Sunday, August 31, 2008

Teaching or Facilitating

This discussion has particular relevance to me. I recently submitted a portfolio for an accreditation titled "ICT Pedagogical License Advanced" which required engagement in a specific online community and writing of a belief statement about my practices. The community discussed and blogged about Theories of Learning that are relevant today. I focussed on the theories of constructivism, connectivism and transformation. Transformative theory, as proposed by Mezirow (Mezirow, J. (Ed.). (2000). Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco: Jossey) outlines a shift of power in the learning relationship. It goes beyond the concept of connectivism where the teacher is no longer the "holder of all knowledge" to a concept where the learners' have significant input and influence on the learning processes and management. Below is an excerpt from my belief statement within the submitted portfolio:

Based upon my understanding of the inter-relationships between constructivism, connectivism and transformation, I believe learning is the progressive development of a person's capability to effectively utilise knowledge and skills productively within and across their experienced contexts. This results from both cognitive and social processes based within the three learning theories. I expect and encourage learners to develop higher order thinking skills. Information is manipulated and knowledge is constructed in a learner centred environment. Higher order thinking, and hence transformation of learning, depends on deep knowledge, knowledge being seen as problematic, and a problem based curriculum. ((2001) Retrieved April 15th, 2008, from

It has been suggested that transformative learning processes require higher levels of cognitive functioning that most adults do not achieve (Merriman, 2004). I disagree, and believe my initial constructivist approach allows for development of higher order thinking skills and cognitive functioning that ensures learning can be successful.

To lead into transformational learning from constructivism negates a significant concern with transformational theory. Transformation theory does not address the role of power relationships in the learning process, yet transformation often disrupts power relationships (McDonald, Cervero, & Courtenay, 1999). Initially my constructivist approach allows the establishment of power relationships, whilst my planned progression of learning results in a progressive (controlled) transfer of power within the learning relationship. My initial constructivist approach facilitates the development of a safe, trusting learning environment which is essential for transformation in group learning. (Tisdell et al. in Wilson & Hayes, 2000).

These statements reinforce the need for me to initially construct the learning environment. They also support the notion that even when the teacher isn't the central point of the learning environment, they are still a key figure in its effectiveness and direction. Indeed information and content are useless unless people have skills to disseminate these. Exchange and interaction with information and content is important. This will facilitate the transfer of learning across contexts, and the wider application of ICTs in the learner's lives, as indicated in the productive pedagogy of connectedness to the world, by providing value and meaning beyond the immediate education context. ((2001) Retrieved April 15th, 2008, from

Through this process, involving constructivist, connectivist and transformative approaches to learning, I provide the means for students to independently and collaboratively learn from others and to collaborate to build knowledge. Student learning initially occurs within networks that I have determined are appropriate, relevant and safe. As my learners develop the skills for safe and effective networking and collaboration, I provide them with the opportunity to continue learning outside of the classroom boundaries.

This creation of the learning environment needs to include the development of intellectual quality, as referred to in the productive pedagogies. Within my learning environments this includes the development of deep understanding of content, concepts, skills and processes. Within Health Education, this can be based on substantive conversation, in particular sustained exchange. This sustained exchange is enhanced with ICTs, continuing outside classroom boundaries with non-class members. Due to the nature of Health Education, and the need for safety and trust in a transformative learning environment (as discussed previously), I endeavour to create a supportive classroom environment, another aspect of the productive pedagogies, with a particular focus on social support. This can also be enhanced with the effective use of ICTs, in particular their ability to provide some anonymity and access to knowledge outside the classroom and its occupants. Development of social support within a supportive classroom environment enables the substantive conversation required for deep understanding and intellectual quality. ((2001) Retrieved April 15th, 2008, from

Teaching in modern society requires shifting between traditional roles and understandings to transformative learning where the teacher adopts the role of a facilitator. As Leigh Blackall has mentioned in his blog ( this can cause conflict in some educators. We are traditionally not comfortable relinquishing the power in our learning environments yet when we do the learning we can both witness and experience is beyond what we could have planned. However, the teacher (as in position) must still control (as a concept) the learning that occurs. This does not necessarily mean restricting the content and comments of learners.

1 comment:

cdeck77 said...

Thanks shane....I can see that our background in health teaching leads us to practice in similar ways :). Look forward to future posts for your perspectives.