WORKING IN THE NEW PARADIGM - PART THREE
DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS?
|"Why is it that in spite of the fact that teaching
by pouring in, and learning by passive absorption are universally condemned,
educators are still so entrenched in its practice? Education is not an
affair of telling and being told, but an active constructive process."
--John Dewey, (1916)
"All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions."
The present day evidence for transition from a teacher-centered
to a learner-centered educational environment is overwhelming. As the above
quotes suggest, the whole concept of learner-centered education and fitting
the unique characteristics of individual learners with more relevant instruction
began long ago. In an article in the Educated Psychologist, Snow
and Swanson (1992), discuss the matching of various social, emotional and
intellectual attributes of learners to education. They conclude that the
problem with this is that the appropriate implementation of these concepts
is usually only suggested or left to the mind of the teacher.
The fact that various learners perceive and process
information in different ways has established a variety of learning style
taxonomies and inventories. To some this may suggest that those with certain
characteristics will actually have an advantage over others when engaging
in online education. Does this mean that the rest may have to ‘go with
the flow’ or opt out altogether? To go even further, are 21st
century students and their predisposition to technology and particular
learning styles unique and select? How do we cater to everyone? If you
understand my analogy here, will those who respond well and have developed
an aptitude for Nintendo games create a select population of learners that
have an advantage in learning online? In the search for providing something
for everyone, I consider various learning styles to create further meaning
There are several generally accepted learning style
theories. Here are a few of the more popular ones typically applied in
|Soloman’s Inventory of
Learning Styles (Soloman, 1992), makes four classifications of learning
Processing – (active Versus
Perception – (sensing Versus
Input – (visual Versus verbal)
Understanding – (sequential
Versus big picture)
Myer’s and Briggs
Inventory (Myer’s and Brigg’s, 1985) establishes the following opposing
Extraversion (E) – (learns by
explaining to themselves or others, prefers groups) Versus
Introversion (I) – (wants to
develop frameworks that integrate or connect the subject matter)
Sensing (S) – (prefers organized,
linear, and structured lectures) Versus
Intuition (N) – (prefers the
traditional Theory-Application-Theory approach using discovery learning)
Thinking (T) – (prefers clear
course and topic objectives) Versus
Feeling (F) – (enjoys working
in groups, especially harmonious ones)
Judging (J) – (wants to know
everything about each task, and often finds it difficult to complete a
Perceptive (P) – (often postpones
doing an assignment until the last minute, but are still very concerned
According to Kolb
(1984), there are 4 opposing dimensions to consider:
Concrete experience - (personal
involvement, relates well to people) Versus
Abstract conceptualization -
(forms conclusions, acts on intellectual)
By combining the opposite dimensions
above, we get four quadrants of learning behavior:
Reflective observation- (searches
for understanding and meaning) Versus
Active experimentation – (experiments
and takes risks, likes taking action)
Type I learner: A "hands-on"
learner. Tends to rely on intuition rather than logic. Likes to rely on
other people's analysis rather than their own. Enjoys applying learning
in real life situations.
Type II learner: Likes
to look at things from many points of view. Would rather watch than take
action. Likes to gather information and create many categories for things.
Likes using imagination in problem solving. Very sensitive to feelings
Type III learner: Likes
solving problems and finding practical solutions and uses for learning.
Avoids social and interpersonal issues and prefers technical tasks.
Type IV learner: Concise
and logical. Abstract ideas and concepts are more important than people
issues. Practicality is less important than good logical explanations.
What all of this research suggests, is that one learner's
weakness may be another learner's strength. It is evident that there are
diverse types of learners, and to complicate things even further, each
may have different learning needs. In addition to the identifiable diversity
between learning styles, other factors such as ethnic backgrounds, technological
savvy, past experiences, age and gender can create even more specific types
of learners. Obviously, no tutor can expect to develop ways to reach each
individual student according to these criteria. All of this information
suggests that we begin to think about using various modes of delivery and
other methods to include all learners in a group. What is required is a
way to scale up to everyone. Is it possible to put all of these data together
and synthesize a viable teaching and learning strategy for (group) networked
online learning so that no particular type of learner is left out? out?
listening and/or watching
succeeds with dynamic lecturers; students
boredwith dull "sage on stage"
played on-demand or downloaded, as well as audio, animations
and graphics (Flash, Shockwave, Java, etc.)
||Fair to poor.
Suffers from lack of presence of the "sage." However, permits replay, indexing
Dynamic visual or audio productions
can dramatically improve delivery and retention of information.
Incorporating interaction with audio,
video or other visuals would create a very successful environment, but
may be cost prohibitive.
are often much better than traditional library searching, and certainly
more current (i.e. mass media).
well in traditional model.
Writing, creating things.
writing on-line, critiquing
can be very good, but on-line laboratory materials are not yet widespread.
ALN is an excellent medium for writing and critiquing.
Simulations are becoming less costly
to design and produce, and are highly effective.
and debate; observation and
|Poor in large
classes, excellent in very small classes with the right instructor.
Threaded discussion areas, bulletin
|Scales up to
many learners; potentially much richer than classroom discussion.
More benefits of collaborative learning
can be realized.
Table comparing common teaching
paradigms and indicating which, are likely to be most successful in ALN
Adapted from John R. Bourne, Vanderbilt University
(1997), Paradigms for Online Learning
|It is apparent that we cannot cater specifically
to each individual learner in a group setting. What we can do, is synthesize
a multi-modal approach by implementing the proper learning theories, instructional
design theories and tools that will scale up to the needs of many learners
and appeal to the dominant and auxiliary learning modalities present in
Noted educator Sandra Rief (1993) suggests that by
using more than one sense, our brain can store information in a more significant
way. Her research postulates that student’s retain:
In contemplating all of the variables we have discussed
while considering the table and data above, we see that discussion and
debate through asynchronous learning networks (ALN) may in fact have the
broadest appeal in totally online delivery. Other modes (i.e. audio, video,
simulations, etc.) should when possible, be incorporated online as an adjunct
to it so that the group can draw in part from each mode. Considering the
practicality of this and the ubiquity of tools available which support
this, let’s apply our best teaching practice, learning theories and learners’
styles using asynchronous communication as the foundation. The majority
of existing online environments are textual in nature, and writing can
be looked upon as the preferred online medium for expression. At present,
attempting to duplicate the attributes of face to face communication may
prove difficult and costly, but again, the use of non-textual representations
considered as an adjunct to textual data would be more stimulating and
have broader appeal.
10% of what they read
20% of what they hear
30% of what they see
50% of what they see and hear
70% of what they say
90% of what they say and do
2000 Shaw Multimedia Inc.