners in processing that content, integrating it with their own learning and experience and other ideas from other sources, and making some sense of it all. I want to see changes in how we help our learners and ourselves develop our capabilities to be able to work and communicate effectively with others, to be creative in solving our world’s significant social and environmental challenges, to deeply value diversity and experience and wisdom, and to excel at critical self-reflection and ongoing learning. As I’ve written before, enough with the ivory tower that privileges obtaining certain kinds of knowledge and privileges who gets to obtain it. More and more, our non-ivory towers are doing this same thing, and not even realizing it.

My biggest fear right now is actually not that higher education is changing;  I fear that if we’re not careful with how it’s changing — not careful and super-intentional as we lead these changes — that more people, not fewer, will be shut out of significant, meaningful, transformative learning experiences.  MOOCs might solve part of the access problem for delivering content and perhaps even being able to work through that content with others; MOOCs aren’t going to solve the access problem to significant, meaningful, transformative learning experiences. For one thing, MOOCs do not at all address the digital divide, which I believe is still an issue in our world.

Furthermore, problematically, we still are attached this construct called a degree that is supposed to represent learning and ability. This is evidenced in Shirky’s post:

In the US, an undergraduate education used to be an option, one way to get into the middle class. Now it’s a hostage situation, required to avoid falling out of it. And if some of the hostages having trouble coming up with the ransom conclude that our current system is a completely terrible idea, then learning will come unbundled from the pursuit of a degree just as songs came unbundled from CDs.

I think it’s ok if learning becomes unbundled from the pursuit of a degree if by offering degrees we are really only aiming for students just getting degrees. Unless we can focus on ensuring meaningful, engaging processes and experiences of learning, then why bother? I am as compelled by the piece of paper as I am by the archaic representations of learning such as seat time. I am thus also compelled to lead change in particular ways — with learning and access to it at the center of decision-making and innovation and resourcing — because I  actually believe in the value of rearranging our sense of what’s possible. When we rearrange our sense of what’s possible, we can ensure that our students can, too.

And THAT changes everything.

Scholars Of Their Learning

I’ve been attending this year’s IUPUI Assessment Institute and had the pleasure of attending Kathleen Yancy’s keynote about ePortfolios. Several tidbits that I hurriedly scribbled down have had this nog prattling, including this big whopper:

Learners’ reflection on their collection of artifacts — and the relationship among those artifacts (versus the artifacts as atomistic indicators of learning outcomes) — help our learners become scholars of their own learning.

And I thought:

Scholars of their own learning …

Scholars of their own learning!!!

Scholar’s Desk at Yu Garden, Shanghai – thanks to amy_mcgill on Flickr for making this image available!

HEY WAIT — THIS IS WHAT PRIOR LEARNING ASSESSMENT DOES!

(We just haven’t ever called it that!)

In PLA, students reflect on the collection of their learning experiences as well as evidence of these experiences (their collection of artifacts), as well as how these experiences and artifacts collectively and holistically their attainment of the learning outcomes of a course for which they are trying to earn credit. And during this process, they take perspective on their learning; they examine it; they question it; and they make new meaning from it. They become scholars of it!

And ya ya, they can earn credit too. And save money. And decrease their time to degree completion. And all that.

BUT what’s important is that they become scholars of their own learning!

Yancy also spoke of the three main activities in higher education:

  1. Curricular activities
  2. Co-curricular activities
  3. Extracurricular activities

And I thought there was one missing: lived-and-living curricular activities. You know — the stuff that has happened (or is happening) to us and our students external to our institutions. As Lindemann (1961) pointed out, “Experience is the adult learner’s living textbook.” Oh yes it is! (And of course this isn’t limited to adults; younger students have lived-and-living curriculums too.)

I don’t know why I never had this lightbulb moment before, but listen to our students and you’ll hear this over and over! They have become scholars of their own learning.

How. Awesome. Is. That?

No Ivory Tower There

UC Berkeley campanile – aka, the Ivory Tower. Thanks lobotomy42 on Flickr for making this image available.

Lately I have been engaging in a thought experiment (sadly, mostly by myself), imagining what an institution of higher education focused on heutagogy might look like. Heutatogy is a learning theory, originally developed by Stewart Chase and Chris Kenyon, that places emphasis on learning-to-learn, on developing the capacities of mind for self-determined learning. A heutagogical approach focuses on developing not only competencies, but more significantly, on developing capabilities to learn deeply in an ongoing way. As Blaschke (2012, p. 59) summarizes, capable learners demonstrate:

• self-efficacy, in knowing how to learn and continuously reflect on the learning process;
• communication and teamwork skills, working well with others and being openly communicative;
• creativity, particularly in applying competencies to new and unfamiliar situations and by being adaptable and flexible in approach;
• positive values (Hase & Kenyon, 2000; Kenyon & Hase, 2010; Gardner et al., 2007).

This deep learning process involves a double loop, accordingly:

Image borrowed from Reply – Online Magazine for Organizational Change Practitioners

I look at double-loop learning as a a meta-assessment cycle that results in transformative learning; critical self-reflection and awareness are key features that allow the process to work (for individuals, and also for organizations).

I wonder, if an institution of higher education were focused on a heutagogical approach,

  • Would there be majors or programs of study that are content and discipline oriented? Or would it be truly interdisciplinary?
  • Would we focus on pre-determined learning outcomes, or would they be emergent?
  • Would knowledge be provided to or constructed by participants?
  • Would we measure learning by tests, or add up learning by seat time and credits? (ACK – please say no!)
  • Would there be courses? Or would learners and instructors get together differently? Or would they get together at all?
  • Would we even have professors or instructors? How might their roles and responsibilities be different than now?
  • Heck — would we have “students” as we know them?

I’d like to think that such a “place” (which might likely be less of a place and more of an experience) would be very different from higher education now, because its values, principles, and practices would be totally different.  I like to think that such a place/experience might:

  • Be grounded in experiential learning in nature and in focus so that the double loop can really have meaning;
  • Strive to provide an integrated experience for its participants — where work, life, and education are not kept separate, but inform and shape each other;
  • Nurture the development of personal and communal learning networks and processes (as Blashke points out, Web 2.0 technologies can support these practices nicely);
  • Develop in participants an ongoing practice of critical self-reflection and, ultimately, the capabilities that Blashke describes;
  • Support exploration and adventure as a way of learning;
  • Be open — to new ideas and to new ways of doing learning work, so that it’s always evolving; and to all people, at low or no cost, so that everyone can participate, somehow.

This is the kind of place or experience I’d like to create; this is the kind of place I’d like to be, and experience I’d like to participate in! For one thing, there’s no ivory tower there.

MORE ABOUT HEUTAGOGY

Blaschke, L.M. (2012). Heutagogy and lifelong learning: A review of heutagogical practice and self-determined learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1), 56-71. Retrieved from: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1076/2113

Bhoyrub, J., Hurley, J., Neilson, G.R., Ramsay, M., & Smith, M. (2010). Heutagogy: An alternative practice based learning approachNurse Education in Practice19(6), 322-326.

Canning, N. &  Callan, S. (2010). Heutagogy: Spirals of reflection to empower learners in higher education. Reflective Practice, 11(1), pp. 71–82.

Canning, N. (2010). Playing with heutagogy: Exploring strategies to empower mature learners in higher education. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 34(1), pp. 59–71.

Chapnick, S. & Meloy, J. (2005).  Renaissance eLearning: creating dramatic and unconventional learning experiences. Essential resources for training and HR professionals. Pfeiffer: San Francisco, CA. (See “From Andragogy to Heutagogy,” pp. 36–39.)

Hase, S, and Kenyon, C. (2000). From andragogy to heutagogy. Ultibase, RMIThttp://ultibase.rmit.edu.au/Articles/dec00/hase2.htm

Hase, S, & Kenyon, C. (2007). Heutagogy: a child of complexity theory. Complicity: an International Journal of Complexity and Education, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 111-118. “Heutagogy: A Child of Complexity Theory”

Hase, S, & Kenyon, C. (2001). Moving from Andragogy to Heutagogy in Vocational Education. Retrieved from: http://www.avetra.org.au/abstracts_and_papers_2001/Hase-Kenyon_full.pdf

Convergence Zone: Heutagogy

I was a pop-in-and-out participant in last week’s MOOC MOOC, during which time I wrote this reflection about MOOCs, Prior Learning Assessment, and College-Level Learning. I read several tweets and posts from folks participating along the way that shaped and changed my thinking, and I gleaned a few interesting ideas and a whole lot of thoughtful questions about MOOCs, and even more thoughtful questions about teaching, learning, assessment, higher education, prior learning and assessment, pedagogy, technology, accreditation, adult learning, and the intersections of all of these topics.

Thanks to fabonthemoon on Flickr for making this image available for use!

This busy intersection is where I spend a lot of my time professionally and theoretically – smack dab in the middle of several noisy streets, trying to determine what way I might want to travel next before I get hit by oncoming traffic. It’s really not as terrifying as it might sound; in fact, the metaphor, for me, represents the complexity of higher education in a good way: its systems, its people, its opportunities and challenges. Traffic is moving here, and quickly, but then again, slowly. (It is higher education, after all.) 

One post that caught my attention was written by Dave Cormier titled Rhizomatic Learning and MOOCs – Assessment. Here’s a key point he made that’s been rattling in my nog since I read it:

IF

What we are learning is contextualized by each individual differently, according to their experiences, their understanding and purposes,

AND

The things that are learned are not definite, but flexible and complex

THEN

Assessing what someone ‘knows’ is an act of enforcement of a given point of view, not a(n apolotical) [sic] helpful guideline to learning

I want assessment to be a helpful guideline to learning (as reflected, for example, in my concerns with learning analytics). Period. With or without MOOCs, my personal vision of assessment’s main value is as a key part of an individual’s and group’s learning processes and cycles (assessment as an act of learning — for and as learning — versus of someone’s learning by someone else). I also think there is great value in assessment as and for learning for organizations. Otherwise, how would we know how we’re doing and how to improve?

Yet here’s where it gets messy:

When someone (presumably a person we call a “student”) wants to have their learning “certified” in some way and wants the currency of higher education — credits and degrees and whatnot — attached to that learning to “verify” that they have it, then these ideals of learning/assessment get messy and murky. (The same might be said of organizations: verification for higher educational organizations is just called “accountability” and is often conflated with “assessment” and “accreditation.”) For a student, passing a course somehow represents that he or she has learned something from it; adding up these courses to a degree presumes that he or she is qualified in particular ways. Somehow we have to “validate” all of this, for all sorts of reasons.

Prior Learning Assessment has been a way for students — typically adults with several years of life and professional experience under their belts — to have their learning “validated,” to earn credit for their prior college-level learning that they have obtained through non-college learning opportunities. By critically reflecting on their learning experiences, making meaning from these experiences, and connecting and integrating their own knowledge with that of the “academic experts,” students can demonstrate that they’ve met course learning outcomes through different sources other than the course. (GASP!) But perhaps the most meaningful aspect of PLA, in addition to acknowledging that people can learn all sorts of things in all sorts of ways from all sorts of sources, is that the process helps develop reflective thinking, awareness, problem-solving, and mindfulness about learning. In other words:

PLA helps learners be better learners!

So if PLA were to become a way to assess MOOC-based learning (which it could be) — if it were to be “re-branded,” as one person in my PLA LinkedIn group discussion forum suggested, to focus less on assessing prior, experiential learning for adults and to focus more on assessing college-level learning for all, then by all means, it could legitimately serve an assessment-of-MOOC-learning function (and frankly, it likely will).

But I keep coming back to what might be lost by using PLA in this way, for this purpose, and it comes down to my fear of losing the other 2 aspects of PLA: assessment for and as learning. Furthermore, I fear that there would be additional aspects to PLA that might be sacrificed or forgotten about. Here’s my quick and dirty laundry list:

  • The focus on the adult-as-learner specifically
  • Development of the critically reflective process required for turning experience into learning
  • The transformative (life-changing) outcomes of PLA as a learning process
  • The kind of thinking and problem-solving skills that folks develop when engage in PLA
  • The great sense of accomplishment that students feel and confidence that students gain when their learning is awarded college credit.

(See this PLA Bibliography for literature that reflects all of the above theoretically and in practice.)

I really don’t know much about MOOCs, or about rhizomatic learning, but I do know a few things about learning to learn, and I know a lot about PLA. I really would want to retain the kind of PLA that supports this metacognitive development in addition to validating someone’s experiential learning.

Now, this busy intersection is beginning to reveal a convergence zone for me: a focus on learning to learn, on developing capability as a learner — regardless of the topic or content area, the role or methods of assessment, who is teaching, or how or where one gains learning. This zone is called heutagogy, and I am working on creating a curation of resources and a community of practitioners to think together about its usefulness in this 21st century learning and higher educational landscape. I openly invite participation and perspectives: stayed tuned for more about Heutagogy In Action.

MORE ABOUT HEUTAGOGY

Blaschke, L.M. (2012). Heutagogy and lifelong learning: A review of heutagogical practice and self-determined learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1), 56-71. Retrieved from: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1076/2113

Bhoyrub, J., Hurley, J., Neilson, G.R., Ramsay, M., & Smith, M. (2010). Heutagogy: An alternative practice based learning approachNurse Education in Practice19(6), 322-326.

Canning, N. &  Callan, S. (2010). Heutagogy: Spirals of reflection to empower learners in higher education. Reflective Practice, 11(1), pp. 71–82.

Canning, N. (2010). Playing with heutagogy: Exploring strategies to empower mature learners in higher education. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 34(1), pp. 59–71.

Chapnick, S. & Meloy, J. (2005).  Renaissance eLearning: creating dramatic and unconventional learning experiences. Essential resources for training and HR professionals. Pfeiffer: San Francisco, CA. (See “From Andragogy to Heutagogy,” pp. 36–39.)

Hase, S, and Kenyon, C. (2000). From andragogy to heutagogy. Ultibase, RMIThttp://ultibase.rmit.edu.au/Articles/dec00/hase2.htm

Hase, S, & Kenyon, C. (2007). Heutagogy: a child of complexity theory. Complicity: an International Journal of Complexity and Education, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 111-118. “Heutagogy: A Child of Complexity Theory”

Hase, S, & Kenyon, C. (2001). Moving from Andragogy to Heutagogy in Vocational Education. Retrieved from: http://www.avetra.org.au/abstracts_and_papers_2001/Hase-Kenyon_full.pdf 

Revolutionary Movements? On MOOCs, PLA, and College-Level Learning

Thanks to stargardener on Flickr for allowing use of this image.

I am a part-time, behind-the-scenes participant in the MOOC on MOOCs happening this week (@MOOCMOOC). I wish I had the time to fully participate but I do not (ironic, given that I am on a short sabbatical right now, but my sabbatical has some externally imposed deadlines that I must hit … so alas, I prioritize).

But here’s a question I’ve had rattling around in my head for quite a while now, and in some ways it’s part of a larger question posed for Thursday’s agenda of the MOOC on MOOCs:

To what extent should Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) have a place in the world of MOOCs?

This question emerges because most MOOCs right now may not have a great way to assess learning of each individual participant, and may not be credit-bearing. The idea is that they’re “open” to some extent, right? So if a person “takes” a MOOC, how might they earn credit for it? In this article, I said I thought PLA could be such a process (not should, per se, but could). In my mind, a MOOC might be one source of learning for the student in the same way that any other non-credit or informal course or workshop would be (and it may be the only source of learning for some students). If the student can demonstrate that he or she has met college-level learning outcomes as a result of taking a MOOC by itself and or in combination with other sources of learning (oh, say by reading books, mentoring by an expert, etc.), then why couldn’t PLA be used as a way for the student who has taken a MOOC to earn college credit?

But let me back up, because I know there is a lot of mis-information about PLA. So let me be clear:

Prior Learning Assessment is the awarding of college credit for appropriately documented and demonstrated college-level learning typically gained from outside-of-college sources. A lot of folks call is credit-for-experience, which is totally incorrect. PLA awards credit for learning – specifically, college-level learning. There is a big difference between experience and learning, and then again, between learning and college-level learning. In our PLA courses, we walk our students through the conceptual differences to move themselves across the spectrum accordingly:

I HAD AN EXPERIENCE –> THIS IS WHAT I LEARNED FROM IT –> THIS IS THE TRANSLATION INTO COLLEGE-LEVEL LEARNING

PLA requires students to demonstrate their learning at the final point on this continuum, the translation into college-level learning.

So what’s “college-level learning,” then? PLA has coped with this question for years, and now I suspect MOOCers might need to consider it too. So let me offer some guidance from the PLA literature.

In our PLA program, we help students understand college-level learning by using McCormick’s (1993) definition:

1) College-level learning is conceptual — it has a published base of knowledge; students must be able to describe their knowledge in ways that are more than just describing their own processes or key ideas. They must link their learning — synthesize and integrate their learning, in fact — to the academic theory of the particular content area and discipline.

2) College-level learning is generalizable — the knowledge is applicable beyond one specific situation or context. What are the general principles at play? In general, what are the causes, the effects, the challenges, the opportunities, the differences, the similarities, etc? These are questions PLA students often grapple with when translating their personal learning into college-level learning.

3) College-level learning resides in a recognized field, or body of knowledge. This means that what students earn credit for should be taught in college; it may be lower division or upper division (I don’t know of any PLA programs that are available at the graduate-level); it should be a recognized and legitimate content area and if it’s a course-equivalency PLA program, then what students earn credit for should be the equivalent of what they’d earn credit for if they took the course.

Our PLA students “challenge” college courses by using the course description from the catalog and the course syllabus as guidelines for their submissions, and by documenting their college-level learning per the intended student learning outcomes of the course. Faculty are our PLA evaluators; textbooks and academic articles are students’ referenced sources for considering the academic content; and demonstrating course learning outcomes — regardless of the sources of that learning — is key.

Steve Krause took a pretty good stab with the question about MOOCs and PLA in this post — and he’s posed some interesting points worthy of consideration, except that he got the PLA part totally wrong. PLA — theoretically and in good practice — is not about awarding credit for experience at all. If a student takes a MOOC, and demonstrates that he or she has taken and maybe even completed a MOOC, I am not just going to say, “Great! Here’s 3 credits for ya!” I want to see evidence of learning, at the college-level! As I said in this interview:

A good example of the difference is that a student cannot earn credit for courses called “How Sheila Raised Her Kids,” or “How Larry Manages Employees,” because there aren’t such college courses. However, students can reflect on their own parenting or management experiences (what worked, what didn’t, how that compared to other experiences they had, causes and effects, pros and cons, etc.), what they learned from reading books, workshops or trainings, talking to other people, observations, etc., and then can do PLA for academic courses like Theories of Parenting or Child Development, or Theories of Management or Principles of Supervision [courses that many institutions offer]. The student needs to be able to say “here are my experiences and here’s what I’ve learned from them, AND … here’s how they connect to and demonstrate the learning that is addressed in this course.” They put their expertise and knowledge on the table and enter the conversation with the “academic experts.”

The deal with MOOCs is that they’re totally new and we’re all trying to wrap our heads around what they are, what we’d like them to be, and more significantly, what they as a movement — potentially a revolution — could mean for higher education. Are they courses? Are they college-level? Yes, maybe, and no, maybe. And maybe these are not even the right questions! I think the folks participating in the MOOC on MOOCs are doing a great job wrestling with all of this and I am grateful to be able to plop in and out and see what the conversation is like.

PLA, however, is not new– PLA has been around for more than 40 years; there is a thorough body of literature and research associated with PLA (such as PLAIO, a peer-reviewed journal on theory, research, and practice in PLA, for which I am a peer reviewer; or here is a slightly out of date bibliography that I put together, for example), and standards, and organizations, and (dare I say it?) experts in the theory and practice of PLA. Today, MOOCs are disruptive, loudly and grandly; PLA has been disruptive for a long time (in the US and more so in other countries), but quietly and softly. Thomas (2000) called PLA a “quiet revolution” —  a movement that challenges formal educational systems, which  define knowledge and also define how knowledge should be learned and assessed. PLA says, “Hey – taking your course at your college is not the only way someone could learn that stuff.”

MOOCs and PLA as “revolutionary movements” may have a lot in common despite the differences in volume and approach, and PLA may very well have a place in the MOOC landscape as a way to assess learning that students gain from taking and participating in MOOCs. However, I also see some major liabilities to this idea too — for PLA (with its own history and theoretical and epistemological stance), for MOOCs becoming whatever they shall become, for higher education, and most importantly, for learners. I’ll address my thoughts about these limitations in Part II of this post … after I attempt figure them all out. (Afterall, I don’t call this blog PrattleNog for nothing!)

REFERENCES

McCormick, D. (1993). College-level learning and prior experiential learning assessment. Adult Learning. Jan-Feb 1993, 20-22.

Thomas, A. (2000). Prior learning assessment: The quiet revolution. In A.Wilson & E. Hayes (Eds.). Handbook of Adult and Continuing Education. (pp. 508-522). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

This Is Not About Beer

Thanks to riebschlager on Flickr for allowing use of this photo!

Tap,tap, tap.

Last week this article about our PLA students was published:

A look at students who have earned credit for prior learning (Inside Higher Ed)

The comments are interesting, and frankly not at all surprising to me. Most higher ed faculty likely won’t “get it” until they GET IT. I actually suspect that lot of faculty don’t have much experience with adults in their classrooms or offices; maybe they really don’t know the depth and breadth of knowledge and expertise — and commitment, and focus, and intention — that adults can bring with them to higher education.

Still, I know that some folks will never get it, because getting it would require a major shift in thinking (dare I say in perspective) about how and where legitimate learning happens. If we continue to operate from a delivery / teaching / pour my knowledge out of my full head into their empty heads paradigm of education, then of course PLA doesn’t make sense, and it won’t ever make sense.

Until the paradigm changes. Until we move from a “pour it out and in” model to a “tap into it” model of learning.

What was rewarding about this piece being published, despite the critiques (some of which were just mean, by the way), is that I heard from several people who thanked me for helping spread the word about what good PLA can look like. Of course I didn’t do much: it was our students who did the work and who were willing to tell it like it is — like they experienced it. Nonetheless, many thanks to Paul Fain (you can follow him) who heard my call to tell their side of the story.

Now it seems like the higher ed conversation is all about these amazing things called MOOCs — including this great post about The March of the MOOCs that my colleague Jesse over at Hybrid Pedagogy wrote. Next week (starting August 12th) he’s offering a MOOC on MOOCs. I hope that in this course we will interrogate the educational paradigms that different MOOC forms seem to be informed by. To what extent are MOOCs reinforcing the delivery / teaching / pour my knowledge into their empty heads paradigm?  To what extent might they challenge this paradigm, or create a new paradigm? To what extent can something like this support deep, meaningful learning? To what extent can MOOCs tap into people’s prior knowledge, pull it out, challenge it if appropriate, build on it, and make it better?

I hope MOOCs will eventually tap, and not pour, so I am keeping an open and hopeful mind about MOOCs, and I am willing to learn and to have my own perspectives challenged and changed. I’d certainly hope that people slamming PLA might be willing to learn and have their perspectives changed, too — or at least to consider the possibility of learning that happens a different way.

Tap, tap, tap.

Thanks to Matt Peoples on Flickr for making this image available.