Our life looks trivial, and we shun to record it. – Emerson

Tag: #ocTEL

Approaches to Learning #ocTEL


Amazing Mud Skippers are Surface Mavens

This week’s core activity on #ocTEL is to evaluate Marton, Hounsell and Entwistle’s approaches to learning framework in the light of one of a choice of four questions.

  • Have you seen any evidence of these different approaches in online contexts, e.g. in technology-enhanced courses you teach? How did these differences manifest themselves in terms of online learning behaviour.
  • Are you leaning towards one approach in particular on ocTEL, and if so why might that be? Perhaps you are employing strategies from more than one approach
  • Are learners who tend to take a ‘surface’ approach likely to learn more or less effectively online versus face-to-face.
  • How might we encourage ‘deep learning’ in online contexts?

This is the framework as stated in the article:


Marton, Hounsell and Entwistle

Marton, F., Hounsell, D. and Entwistle, N., (eds.) The Experience of Learning: Implications for teaching and studying in higher education. 3rd (Internet) edition. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh

How might we encourage ‘deep learning’ in online contexts?

I started this by reading and responding to Tim Leonard’s post about this activity on his blog. I hadn’t actually realized that this was “homework” so I guess that qualifies this bit of participation as “deep learning.”  In this case, maybe we can encourage ‘deep learning’ by telling people not to read their course materials or assignments – but if they did what they were told to do, wouldn’t they then be “surface” or “compliance” learners?

I actually like this framework, which I’d prefer to call the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly since I see it as value laden as this question is loaded.

The problem I see lies in the issues identified at the “surface” level learning, and with its by-line cope with course requirements — as if the goal of a swimmer were simply not to drown. In my own classes I see all three types of learners, with most of them apparently at surface, and why shouldn’t they be.  Some few are strategists, and there would probably be more of these had they the skills this requires.  If you ask them, most all would say that their primary objective is to get the highest mark possible in the course and what’s wrong with that anyway. Don’t we value them by their marks, after all?

If I knew I was being valued only for a mark I might go in either direction — become a surface learner feigning disinterest, or a deep learner disdaining assessment. So, there’s something about the directive to “encourage deep learning” that I find grating. If we are talking about student-directed learning, they why am I encouraging any type of learning at all?

From a design perspective, the framework is very useful since it helps me to conceptualize these different kind of learners.  Of course, I’ve seen them all and can even put faces to the patterns but having a neat little three part plan is still quite helpful. As a designer I ought to be mindful of the various approaches that I know students will take (at least three) and try to design for that. I should do something to support surface types, and something to support strategists, and something to support deep learners.

I should also be aware that no one will fit neatly into any of these three little boxes but that people will migrate from one to the other as the course progresses, according to what they find, according to what I and other participants provide, and according to their own changing moods, ideals, understandings and ambitions.

#ocTEL Big and Little Questions

This is our first “assignment” in ocTEL. Simon Hawksey asks us to

reflect on your work experience and ambitions for developing your teaching.

  • Can you identify the most important question about TEL that matters to you?
  • Or alternatively do you have a cluster of issues? Or perhaps you’re ‘just browsing’?

Some people are discussing this here.

The most important question I have about Technology Enhanced Learning is about how technology transforms teaching and learning?   I don’t mean that technology directs or determines change, but I do believe that tools change the way we work and see the world – and I’m defining technology very broadly.

2001 Bone to Space

Technology has always had a transformative impact on human cultures and societies.  I became involved in TEL because I was interested in teaching and learning, not because I was interested in technology, and I’ve continued with it because I have found that it did change the way I saw learning and teaching.

I teach English Second Language in an academic bridge program. Our administrators have always been interested in appearing to be “cutting edge” so they provided us with a minimum amount of support: WiFi connectivity and email for students and faculty, Internet wired classrooms with LED projectors and “SmartBoards” (TM) installed. The stuff has been poorly maintained —  the photo-op is now over — and most regard WiFi as something to keep students busy between classes, but it is there anyway, for anyone to use. I have used it.

One thing I’ve learned from this is that I cannot and should not plan what students will learn and I should not be saying things like “students need” this and that. I’ve learned to provide tools and opportunities and then watch and listen. It’s changed my own practice and helped me become a co-learner with them. Others continue their control culture, deciding what students should do at every step… these are “accountable” and “responsible” teachers, unlike me.

I see it changing students too. It changes the way they interact with one another, how they use the space, how they use the material, how they relate to me. They begin to take possession of all these things, and to self-direct, to a large degree. They co-opt me into their subversive activities, learning whatever they feel they need despite what is handed down to them in the syllabus. They do this without commenting. They are not noticed anyway. They reward me by doing well on their common assessments. I’ve learned that the best way to support their learning is to stay out of the way most of the time. This gives me a lot of time to see who needs extra “help” and then to help them. Usually this just means talking to them, showing some interest, showing some support.

This is totally unlike anything I could have imagined happening. I started out with it just as a way to make it easier to handle classroom management tasks, to free me fro the photocopier, to free them from carrying books and papers, but so much more has happened.

So, now I sit quietly in staff meetings and listen to others talking endlessly about control issues – never about teaching or learning, never about students…

TEL will alienate you too, eject you from your control culture, show you that you are more like your students than you had ever suspected.