Sunday, March 6, 2011

Designing Learning Activities

I am doing well - I read the second chapter of Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age last night and I am all ready blogging about it. Lets see if I can keep this up.

This chapter is by Helen Beetham (also an editor of the book) and looks at designing learning activities around how people learn, which was a central theme of all the perspectives of learning looked at in the previous chapter.

Beetham identifies issues in Activity design that must be considered when considering the activity to suit a learning context include: authenticity of the activity, formality and structure, retention/reproduction versus reflextion/internalization, role and importance of other people and who is in control of the learning event - is the instructor directing learning or can the learner go on a voyage of self-discovery.

The chapter mentions an interesting learning activity classification defined by Jonassen that fits in with the learning perspectives discussed in the previous chapter - rule-based (help learners recall rules), incident-based (constructivism - devise own rules for dealing with incident), strategy-based (also suits constructivism) and role-based (situative).

Typically learning activities will be designed for learning outcomes and (in an ideal world) designed for needs of learners. A learning outcome will typically define the kind of activity that the learner must be able to undertake. Designing for learners looks to design the activity around the learner and their differences. A challenge here is knowing which differences affect learning and should be considered when designing learning activities.

One aspect of the chapter I did really like was the that Beetham looks at the question around we should design learning activities that adapt to facilitate the learners or should we challenge the learners to use different learning methods. Personally I think we should facilitate the learner as much as possible at the beginning of the learning process and if the learner is having difficulty. As the learner becomes more of an expert in the subject material the scaffolding should drop away challenging the learner more and more with diverse types of learning activities developing their meta-learning skills. One might challenge this saying - is it important how a surgeon learned how to do a procedure or is it just important that he has learned it the best possible way he or she could have to do that procedure. If I want the surgeon to learn a procedure in the most effective and efficient way I should provide the learning activity that best suits the surgeon's learning needs ensuring the most efficient and arguably the most effective learning. This might be true, but the medical profession makes technological and methodological advances all the time. What happens when a new procedure is developed and learning it is only provided through one medium - a medium that doesn't suit the surgeon. As the surgeon has such limited experience learning using this alien medium it may lead to ineffective and inefficient learning. I would consider this a problem if I was the surgeons first patient.

The chapter believes in thinking of the learning activity outside of the medium for delivering it first. Then looking at how technology can facilitate the activity - this may indeed involve using technology in a way that was not envisioned by the designer.

A nice follow on from the first chapter - now on to chapter number three.

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