I came across Judith Boettcher’s ten core principles for designing effective learning environments this week. Number 3, “Faculty Mentors are the Directors of the Learning Experience,” has me pondering.
I’ll stipulate that there’s wide variance among any group of learners in the extent to which a given learner can function auto-didactically. That said, given society’s rate of change, there will be times that you will need to learn something for which the textbook/course syllabus has not yet been written. Constraints such as cost can also limit the availability of highly structured learning experiences when those do exist. Therefore, how much of the formal learning process should involve preparing/practicing for those kind of situations, what Dave Cormier calls “learning for uncertainty?” (I realize now I’m echoing my last post, I guess I have a theme this week.)
At the very least, adults need enough metacognitive awareness so they can accurately assess which things they can learn independently, and which things, for them, require a more structured approach (___________ for Dummies or perhaps even signing up for a class) I would go so far as to suggest that this knowledge of what learning methods, materials and approaches work best for you is the distinguishing characteristic of the archetypical ‘educated person’. If you learn that skill, you are well prepared to learn anything else you need to know. Stephen Downes puts it more eloquently here.
So, if faculty mentors are the directors, how do we make sure that students are also in “directing class” as they learn whatever it is, and how is directing one person’s learning experience — their own, different from the kind of collective direction we provide in a class? Does online learning blur that distinction?