Sunday, March 20, 2016

Self-directed learning is hard--

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“We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.” ― John Dewey

Almost over--
And I've lots of thinking to do following 8 weeks with a group of accomplished co-learners.  My burning question: What can I learn from what transpired and how can I grow the learning environment to best enable the deepest learning?

This is the first in a number of reflections
The focus-- self-directed learning

Learners from different backgrounds with varying goals collaborate to come to a deeper understanding of blended learning-- elementary teachers, integration specialists, consultants, middle grades educators.  The learning environment is designed to be self-directed, even more self-governed with personal learning pledges, a menu of  resources and multiple options for collaborating and deepening understanding.  Intentionally based on research, some of what I found to be critical to my thinking:

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In self-determined learning, it is important that learners acquire both competencies and capabilities (Stephenson, 1994 as cited in McAuliffe et al., 2008, p. 3; Hase & Kenyon, 2000, 2007). Competency can be understood as proven ability in acquiring knowledge and skills, while capability is characterized by learner confidence in his or her competency and, as a result, the ability “to take appropriate and effective action to formulate and solve problems in both familiar and unfamiliar and changing settings” (Cairns, 2000, p. 1, as cited in Gardner, Hase, Gardner, Dunn, & Carryer, 2007, p. 252). Capable people exhibit the following traits: 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).
When learners are competent, they demonstrate the acquisition of knowledge and skills; skills can be repeated and knowledge retrieved. When learners are capable, skills and knowledge can be reproduced in unfamiliar situations. Capability is then the extension of one’s own competence, and without competency there cannot be capability. Through the process of double-looping, learners become more aware of their preferred learning style and can easily adapt new learning situations to their learning styles, thus making them more capable learners. With its dual focus on competencies and capability, heutagogy moves educators a step closer toward better addressing the needs of adult learners in complex and changing work environments (Bhoryrub et al., 2010).
When designing a self-determined learner experience, certain considerations should be made. A heutagogical approach to learning and teaching is characterized first and foremost by learner-centeredness in terms of both learner-generated contexts and content. Course design elements that support learner-centeredness in a heutagogical approach are presented below.
Learner-defined learning contracts: Learning contracts support students in defining and determining their individual learning paths. These individualized contracts, such as those used at distance education institution Empire State College (see, define what will be learned (e.g., scope), how it will be learned (e.g., teaching and learning approaches, learning activities), and what will be assessed and how it will be assessed (Kenyon & Hase, 2010; Gilbert, 1975; Cristiano, 1993).
Flexible curriculum: In a self-determined learning environment, the learner is the driver in creating flexible curriculum, which is defined by the student: learners create the learning map, and instructors serve as the compass (Hase & Kenyon, 2007; Hase, 2009). Flexible curriculum in this sense is negotiated action learning, which adapts and evolves according to learner needs (Hase, 2009; Hase & Kenyon, 2007). Learners negotiate “how, when, where and to what upper (rather than minimal) level they want to take their learning” (Hase, 2009, p. 47).
Learner-directed questions: Learner-directed questions and the discussion that results from these questions are what guide learners and serve as mechanisms for helping learners make sense of course content, bring clarity to ideas, and promote individual and group reflection (Kenyon & Hase, 2001; Eberle, 2009). Guiding learners to define self-directed questions is one of the biggest challenges facing developers of heutagogical courses, as designers must be “creative enough to have learners ask questions about the universe they inhabit” (Kenyon & Hase, 2001, para. 29).
Flexible and negotiated assessment: In heutagogy, the learner is involved in designing his or her assessment. Negotiated and learner-defined assessment has been shown to improve the motivation of learners and their involvement in the learning process, as well as make learners feel less threatened by instructor control of their learning process (Hase & Kenyon, 2007, p. 115; Hase, 2009; Ashton & Elliott, 2007; Canning, 2010). One way of incorporating negotiation into the assessment process is through the use of learning contracts (Hase, 2009). The assessment should include measurable forms of assessing understanding of content, including whether the learner has achieved the competencies desired. Rubrics can also be used effectively in guiding learners in their self-assessment process, for example by assessing “discussion skills, quality of work, outcomes, collaboration, academic soundness and knowledge of material” (Eberle, 2008, p. 186).
The above two paragraphs are from this resource, recommended years ago by @foxdenuk.

The course environment incorporated all of the above and of course I had the highest of expectations for deep engagement by all co-learners.

For the first 2 weeks, we co-created, we engaged in conversations synchronously and asynchronously, we developed norms, we got to know each other, we shared burning questions in a collective wondering about blended learning and some developed learning pledges.

And yet, as the opening quote from Sheryl noted, self-directed learning is hard.

Life gets in the way.  Anne (@foxdenuk) mentioned in a posting: “We all need to be led through a gently sloping florr into the deeper waters of self-directed learning."  Although I was gentle and ever present, I asked everyone to step off the cliff into the deep waters of self-governed learning. And perhaps there lies the problem. As the weeks progressed, there was less engagement on the part of some co-learners than I had hoped that we would experience.

In a survey, I will ask co-learners to share their feedback on the self-governed environment so that I can learn how can I grow the learning environment to best enable the deepest learning.  With that feedback, I'll reflect on each element and think lots more--

Self-directed learning is hard--

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