Many will have seen John Stephenson’s online paradigm (2001) that illustrates the importance of alignment of expectations between learners and teaching approaches. I wanted to take this idea a bit further and consider the importance of technology and teaching philosophy.
I would argue that teaching philosophy is largely developed from ones values and beliefs manifest itself in the ‘teachers’ pedagogical approach. Pedagogical theory can be learned, but it is much more problematic for it to transcend into ones core beliefs and values which are the most important factor in governing our actions. I know this is complex and am reminded of Hay McBeer core drivers which are argued to be at the root of what we do, but that is not the focus of this Blog.
Values and beliefs inform the individuals teaching philosophy, but equally a Virtual Learning Environment has a teaching philosophy derived from its programmers, designers, and company philosophy including its sales team! This is important as how can the student expect a coherent learning experience without alignment. What sort of mixed message is sent out if the software has a social constructivist philosophy and the teachers a didactic ’empty vessel’ approach? And of course there are other dimensions here such as the organisations philosophy and the individual programmes philosophy.
The diagram above attempts illustrate the importance of philosophies drawing on an ecological metaphor. The rainforest being the rich learning ecosystem where social constructivist philosophies of the software, teachers, and expectations of the learners are aligned. This is opposed the didactic software and teaching philosophy that acts to ‘dessertify’ any student expectation that is anything other than to be the passive receiver of information. Clearly, it is more likely that a mixed set of philosophies and expectations will be found and this manifests itself as either a free range farm with diversity of crops intermixed with weeds and bugs, to the monoculture of a apparently healthy crop but devoid of variety and kept â€˜orderlyâ€™ by a tightly controlled regime of pesticides and herbicides.
The point my diagram is trying to illustrate is that alignment of expectations is dependent on the alignment of multiple philosophies that combine to give the learner experience. If any one of these are at odds there will be a greater or lesser degree of discordance, but lets not discount technology, as it is potentially a bulwark against other deficient philosophies.
Version 2 of the diagram in response to Jonny’s comment.