Saturday, March 13, 2010

Reflective Learning (I) Linking with Learning Theories...

Title: Reflective Learning: Theory and Practice
by Deborah A Sugerman, Kathryn L Doherty, Daniel E Garvey, Michael A Gass

Picked up a book from the shelf... ah! one of the many new books waited to be picked (hahaha.... Those who know me, know why!). Suppose to keep me 'occupied' on the bus...

Started underlining and circling (though the bus journey was short)... here are some of the points (lifted directly from the chapter)
  • ... Reflection is, "the process of creating and clarifying the meaning of experience (present or past) in terms of self".
  • The connection between experience, reflection, making meaning, and learning is clear.
  • Reflection is an essential part of the learning process because it can result in extracting meaning from the experience
  • Increasing participants' abilities to reflect requires a deeper understanding of how individuals process and manage intellectual information.
  • [Theory of Active Learning]... learners actively making connections between new material and previous knowledge and experience.
  • [Theory of Constructivism]... learning takes place within the context of current knowledge.
  • [Narrative Theory]... learning takes place through stories. These stories are created from experiences and give value to certain aspects of the experiences.
  • [Piaget]... the ability to learn is a result of 2 related factors: thinking process and thinking capacity.
  • Thinking process refers to the way information is obtained, organised and analysed in the brain.
  • [Gardner]... indivdiuals vary greatly in how they process information.
  • Thinking capacity... ability of learners to understand and make sense of learning is related to the capacity of their brain.
  • Learning theories suggest that recognising patterns and making connections between new material and previous experiences is the key to learning

Dewey's model of experiential learning:
  1. Observe surrounding conditions
  2. Obtain knowledge from recollection of past experiences
  3. Gain judgement from observations and experiences
Pfeiffer & Jone's model of experiential learning:
  1. Experiencing through participation in activity
  2. Publishing, in the form of sharing, where learners share their observations and reactions
  3. Processing, when learners engaged in discussions of patterns or themes
  4. Generalising to form broad principles of how the world works
  5. Applying through integrate one's learning into behaviour
David Kolb's experiential learning theory:
  1. Experience is the beginning of learning
  2. Following the experience is learner's reflection on what has occured/happened and gain clarity regarding the nature of the experience
  3. Generalise by recognising the patterns of thinking - to make connections between what's gathered from this experience with other experiences
  4. Tes new situations with the generalised information to make decisions about future experiences

Looking at the 3 learning theories presented in this capture, it's not difficult to find the commonalities - in terms of the various stages - Experience > Make Connections > Digest > "What's next"

The importance of being able to make connections with the learner's known experiences is emphasized in all... it's the 'hook' that's needed so that one could build on the fundamental blocks before 'branching' out to make new meanings.

Hm... isn't this what we've been talking - what's encapsulated in the big words "Applied Learning"?

OK... I only finished Chapter 1...

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Out of the Box... in beliefs, in thoughts, in action...

...this was circulated by a colleague...

To "Think out of the box" is not new in the local educational landscape at all... Many many years ago... (ah! the grandmother story begins...)... even before the "Blue Sky" talk about "Teach Less, Learn More"... Educators have been encouraged to "think out of the box", to think how to do things differently... in the light to seek improvements or better current practices.

I think, the biggest challenge is the environment... (if we were to unpack what it means by environment)
  • While it seems like the parameters in the school seems to be be within the control of the MOE/school administrators and leaders, it is not always the case... depending on which aspects of 'environment' we are looking at
  • Environment is not made up just by the physical infrastructure, it includes the people, the systems and structures around... and of course, the soul of the environment - the Culture.
  • The 'easiest' to manage (amongst all facets of environment) is the physical infrastructure aspect. For example, efforts of mp1 had successfully transformed conventional chalk-and-board classrooms to become classrooms that are fully wired and connected to the world. Similarly, to create learning spaces, to bring in state-of-the-art facilities, etc. These changes can take place, and could only take place, with huge $ investments.
  • The next, systems and structures could be both easy and challenging (for change to take place)... easy as it's possible (and easy to some extent) to establish the systems and structures; challenging, because what's planned would only come alive if the "people" element works. How long does it take for people to internalise the practices so that would make the new processes work. It takes time and perservence to reinforce to make it happen!
  • Last but not least, is the most challenging one - the people element. People, it includes beliefs, practices, behaviour... which eventually shapes the culture of the organisation.

People, perhaps I would say, human beings are the most complex and difficult-to-understand creature! hahaha... the "older" (the more experience) one is, the more challenging to pin-down to their beliefs sometimes... because of the many external (push-pull) factors out there...

There are those changes that could not take place (easily) because of the people factor - one's personal beliefs - Is it aligned to the direction of the organisation? There are 2 layers to it, at least - outcomes and processes (i.e. the way to get things done)

  • Outcomes (or more explicitly, Results), I think, there's no issue in terms of alignment.
  • It is the processes - "Many roads lead to Rome"... There are roads (paths) that are well-travelled - tested and proven to be safe! So, that's inside the "box"... these methods would guarantee results!
  • In an organisation that strives to change the experience, it calls for individuals (that make up the organisation) to think and deliver the processes in an "out-of-the-box" manner. I think, this is utmost challenging to those who want to stick to their good-old-ways! This is what I mean when I said "human beings are the most complex and difficult-to-understand creature!" If one doesn't believe in the potential of new ways that change the learners' experience, then why bother to migrate (from a 'standard' box) into this box? There's definitely a mismatch!

Perhaps, before one decides to migrate, one needs to think... why one wants to migrate from its current comfort zone...

  • Is it because the current box is not comfortable enough? It's not well furnish? Then when looking for a new box, what does one exactly looking at?
  • An enhanced version of the existing box? The choice of box matters. There are many out there... however, to make it comfortable, one has to stop making comparison and complain - because, the problem could lie on the individual! One has to play a part to adapt too! (To be fair to the box, you make the choice!)
  • If one intends to find space to experiment, however is not ready to leave one's 'old' beliefs and practices behind to be more open-minded, then perhaps one should forget migrating to this box that's full of 'holes' that require the butterflies to leave the comfort zone to expand the box virtually!

The box that provides the "out-of-the-box" experience is definitely not a place for those who are prisoners to their old beliefs and practices.

Well, all in all, I think the above applies to all of us... whenever we make the choice... whether being a learner... I choose this environment to pursue my passion... or being a professional... I choose to come to contribute (see, the word is contribute and not to just do the 'job')... I choose to change my path, because I believe that's what I'm looking for and I'll try my best to make a difference to the path... to participate wholeheartedly in the transformation process...