Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The symbiosis between theory and practice

Last night and this morning on the Twitter #PLENK2010 a discussion went on about the relation of theory and practice. Questions were raised about the need for theory at all.

Well, I have learned over the years that to me theory is very important. For one to understand why I practice in the way I do. Also to question decisions made by politicians about education and schooling; so to understand what their aims and objectives are with schooling and if they are in the best interest of children and adults. One framework that has helped me in this over the years is an adaptation of the Alexander Framework, from the E836 course Study Guide of the MA in Education course by the OU in the UK. I have included it here.
Should not all educators be thinking about the four questions in this diagram? What should learners learn? How should the learning be taught and assessed? What is an educated person? Why should learners be educated in this way? And should not all educators be aware of the invisible influences on the learning and teaching process, such as ideas, values and culture which will influence the views of learning, knowledge and education of themselves and their institution? I find that this picture shows fairly clearly what part of the teaching practice we can observe, and what influences are hidden in  formal educational settings.What it lacks is the role the learner plays in all this, as her or his voice is hidden in the pedagogy of the institution. The way adult learners have shown their agreement or disagreement with the relation between theory and practice is with their feet: At the moment they feel the teaching no longer relates to their lived in world and their context, they will leave the course. Of course children do not have this choice as schooling is compulsory.

Since I have started working on the research and development of a Personal Learning Environment my ideas of what should be in the diagram have changed slightly, as the observable practice has changed; the curriculum content, assessment and pedagogy are no longer related to the institution, but to the learners autonomous drive to find out or do something new, so I now use the following visualization:

It is the learners themselves whose ideas, values and beliefs will influence their learning. A certain level of reflection on their own learning, knowing and education is important to make progress on their learning journey, or if you find that too directed, on their climbing frame of learning: scrambling up one moment, moving sideways or back down and in another direction the next time.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rita,
    Here is my response to your post
    Many thanks for your inspiration.