About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Are there differences in learning at different educational levels?

I have addressed this issue in the past in which I find many people at different educational levels (primary, secondary, higher ed, adult/training) differentiate the learning at different levels. What I always find interesting is that K-12 teachers discount me because of my limited experience in formal primary and secondary schools (although I have extensive experience in informal learning at these levels) and training professionals discount much of what I say as not being relevant for the workplace (despite the fact I my first 5 years of teaching was at the corporate level).

Recently, I commented on another blog in which many of the blog basically discounted what I had to say because they labeled me an "educator" rather than a "trainer". One person commented that because I used "student" instead of trainee, that I really was speaking from the traditional "education" sector (as if this were different than corporate training). This has been bothering me for a while and I finally tried to reflect on what the differences might be.

In my experience (informal education at the k-12, formal education in higher ed, and formal and informal education at the organizational level) basic learning concepts are the same. I try to be student centered, while at the same time maintaining a "teaching presence" and being aware of the technology, social and cognitive presence of the content and learning environment (Garrison and Anderson, 2003). I feel Garrison and Anderson's model is universal in today's learning, regardless of mode of delivery, content, or level of education (even though the model was developed for elearning).

HOW a teacher, instructor, or trainer makes their presence known and the amount of support a student or trainee might need in learning IS dependent on the level of knowledge the student/trainee already possesses about the topic/content, their motivation in learning, the amount of time they have to learn something, how they will be assessed in their learning, and their expectations for instruction.

For example, my daughter goes to a school that is based on experiential and cooperative learning methods. Most of the students who go to the school come from traditional educational environments. It takes the students about half a year to become familiar with these methods. By sophomore year, they need less direct teacher instruction, and thus less teacher presence. However, newer teachers have difficulty balancing student need with teacher instruction. It takes a new sophomore or junior level instructor about half a year before they become comfortable allowing students to come to them. This, in fact is no different than a trainer understanding when to direct trainees and when to react to their questions.

Suddenly, as I began to work through this difficulty I had with different levels of education thinking that they are different in their approach to teaching, I realized that the 21st century needs a new model that will follow through all levels of education. I saw a model on a blog this year (I can't remember whose or where it was...let me know if you have the post so I can bookmark it!) that was a grid of formal and informal learning and on the other axis, the level of complexity of the content. The intersection resulted in different categories of learning objects. I could see this adapted so that there were different categories of syllabi or curricula based on the level of formality of the learning and the complexity of the content.

All of this points to me the need to train teachers and trainers in the art of developing a flexible curriculum and syllabus. My point in the comment in which the trainers did not like what I posted was that sometimes there needs to be a more rigid structure for training (i.e. to comply with professional laws, such as CPA's, healthcare providers, or lawyers) and other times there can be more flexibility. However, there should always be structure. Just like an open amphitheater can deliver the same service as a music hall or arena (a venue for concerts for example), to do so there has to be some structure (seating area, performance area, acoustics). But definitely it's structure is much more open and less formal than the other two venues, so some concerts will have different "feeling" in an amphitheater than in a small concert hall or a large arena . Likewise, the "feeling" of learning will differ with different learning structures.

Resource: Garrison, D., & Anderson, T. (2003) . E-learning in the 21st Century. London: RoutledgeFarmer


Kris said...

I'm happy that there's lot of people who continue to help evolve the eLearning approach, many doors have opened to reach people's academic goal.

V Yonkers said...

Kris, what do you think the "elearning" approach is? Do you think it differs at different levels?