On track to develop mastery of one self, what is your approach to education and learning?
Layer 7: My approach to educational practice
Continuing on from my previous blogs in this series: as I have indicated in prior blogs “I have been fortunate in my educational practice career to have taught across different eras, across a diverse number of fields and disciplines, across different environments and situations, for different desired outcomes, and to vastly different sets of learners. I therefore, have had the privilege to develop a diverse range of educational practice, across many different learning theories” (Page 2004). Millwood’s (2013) project Holistic Approach to Technology Enhanced Learning (HoTEL) visually highlights the many different approaches an educator or facilitator may approach a specific learning environment and group of learners. All are potentially useful depending upon the context, the desired outcomes, and the learners. As I stated previously, it “would be foolish, and I believe the voice of inexperience for anyone to suggest one discipline and learning paradigm as being superior to another. They are different, and have developed as a result of different needs in different situations with different practitioners for different learners” (Page 2004). Though with time and conscious development, I have developed my personal philosophical approach to not only life, but also to my educational practice. Fundamentally,
“my educational practice, how I engage within the site, and with my learners, and in fact how I approach all aspects of my life – my practice, and my self – is within a Learning Organisation paradigm” (Page 2004).
Pedagogy vs Andragogy
A Learning Organisation paradigm fits appropriately along side of the andragogical movement of adult educational practice (Knowles et al 2012). The andragogical movement differentiates itself from a pedagogical perspective of practice primarily around the age and dependence of the learner. Pedagogy, based on the greek word for child assumes the learner is a dependent, reliant upon the educator in the learning environment. In contrast, the andragogical movement defined as “the art and science of helping adults learn”, assumes the learner is self-directed, and responsible for their own learning (Knowles in Merriam 2001, 5).
Figure I – Pedagogy vs Andragogy Chart (2015)
There is some debate as to the validity of the andragogical approach being used in the same breath as a pedagogical method. However, my view is both approaches have their place in contemporary adult and education and learning practice. Whilst fundamentally I am predisposed to a andragogical approach to my education and learning practice, it does not exclude instances where I consider a pedagogical approach may be more appropriate in order to optimise the effective student learning experience of a particular learner or learners at that time (Boud in Ashwin 2006,19). I rely on sound sustainable and replicatable methodological approaches within my education and learning practice. As mentioned, I am in a position to draw on developed content, information knowledge and skill gained across a wide range of experience in different learning theories and approaches. I have yet to experience one theory or approach that is optimal in every contemporary adult education and learning practice context.
I also rely on my life experience to assist in the learning process as I see appropriate. I regularly draw on a broad range of roles and faces to assist me in my educational practice. Assuming that within a learning practice session of say twenty-four (24) learners, there is expected to be a wide range of backgrounds, personalities, thinking and learning orientations. I as the learning facilitator approach the learning experience knowing I need to be flexible and adaptable to cater to, or relate to, the individual learner. Some of the roles or faces I see my self as having include that of: an educator, a teacher, a facilitator, an authority, a coach, a motivator, a guide, a mentor, a consultant, a manager, a delegator, a performer, an adviser, a supervisor, a curator, a learner, a peer, a team member, an empathiser, a friend, a parent, a disciplinarian, a court jester, a cajoler, a philosophiser, an administrator, a carer, or a (small c) counsellor, to name a few (Light et all, 2009, 122). I find having such a multiple facetted role and face approach in the practice of education and learning is particularly necessary when approaching students who have varying degrees of learner experience and development. For instance, as Knowles et al summary of four (4) stages in Adult Learner Learning Autonomy highlights, for each stage of a student’s development, the learner facilitator will require a different role or face.
Stage 1 learner development: student dependence, in which the teacher may need to be one of an authoritative figure or a coach;
Stage 2 learner development: student interested, in which the teacher may need to be one of a motivator or guide;
Stage 3 learner development: student involved, in which the teacher may need to be one of a facilitator;
Stage 4 learner development: student self-directed, in which the teacher may need to be one of a consultant or delegator (Knowles et al 2012, 185).
Further to this, I have regularly found that even within the one learner, they may be at different stages of their learner development depending upon what the task at hand is. For example, if a learner is expected to engage in four (4) tasks during a 180 minutes learning session – for example researching, analysing, discussing and writing – a learner may have differing levels of aptitude, competence and development across these four (4) functions. Therefore, as a professional learning practitioner, I am likely to draw on a range of my multiple facetted practice roles and faces within the learning environment context in order to optimise my interaction with the learners.
My sole purpose of engaging in these multiple practice faces is to assist the learner in gaining an understanding or insight of their learning challenge at that particular point in time. My goal is always first and foremost to assist the learner, and optimise the effective student learning experience at that moment in time. I would also like to state: I would be incongruent if I was to claim that I always get the correct balance when approaching a particular learner or group of learners. I don’t. However, as a practitioner and social being I need to take ownership of what choices and decisions I have made at any point in time, and at a later time, make the time to reflect on my decisions, actions and outcomes that presented themselves within the learning environment I was responsible for.
Replication and Duplication of Practitioner Practice
Some observers could consider such a multi facetted practice approach as being problematic in terms of institutional management, given that such an individual practitioner approach may not be a replicatable or duplicatable methodological approach across faculty. As most are aware, the landscape of higher education has rapidly changed over the past decade, and is continuing to evolve. Business measures of success have increasing become measures of higher education institutions – economic effectiveness and efficiency. Accepted business processes are being developed in order to attempt to control the three (3) pillars of higher education activity: teaching, research, administration & service (Light et al 2009, 3-8). I believe the parameters surrounding these three pillars can be and should be defined to benchmarked best practice in order to maintain levels of service delivery to all learners irrespective of the institution they attend. But I do not agree that learning practitioners could ever, or should ever have their unique practitioner approaches restricted – as long as these practices are aligned with optimising the effective student learning experience of those particular learners. I rely on sound sustainable and replicatable methodological approaches within my educational practice. However, as developed across the preceding Layers, my view is that each practitioner is a unique self, with potentially differing culture, education, age (generational experience), work experience, previous experiences in learning, learning styles, motivation to learn, and prior experience in the pending agreed learning experience discipline or subject area. Each practitioner should also have a uniquely personalised and developed content, information knowledge base and skill level. Each practitioner will therefore bring to a learning experience a unique approach to practice, in order to optimise the effective student learning experience of those particular learners. I consider the uniqueness of the professional practitioner to being a valid and exciting aspect of the contemporary education and learning field.
It is important to note: in order for me to practice to a level of personal integrity – being professionally congruent with my practice – irrespective of who my learners are. I must ensure that my educational philosophy is aligned to the executive leadership of the education institution where I am conducting my practice. As a professional education and learning practitioner, I accept one of my core values is to assist people with their learning. Having experienced issues with learning at certain stages of my development, I consider my self to have an empathy and a holistic care for people, wanting to assist them in any way that they need, to ensure they are developing their content, information knowledge base and skills level, maximising their development, their personal empowerment, in order for them to ultimately realise their full life potential.
It would be problematic for me to engage in educational practice within an organisation or institution where their educational philosophy was not aligned to my philosophy and approach. In approaching an educational or learning program, I either commence by creating a curriculum from this philosophical stance. However, if I am in a learning institution where I have not been part of the curriculum development process, I need to ascertain and absorb the specifics of the content; determine how best this content can be delivered to address the learning outcomes in way that is aligned to my philosophy; develop a teaching program across the full duration of the course; and then at that point I can begin to draft the individual learning experience plans.
As mentioned in Layer 2 of my previous blog, my over riding philosophical stance embraces the 10,000 hours trades philosophy of skilled craftworkers (Ericsson et al 1993). I value and believe in the merit of developing of a skill, a trade, a craft, or art – for that practitioner developing specialist knowledge and tools over many thousand’s of hours of practice, to ultimately express one self through uniquely personalised and developed content, information knowledge base and skill level. I consider this approach integral to becoming a professional practitioner.
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