Learning-category

Understanding Learning

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Lifelong Learning

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Educational theorists like Sir Kenneth Robinson have long called for a learning revolution that would better equip learners to live and work in our modern world. The challenges of new technologies, the information (or knowledge) economy, and decline of career employment have all pressed educational organizations to innovate as they seek to prepare learners to navigate such tumultuous waters. Today, many educators are speaking of a third education revolution, a re-envisioning of learning that would help to cultivate a capacity for and commitment to lifelong learning among learners today. Our question for you is, how might you design learning pathways in your course that could fan the flames of your students’ motivations to learn while also working to habituate skills that lead to such a mindset?  Dan Pink is one among several researchers who have identified a set of qualities or characteristics that tend to engender motivation among adult learners. Pink argues that...

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Transformative Learning

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Although ideas surrounding transformative learning within formal academic settings have traditionally been associated with Jack Mezirow’s theory from the 1970s [1], the idea of learning that leads to life and vocational transformation has been a hallmark of theological education for millennia. In the Christian faith, for example, we encounter Paul’s use of the Greek concept of transformation (metamorphao) to convey this transformative learning process and goal in the lives of adult believers (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18). Thus, in the eyes of both ancient and contemporary theorists, transformative learning is envisioned as a kind of learning that does more than simply extend the learner’s understanding into new informational domains. Transformative learning is connected rather with dramatic changes in self-understanding and worldview which mark a new trajectory in the way in which learners live their lives.  So, how might designers craft learning experiences that facilitate life and ministry transformation in the lives of...

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Collaborative Learning

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Collaboration is a component of many forms of learning: adult learning, reflective learning, active learning, lifelong learning, etc. One method of collaborative learning that works well in an online context is problem-based learning (PBL). In problem-based learning, small groups of learners work together on a “messy” case study with more than one possible answer. The case study should be as real-to-life as possible so that students have to wrestle with complexities and multiple potential outcomes. Problem-based learning is ideal for developing problem solving skills that can be translated to real life situations. There are four phases of the PBL method: problem development, inquiry and investigation, solution, and debriefing performance. Learners are divided into groups, usually of about 4-6 people. The group is given a scenario and must define the problem, decide what areas need to be researched, and then divide the research tasks. Self-directed learning is thus a significant part...

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Active and Participatory Learning

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Active learning, also known as participatory or experiential learning, is a field of study with links to several other types of learning. In active learning models, students are active participants in the process of learning, as opposed to passively listening to a teacher lecture. In the face-to-face classroom, this can take the form of small group discussions or role play exercises. Yet we highlight that active learning in the classroom is learning that involves simulation. Counseling students can role play various therapy techniques, but that is quite different from counseling a client in real life. We would suggest that online education actually has an advantage over the face-to-face classroom when it comes to active learning. Rather than being situated in a simulated classroom environment, online learners are situated in their own life and ministry contexts. This affords a great opportunity for course designers and teachers to create ways to push...

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Reflective Learning

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Reflective learning is a crucial component of adult learning, self-directed learning, transformative learning, and lifelong learning. But it is also a field of study in its own right. The value of reflective learning is that it can lead to learning transfer and deeper learning as learners engage in sense making. There are a variety of ways to practice reflective learning in an online or blended course. We can invite learners to reflect on content, application, or experience. There are also a variety of learning activities that we can use to encourage reflection. Reflecting on content Sometimes we introduce students to content in our courses because we have affective goals for them. Perhaps we want students to respond to the material or internalize a set of values. One way to do that is to ask students to write a reflective paper or reflective journal. For example, students in an entry level...

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SDL Learning Processes

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One positive consequence of the growth of SDL in contemporary educational settings has been a refocusing on the processes of learning rather than simply its content. Theories of adult learning and transformative learning have long espoused this attention, and yet at the level of educational practice, SDL has helped educators envision practical approaches which lead to these broader outcomes. As designers, these strategies for constructing learning pathways immerge as ways to foster SDL as well as to evaluate student capacities and progress toward these goals.  Fostering SDL Open Educational Resources (OER) are a growing set of resources that can be useful in devising strategies that foster SDL in the lives of our learners. One particular, open online journal is directly connected to SDL, the International Journal of Self-Directed Learning. One synthesis of the literature on SDL by Gregory Francom from this journal is helpful to this discussion. Francom’s (2010) article entitled, “Teach Me...

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SDL Skills

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In his forward to the book Scaling Leadership, Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation paints the following picture of his work: So much disruption; so little time. Not only are organizations expected to provide great products and services, but to do so while the landscape is shifting and quaking. For those of us leading, it’s both scary and thrilling. It is our job to lead our teams into these great challenges. I don’t know about you, but I’m in over my head, and I need help. [1] Your online design can offer one pathway in the development of SDL skills for emerging leaders who will be facing these kinds of challenges. Thus, as you envision the creation of such a learning pathway, consider how contemporary professional development initiatives and the growing research on what it takes to cultivate a growth mindset might help you in this process. Consider which...

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Self-Directed Learning

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Self-directed learning (SDL) has gained significant momentum as a design priority across the varied educational landscapes, today. Although this growth has been driven in part by the significant numbers of adult learners entering formal learning programs, it is perhaps most directly connected with the unprecedented, contemporary need to help learners gain capacity as life-long learners. Never before have global work and life environments experienced such rapid, persistent and volatile change. It is for this very reason that SDL has moved to the frontiers of learning both in the classroom and online. Although SDL as an educational concept can be traced back at least to the time of the ancient Greeks, more modern, formal uses of SDL came into practice via the writings of Malcolm Knowles in the 1970s. One of the key ideas in Knowles’ definition was the desire to see students “take the initiative” in their own learning [1]. Since that time,...

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Adult Learning – Part 2

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Read Part 1 of Adult Learning on making connections. Learning Design Strategies Transmission – Daniel Pratt and Associates (2005) [1] have identified five overarching approaches to adult teaching and learning that are also helpful for designers to consider. Perhaps the most familiar is the transmission perspective which focuses on the effective delivery of content. Although the value of this approach to learning is often vigorously debated, the subtle truth is that the excellent transmission of knowledge from one who has mastered a subject can be very helpful for certain kinds of learning goals. For example, most disciplines require the acquisition of basic and essential understandings for practitioners to be able to interact and function at more advanced levels. These disciplinary building blocks are typical in introductory levels of learning. Although this perspective is all too often overused in higher education today, designers should consider when the delivery of content knowledge is an...

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Adult Learning – Part 1

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Although theories of adult learning seemed to blossom in the 1960s, at least in the West, leading to learning designations such as formal, informal, and non-formal [1], self-directed [2], and andragogical [3], researchers confess that “historically, there have always been an interlocking of adult learning needs with the social contexts in which they occur.” [4] This suggests that ideas surrounding adult learning have, in fact, stretched across times and cultures offering a rich array of perspectives and purposes related to this field of study. From a biblical perspective, we recognize the clear connection to adult learning in Jesus’ and Paul’s visions for disciple making (Mt. 28:19-20; 2 Tim. 2:2). Today, adult learning stands as an umbrella discipline encompassing a wide range of connections to other learning fields and priorities. So, how might designers make sense of this broad spectrum of ideas in their desire to create learning pathways that are conducive to adult learners achieving contemporary...

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