EdD DDP2 Reflective Assignment 2
In this essay, I address three points of reflection during this module. As a prologue, I would say that the relationship with the module tutor took up the greater part of my reflection time. (Not my actual work time which only diminished during two weeks of the ten. Otherwise, I was able to remotivate myself and focus on the tasks directly. I averaged 36 hours per week nevertheless.) In many ways, I found these difficulties more illuminating than disruptive. When I graduate I will need to collaborate with many highly qualified and experienced professionals globally (at least that is my aim). Some of these will be hindered by their perspectives while simultaneously holding the view that they are not. The inability to see what one is subject to affects us all. Being unwilling to recognise that subjectivity is a trait that also most likely affects us all. Needing to deal with one such individual was informative. Without any hyperbole, I can say that my reflection on this point brought me deeper into the human condition than I had thought possible. Note that I say ‘thought’ not ‘imagined’. The techniques in this module, in particular learning about Kelly’s personal construct psychology, enabled me to cognitively grasp what I’ve imagined for so long: the ways into the human soul, the epistemology of knowing the human condition.
Point 1 oulines a single issue in my reflection on what I’ve learnt. Above all, I feel confident now; I’ve located a number of reasons for feeling unconfident and this module has enabled me to present myself more as a professional educator. Thanks. Point 2 (again) highlights a weakness in the course system: if too few students sign up, the potential for the failure for group cohesion, learning power and constructive interaction rears its head. And with a tutor whose modus operandi was to deal with each students’ initial posting directly before others had a chance to respond, communications were severely impeded. Point 3 is curtailed for reasons I address later.
- What I’ve learnt in this module
- Other students concept maps
- Potentially researchable topics
- The value of propositional knowledge is paramount. Education is a specialism that most adults, specialist or not, may feel able to comment upon. Everyone has had some kind of education and can bring their experience to bear on educationally-related discussions. Often these discussions will be political in nature, and often (as with parent-teacher conventions) about educational systems and methods. The expert in any situation will be the one with the most expertise irrespective of notions of IQ, length of service, seniority and so on. Whether or not others bow to that expertise is a political question which does have relevancy to higher education outside the classroom, but in this short essay, I leave that issue aside. The module tackled the question of the mechanisms of learning. It is unlikely that non-specialists have a clear understanding of this, and in a very pragmatic and purposeful way, the propositional knowledge I built up during this module allows me to demonstrate much more precisely the technical expertise an educator has developed in this potentially nebulous field.
Having the ability to see the learner as an individual working within a system of externally imposed pedagogic choices allows the educator to fine-tune advice to the learner that enables more controlled and precise learning. This module required an understanding of various learning theories, a directive that allowed for principled investigations into key fundamental issues underpinning and separating theory. If the oft-cited example is accurate of the unreflective teacher who unwittingly transmits the methodology and ideology with which he or she was raised through an uncritical acceptance of those methods and ideologies in his or her own teaching practice, this module was the space in which to challenge those notions and develop abilities that promote deeper awarenesses of educational methods.
Prior to the module’s commencement, my sympathies lay solidly with the behaviourist school. I have published a textbook for false beginners, i.e. those who had failed at English during their middle- and high-school careers. This book is essentially behaviourist, and I still achieve success with its methods. A key question therefore was if the readings during this module would lend me support or ask me to challenge my views. As there is a strict word limit here, I’ll restrict this answer to a short reply. Now, I realise that social constructivism has little to say about the exact mechanisms of the learning process. Etienne Wenger concedes much to earlier studies that made “biological, neurophysiological, cultural, linguistic, and historical developments that have made our human experience possible” in his description of social learning theory (Wenger, 2009, p. 216) and adds nothing at that level of description to the learning mechanism. My interests lie partially in those mechanisms, and I find myself learning heavily towards social cognitivism while recognising the valuable input that social constructivist theories can have into the curriculum, syllabus and the educational situation in general. I’d like 5,000 words to explain this even briefly.
- [The learning team work this module was highly curtailed (in comparison with module 1) by a number of factors including a very low number of students on the module. This affects the following discussion.]
I saw the learning theory concept maps of three other students. Two students’ number of nodes was around 20, the other had misunderstood the concept of a concept map and had presented a mind-map that had under 10 nodes. None had inter-nodal relationships, the best being single linear relationship descriptions. Prior to that, I posted 10 journal articles that explained the concept map idea to the discussion board and posted my own draft map of around 70 nodes two weeks early (partly to show an example, and partly because I don’t like working to tight deadlines). Yet, the final output was weak in my opinion.
Although those other maps were limited, some comments are possible. One pointed to a view of learning that involved only social constructionism. This student sees learning purely as a social act. Either that student will assume that the mechanics of learning are subsumed within the activities she set up for her students, or she will eventually come to realise the limited explanatory role of social constructivism in terms of learning process mechanisms. By ‘subsumed’, I mean that the definition of success in learning can be understood by assessment tools that describe learning from differing aspects. For example taking English as a foreign language teaching, a syllabus may be constructed that has learners working on group tasks for the entire course (e.g. task-based learning in its extreme form), but the test vehicle may be a standard grammar test. Students who do well on the test (i.e. at the level of grammar description) may be assumed to be good communicators (i.e. at the level of pragmatic ability). Such attitudes to teaching and assessment are very common worldwide. In my reflections prior to this course, I would have condemned this, but now, I have tools and models with which to judge the veracity and reasonableness more accurately.
Another student’s mind-map simply listed theory names and bullet points of learner types. However, its two branches ended with ‘Higher education institution’ and ‘Government globalisation funding’. In terms of theory, it is difficult to say what these mean precisely, but together they are suggestive of how that student places the university in society and the likely issues that this positioning will involve. Various theories regarding the role of the university have emerged. One such view, the triple helix model (Leydesdorff & Meyer, 2003), sees the university work with the government and industry towards the growth of the country’s economy. If this student has this view in mind, she may view the development of holistic cognitive abilities as being of less importance than that of practical, focussed research. It’s entirely unclear what this student thinks about the notions of impartiality and academic freedom in the institution, but if they are to be curtailed in favour of economically purposeful team efforts, this would impact significantly on the type of instruction she provides and on the kinds of systems she will work towards at her institution and outside.
- Module 1 introduced me to epistemological development (ED). With a Japanese colleague, I replicated an early study into ED as virtually nothing had been researched in Japan into this fascinating subject. My colleague translated a 16-item questionnaire from Bateman and Donald (1987), with which we conducted a pilot study (N=154). The results were inconclusive, but a factor analysis revealed the possibility that consensus building may be more important to Japanese students than individually mediated epistemology. I mention this because there are so many claims made about learning and cognition that need to be tested in multiple environments before any claim for universality can be made. If that claim fails, the research does not necessarily stop but can be directed towards understanding aspects of culture that have an effect on concepts of learning and cognition.
Week 7 of this module gave plenty of scope for cross-cultural and intra-cultural questioning. The topic of individual learner differences is so fundamental to the idea of the educators’ expertise I mentioned earlier. Yet so much of the ‘research’ is questionable. Even the Bateman and Donald study I used for my ED pilot was seriously questionable in terms of the claims they made based on their faulty statistics!
I could ‘invent’ a research question for the benefit of this essay task, but I’m not going to. I joined this course (instead of doing a PhD) precisely because I wanted to experience a lot of high-level work before I needed to settle on a research question. I have literally dozens of questions. However, I want to see what’s been done in that field to know if the remaining questions are still of interest to me. Also, It want to see what’s required of me at the doctoral level, to see if I can write on that topic at that level before I commit to it. I hope that this makes sense. My writing is not yet doctoral. That’s my target for module 3.
Bateman, D. & Donald, J. G. (1987). Measuring the intellectual development of college students: Testing a theoretical framework. The Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 17(1), 27-45.
Leydesdorff, L., & Meyer, M. (2003). The Triple Helix of university – industry – government relations. Scientometrics, 58(2), 191–203. doi:10.1023/A:1026276308287
Wenger, E. (2009). A social theory of learning. In K. Illeris (Ed.), Contemporary theories of learning: Learning theorists … in their own words (pp. 209–218). London and New York: Routledge.