May you live in an interesting age is a Chinese “curse” that reminds us that change often comes with wonderment, but also challenging, and sometimes uncomfortable moments in our lives. As higher education navigates the choppy waters of transition from an industrial age to an information age educators must be ready to expect a dramatic shift in practice. Let’s examine why this is so and how we can manage the challenges we now face.
The historical perspective of public education within the United States goes as far back as the building of the British Empire. The components and functions of modern public education were uniquely designed to support the growth of an empire with little or no technologies that could support standardization. For the British Empire to expand there was a need to create consistencies of skills, beliefs, and attitudes toward building a singular view of societal needs (Louis, 1999; Ferguson, 2003; Brendon, 2007). The ability of this empire to create a bureaucracy that identified common knowledge, consistent verbiage and text, protocols for learning behaviors, and acceptable social norms allowed for the birth of the public school structure as we know it. The rules and expectations found in public (and even some private) schools today extend back to a nation that required a people who all believed and acted within a given social norm. Thus jobs could be filled, economic growth occur, and social mores kept. Today students still sit in rows, sometimes even alphabetical order when learning. Hands are raised as signals for individuals to share learning; while testing of the 3 R’s is still in force.
However, what are the expectations of societal norms today? Have the changes in our global economic status altered our need for standardization? Is there a need for a bureaucratic approach to achieve success within our future workforce? Will those who contribute to our economic, political, and service success even considered a workforce anymore?
Movement from an industrial workforce to participants within an information age has brought about a need to move from the industrial approach to learning to that of a post industrial approach. Post Industrialized instruction per Reigeluth (2011) is defined as a reconstruction of task and space, Knowing the difference can help us in transitioning our approach to education.
‘Imagine a small team of students working on an authentic task in a computer-based simulation (the “task space”). Soon they encounter a learning gap (knowledge, skills, understandings, values, attitudes, dispositions, etc.) that they need to fill to proceed with the task. Imagine that the students can “freeze” time and have a virtual mentor appear and provide customized tutoring “just in time” to develop that skill or understanding individually for each student (the “instructional space”).’
How does one design a space within a Post Industrial institution? Consideration of learner centered instruction is one consideration. Articles and research on use of Learner Centered instruction has been contained within academic literature for at least the past 20 years. In 1996, a report entitled, Making Quality Count in Undergraduate Education was written by the Education Commission of the States. In this document 12 quality attributes of best practice in undergraduate education were outline. High expectations, integration of experience and education, and active learning were three qualities highlighted. These qualities are evident in Socially Constructed Learning Theory.
Socially Constructed Learning presupposes that students and professors will interact with content as well as each other to establish a learning space that is respectful and valued. Huba and Freed (2000) identify learner and professor actions that promote learner centered instruction. Learner actions include: (a) active involvement in learning content, (b) application of content knowledge to solve enduring and emerging issues relevant to daily life, (c ) achieving goals to increase critical thinking, (d) reflection and refinement of learning based on given feedback and, (e) acknowledging and acting on the assumption that learning is an interpersonal skill. Professor actions include: (a) transmission of formative and summative feedback to support student reflection and refinement of learning, (b) coaching, (c ) facilitation of interactive learning and, (d) collaboration to further both student and professor learning. Barr (1995) shared 5 levels of transformation within a university setting that enable and support student or learner centered design.
These include: Identify learning outcomes in detail; system for measuring these LOs; backward design on the curriculum; wide range of powerful options for achieving LOs; and continually investigate alternative methods for empowering students to learn (p.19-20).
When considering Avila University’s practice and policy structure, and Barr’s 5 levels of transformation, levels 4 and 5 appear to be where we as a Center for Transformational Learning can assist. To do this, sharing information regarding learning spaces, student-centered instruction, and professors’ new role in instruction are best described by Reigeluth’s (2012) instructional design for Post-Industrial paradigm of instruction.
‘Research shows that learning a skill is facilitated to the extent that instruction tells the students how to do it, shows them how to do it for diverse situations, and gives them practice with immediate feedback, again for diverse situations (Merrill, 1983; Merrill, Reigeluth, & Faust, 1979), so the students learn to generalize or transfer the skill to the full range of situations they will encounter in the real world. Each student continues to practice until she or he reaches the standard of mastery for the skill, much as in the Khan Academy (www.khanacademy.com). Upon reaching the standard, the student returns to the task space,where time is unfrozen, to apply what has been learned to the task and continue working on it until the next learning gap is encountered, and this doing-learning-doing cycle is repeated.
Well-validated instructional theories have been developed to offer guidance for the design of both the task space and the instructional space (see Reigeluth, 1999b; Reigeluth & Carr-Chellman, 2009c, for examples). In this way we transcend the either/or thinking so characteristic of industrial-age thinking and move to both/and thinking, which is better suited to the much greater complexity inherent in the information age – we utilize instructional theory that combines the best of behaviorist, cognitivist, and constructivist theories and models. This theory pays attention to mastery of individual competencies, but it also avoids the fragmentation characteristic of many mastery learning programs in the past.” (p. 8-9)’
Barr, R. B., and J. Tagg. 1995. From Teaching to Learning: A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education. Change 27 (6): 12–25.
Huba, M.E. & Freed, J.E. (2000). Learner-centered assessment on college campuses: Shifting the focus from teaching to learning. NY: Allyn & Bacon.
Reiguluth. C.M. (2012). Instructional theory and technology for the new paradigm of education. Reusta de Educatcion a Distancia, 32, 1-18.