Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Kolb - anyone know his first name?

Don’t get me wrong, the lack of focus on experiential learning is often catastrophic. Too much classroom instruction and emphasis on factual knowledge so often squeezes the life and learning out of a subject.

Kolb (Can anyone remember his first name?) and his magic cycle, is usually pulled in when ‘experiential’ learning is being considered (rarely of course). In fact, there was a long line of theory well before this, with John Locke in his Talk to Teachers and Dewey’s Experience and Education. Other influences include Lewin and Piaget.

Experiential learning

David A.Kolb (withRoger Fry) came up with the now famous four stage learning cycle.

Looks pretty good – yeah. Well the idea that such a clean cycle exists in reality or is even desirable was put to the test by Jarvis (1987, 1995) and shown to be wanting. Things are usually more complex that these simplistic instructional models suggest. The cycle doesn’t really happen and learning is causally more complex and messy than Kolb suggested.

Kolb saw us entering this cycle at any point and improving by looping round and round, putting your ideas to the test of real application, then, with relevant feedback, improving. Of course, experience, in the form of observed learning, shows that stages can be skipped or performed in parallel. The theory also ignores the important role of efficient memorisation.

We won’t mention his Learning Style Inventory, as that really was a crock of ….

If you’re interested in the books and Jarvis’s critique, here’s the reading list – or perhaps you’d like to rely on pure experience.

Kolb, D. A. (1984) Experiential Learning, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.: Prentice Hall.

Kolb, D. A. (1976) The Learning Style Inventory: Technical Manual, Boston, Ma.: McBer.

Kolb, D. A. (with J. Osland and I. Rubin) (1995a) Organizational Behavior: An Experiential Approach to Human Behavior in Organizations 6e, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Kolb. D. A. and Fry, R. (1975) 'Toward an applied theory of experiential learning;, in C. Cooper (ed.) Theories of Group Process, London: John Wiley.

Jarvis, P. (1987) Adult Learning in the Social Context, London: Croom Helm. 220 pages.

Jarvis P. (1995) Adult and Continuing Education. Theory and practice 2e, London: Routledge.

By the way – his first name was David.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Spiteful Socrates

I’ve had a go at Bloom, Gagne and Kirkpatrick, so why not an earlier target?

The ‘Socratic method’ is often hailed as some sort of untouchable principle in education and training. It is hauled out whenever one is in need of a quick dose of politically correct ‘pedagogy’. Yet how many who claim to know this edict have actually read Socrates? Very few. In fact, he never wrote a word. We know him largely through Plato and Xenophon.

I am a huge admirer of the Socrates Dialogues but squirm when I hear his name heroically mentioned in educational discussions. Why?

The method is often summed up as the teacher being the ‘midwife to the learner’s thoughts’, teasing out self-generated conclusions from the learner. In practice, Socrates was a brutal bully, described by one pupil as a ‘predator which numbs its victims with an electric charge before darting in for the kill’.

Woodbridge described him as using, ‘Flattery, cajolery, insinuation, innuendo, sarcasm, feigned humility, personal idiosyncrasies, browbeating, insolence, anger, changing the subject when in difficulties, faulty analogies, telling stories which make one forget what the subject of the discussion was. His great joy was simply pulling people and ideas to pieces’.

So, before we utter those sacred words ‘Socratic method’ let’s remind ourselves of the real Socrates – the prolific pederast, spiteful, setting out to destroy rather than enlighten his pupils.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Texting improves literacy - lol

Is texting responsible for all of this poor spelling and literacy? NO. In a study by Coventry University, Mrs Beverly Plester and Dr Clare Wood took 11 year olds and asked them to translate from text to English and vice versa, then put them through standards tests in spelling, reading and writing. The concluded that, “the use of text message abbreviations is linked positively with literacy achievements”.

Regular texters strong in literacy
The results showed that far from impairing spelling, reading and writing; texting correlates well with strong performance in the use of the English language. In fact, regular texters were strong readers and writers.

Increased awareness of phonetics?
It is thought that texting may increase their awareness of phonetics, which leads to better spelling, reading and writing. This is in line with the research that shows phonics as being far more effective in teaching literacy.