Friday, 3 October 2014

MOOC: What Future for Education? Activity 1.1

What Future for Education MOOC
This post is the first required activity in the Coursera's massive online open course (MOOC) 'What Future for Education?' from London University's Institute of Education.
Reflect on your previous learning experiences. Think about one particularly successful and one unsuccessful learning experience. Consider what were the conditions that made this experience successful or unsuccessful for you and what this tells you about your own preferred ways to learn.
When I was at school, we often had tests at the end of a topic or term. I always performed well on these, because I was able to cram at the last minute (quite literally chanting to myself from notes as I entered the exam space) and then regurgitate it over the next hour or two. On finishing the test, the information was immediately relegated to some dusty corner of my memory, never to be accessed again. I was the envy of many who had spent evenings regularly throughout the term reviewing their notes and getting to grips with the concepts and I felt pretty talented; guess who has the last laugh now?What this resulted in was the situation where I received a 'top notch' education with excellent results but actually learned very little. Even to this day, I struggle to recall basic facts from my school days and it is something I constantly try to remedy through personally-directed readings and study.Sad to say, this was much the same for my undergraduate degree which I gained little pride in receiving, but when I undertook my first teacher training course (the Cambridge CELTA) I suddenly had to develop, and employ, a whole new range of skills...and it was tough! No longer could I rely on temporarily memorising discrete 'info bites'; I had to draw on all my learning and skills every day as it was impossible to predict what a tutor or student might ask of me at any given moment. And despite the challenge, I absolutely loved every minute. (Well, maybe apart from the minutes in the small hours of the morning when I was trying to finish off a lesson plan!). When I received that certificate I felt like I had earned it, and I had definitely learned something new; something I would then take and build on for the rest of my personal and professional life.
What these - and other learning experiences - made me realise about myself is:

  • the learning has to be relevant; even if not contributing to a future career, I have to see why it is important to learn this particular thing at this particular time;
  • the learning has to be challenging; I need to feel like it will significantly enhance my knowledge or skills in relation to the time I spend on it;
  • learning is my responsibility; I cannot - and do not - blame the teacher, but rather seek ways to compensate for any failings in course materials or instruction;
  • I prefer to choose my own pace of learning but sometimes I need a good push to get going; I prefer multiple fixed shorter-term deadlines than one end-of-course deadline for assessment;
  • I will never reach the 'end' of learning; there will always be ways for me to enhance, improve and build on my learning.


As a teacher, it has made me realise that formative assessment and the 'spiralling' of learning is essential if 'deep' long-lasting learning is to result.The conceptual model, most recently popularised by Lynn Erickson and Lois Lanning is one I have explored extensively over the past couple of years as it seems to offer a richer learning experience where there is a constant building of essential knowledge and skills.At the moment, I do not feel that education systems and qualifications necessarily demand deep learning so I hope this course offers the opportunity to explore and discuss such aspects.

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