Tag Archives: problem solving

What Is Learner-Centered?

Originally posted by Rochelle Diogenes on Acrobatiq.

While there doesn’t seem to be one definition for the student or learner-centered approach in higher education, Barbara McCombs, author of two books on learner-centered teaching, provides a comprehensive definition including three features (in italics) discussed below:

The core of the LCM [Learner-Centered Model] is that all instructional decisions begin with knowing who the learners are – individually and collectively.

Instructors need to take into account who they are teaching. Each student comes to class with their own past—academically and experientially. They also come with their own goals. Not everyone will succeed in the same way and with the same type of instruction. Personalized learning data is key to understanding and supporting this aspect of the student-centered approach. Instructors can obtain this data by analyzing each student’s work and engaging with them.

Courseware that incorporates personalized learning (see previous post, One Size Fits All…Not) makes this process easier and more productive. The data that instructors obtain from courseware helps instructors reach individuals and the class as a whole in real time. This allows instructors to use their time in a more focused way to move the whole class forward.

This [the first tenet] is followed by thoroughly understanding learning and how best to support learning for all people in the system.

Approaches to student-centered learning are innovative, and varied. They usually fall into these categories:

  • Activity-based learning such as discovery exercises, exchange of ideas (in person or online), simulations, problem-based learning, and project-based learning
  • Choice such as students choosing assignments, when and where they study, how they want to approach a topic, and deadlines
  • Collaboration such as team-based learning and peer exchanges
  • Real-world challenges such as problem-solving and community outreach
  • Metacognition such as transparency of progress and learning pathways, reflection on learning, and self-motivation

Quality courseware includes most if not all of these types of support for learner-centered programs.

Decisions about what practices should be in place at the school and classroom levels depend upon what we want learners to know and be able to do.

Learning outcomes based on instructor-determined teaching goals are integral to the success of student-centered learning. The student-centered approach changes but doesn’t eliminate the role of the instructor in the learning equation. While the instructor’s role is no longer mainly about transferring knowledge, it’s still about determining what students should learn and how they learn it.

At the institutional level, faculty coming together on how to implement the student-centered approach strengthens the success potential of the approach. Creating learning outcomes across departments and connected to institutional outcomes is important. Faculty have also begun to value using personalized courseware that works across subject matter areas so that students are engaged in a consistent method of learning.

What we see as innovative for instructors is also innovative for students, particularly those in higher education today who are used to more traditional methods of learning. The more practice learners get at student-centered learning, the more impactful the approach will be. And that applies to those implementing it as well.

#edtech #learner-centered

Trial and Error

When I started using computers and they stopped working in some way, I would get terribly frustrated. I would call a computer-wise friend or relative who would tell me not to get so upset. Then they would give me directions such as hit the percent key while you hold down the shift key, then a5(39H)490873, and enter.

If that didn’t work, I would become even more frustrated. But my helper would just take it in stride and say, ok, try this, hit settings, tell me what it says, ok, hold the d key, now try refresh, and on and on. At the end they would tell me, “You see, it works. No big deal. You need to calm down.”

I had many responses to that, but in most cases I would say, “Do you understand what you just did? It took us half an hour of random acts that might as well have been ‘Turn around three times, hop on one leg, hit 4 keys,  and touch your nose with your tongue’ to solve the problem.” That always got a laugh because it’s partially true, but the technology generation doesn’t care. Their love for technology includes fixing the glitches. What is frustrating to me is just part of the process for them, a process of trial and error.

Trial and error involves applying different possible solutions to a problem until one works. It’s often perceived as a primitive method of problem solving associated with practical or mechanical achievements. Young children use trial and error to discover the world around them. It takes a lot of time and patience. Thomas Edison is said to have tried at least a thousand different materials as light bulb filaments before he found one that was economical and relatively safe to use.

Those of us learning Tech As A Second Language℠ like to think that problem solving is the product of great thinking based on solid principles and experience. We don’t want to hear that if you just keep putting different things in a socket, you will succeed. To be fair, Edison didn’t just try anything; he learned from each attempt. That’s how trial and error works.

The technology generation has embraced trial and error. They would rather try different clicks to get where they want to go than read instructions. They don’t mind the moments of failure; they are confident that they will eventually succeed.

This makes sense because technology is a young, practical science. By the time you read the handbook, if there is one, it’s changed. For those who are not tech savvy, trial and error levels the playing field. Anyone can find a way to succeed. And, the more time you spend clicking, the more you learn which clicks work best for each function; the clicks are not as random as they seem to the uninitiated.

So next time your technology stops working or you need an answer to move forward such as “How do I bookmark a website?” get over your feelings of inadequacy and Google for help or start clicking. You will look tech smart and you may be surprised at how many times you can solve the problem on your own.

Education Models Evolve

In Audrey Watters’ essay, The Invented History of ‘The Factory Model of Education,’ she provides an insightful analysis of recent statements by respected leaders for change in education. According to them, the Western education system is based on an outdated factory model stemming from industrialization and consequently, it needs to be replaced. Watters makes a cogent argument that this assumption is untrue based on historical facts.

I agree. It is true that the goals and maybe even the mechanics  of industrialization became intertwined with American education by the late 20th century.  But it took a long time to standardize the system.  For example, in 19th century rural America, the major purpose of multi-age one-room schoolhouses (about 200,000 of them) was to make people feel more connected to an emerging nation, to teach them the responsibilities of living in a democratic society. There was no resemblance to industrialization.

During Reconstruction, schooling was very important to African Americans; learning to read and write had been denied them as slaves. Education was the first step towards equality. In urban areas, schooling was mostly enjoyed by the elite until child-labor laws were seriously enforced in the 1920’s and 30’s allowing working-class children to take full advantage of public education. Until then, most children were “industrialized” through apprenticeships and early work years, not schools.

Watters cautions:

We tend to not see automation today as mechanization as much as algorithmization–the promise and potential in artificial intelligence and virtualization, as if this magically makes these new systems of standardization and control lighter and liberatory.

And so too we’ve invented a history of the “factory model of education” in order to justify an “upgrade”–to new software and hardware that will do much of the same thing schools have done for generations now, just (supposedly) more efficiently, with control moved out of the hands of labor (teachers) and into the hands of a new class of engineers, out of the realm of the government and into the realm of the market.

In other words, just because we have a new format in technology does not mean that its content will set us free. Accredited education will always involve the passing on of societal values and goals.

However, I would not be so quick to say that with technology solutions teachers will be replaced as education influencers. Many EdTech startups are depending on teachers to create content and pedagogy that work in digital programs.

We need engineers and instructional designers to lead in technology. Developers admit that they are far from creating education technology that is scalable—cost- and learning- effective. They want to work with educators and government agencies to “make it happen.”

How we educate students and who has control will depend on how well experienced educators, technology experts, and government agencies can collaborate for the common good—an old but still valid concept.  Let’s not allow the high speed of technology push any of us into premature interpretations, predictions, and solutions. Let’s not jump from the exaggerated gloom and doom interpretations of the past to gloom and doom predictions for the future.