Educational Reform through Non-linear Active Pedagogy

My last post on representational choices was not about philosophy as much as it was about pedagogy, bringing educational methods closer to performance (replacing a focus on the ability to know with a focus on the ability to do).  A closely related tangent to that discussion are recent moves away from linear reductionist approaches to teaching to active holistic approaches.

First was Sir Ken Robinson’s web video on the need for emphasizing creativity in education.  His message for educational reform can be summarized as the need to replace standardization and conformity with personalization.  Conformity was an emphasis of education during the industrial age, but the information age requires innovation, creativity and diversity.  Technology can enable personalization in education that supports these ends and this is the direction in which education should move.

A second reform that seems to be in progress now is the proliferation of freshman seminars, undergraduate research courses, learning communities, and other types of liberal arts pedagogy that is non-linear and introduces students early on in acts of doing intellectual work, as opposed to learning about intellectual work.  (Reference – Liberal Education Takes a New Turn)  As I’ve noted before, acting and thinking are very closely associated with each other in the neurological networks we call our brains. Learning to do something is very natural and easy. Learning about something, and then expecting that to lead to an ability to do, is very awkward as a human learning process.  All of these new pedagogies looks at big issues holistically and builds performance skills while looking at these big issues.  This is also similar to a previous post where I looked at Indiana U’s new pedagogy in their history department using decoding the disciplines.  They also are to replace the knowledge of history with an ability to do history (through interpretation evidence and argument).

This does not mean that all attempts to reduce learning to small chunks that are structured linearly are wrong or misguided.  It is more a dialectic approach where the minds seems to be helped by both a linear reduced progression of knowledge, but only as it is overlaid upon a holistic view that is oriented toward action and respects the individual intellectual diversity that is natural in all human populations.