Why no heroes?
Over the next 50 days I plan to blog 50 separate pieces on learning theorists. Despite education and training’s central role in society, its intellectuals are not well known. Few can name more than a handful of candidates for the Hall of Fame. Unlike sport, politics, philosophy, literature, music, painting, film, business or science, learning practitioners have a sketchy idea of the contributions and theories of their intellectual leaders.
Most physicists know of Newton, Einstein and Hawking. Most artists know of Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Picasso. Most musicians know of Beethoven, Mozart and the Beatles. Businessmen know of Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and Bill Gates. Even criminals would know of Guy Fawkes, Jack the Ripper and the Boston Strangler. Yet most learning professionals have at best a sketchy idea of learning theory and the minds that have shaped this theory, and practice.
In the history of learning, we find that learning is doomed, not so much to repeat itself, but to remain stuck in an ancient groove, that of simple lectures and classroom learning. This is still the dominant method of delivery, yet there is little or no evidence to show that it is effective. Almost everything in the theory and psychology of learning tells us that it is wrong to rely so heavily on this single method of delivery. The history of learning theory has had to be ignored to accommodate this lazy approach to practice. It seems to have been willingly ignored to protect, not learners, but the bad habits of those who teach.
More pedagogic change in last 10 years than last 1000 years
I have argued that there has been more pedagogic progress in the last 10 years than the last 1000 years but we could just as well say the last 2,500 years, going back to the Greeks. The history of learning theory and practice has not proceeded in an orderly fashion, like science. Like a river delta, there’s a rough sense of direction and progress, with lots of tributaries, some run dry, other run into other tributaries, some switch back and so on.
In an effort to explain our predecessors, warts and all, this series of portraits will take look at the people who shaped learning theory and practice over the centuries. They have all played a role in shaping (some mis-shaping) the learning landscape. Our theorists are major thinkers who have reflected on the large-scale issues around learning and education. The practitioners have more direct relevance, as their advice is wholly relevant to the design of e-learning programmes.
The format is simple. Over the next fifty days I will present fifty major shapers and movers in learning, theorists, practitioners and those directly relevant to e-learning.
LEADERS IN LEARNING
Black & William
USABILITY & EVALUATION
MEDIA & DESIGN
Mayer & Clark
Reeves & Nass
Page & Brin
Hurley & Chen
They are by no means the only people who have contributed to the field, but they’re a pretty representative group. I have taken a particular tack in these pen portraits, examining their relevance to the future of learning.
First up tomorrow SOCRATES.