Reflections on Instructional Design – Week 7

CCK08 – I’ve been doing a lot of connecting this week – polished off Introducing Wittgenstein which was a nice light read that makes a lot of sense in regards to the Connectivism course. I also saw Religulous which is tied into the idea of self-determination and control (this time, the control that religion imposes on behaviour, something that education also does).

Instructional design for me has always meant the “stuff” you do in class. It strikes me that instructional design (which implies a power structure from the get-go) is not how one would want to approach the process of using a connectivist approach to teaching (again, another word filled with power implications). If connectivism is chaotic by nature (as nature is chaotic), if connectivism is distributed, if connectivism is reacting to student needs rather than proactively dictating then how can one design what happens in the classroom?

This thought originates from a comment by Guy Boulet in Harold Jarche’s blog that went:

“In my mind, this is the university of the future, and the future is now. It is time that faculty stop thinking that what they teach is gospel. The role of faculty staff must shift from teacher to tutor. Students must be guided, not taught in order to better prepare them for the reality of the workplace.”

Hmmm, tutors… is that the future of teachers(/facilitators/instructors…)? What an incredible jump for someone to make! If instructors are to move to the tutoring model, does that not assume that we have to be subject matter experts, able to deftly move from one aspect of a topic to another? Certainly there are people in education who are there because their intellect and ability to think grants them some power. Sometimes, this power is granted through the mere act of publication – but now that self-publication is de rigeur, we have all fallen into a popularity contest of sorts – whoever has the most hits and links, whoever publishes the most is the “expert”. Critical thinking will sort some of this out (trash is still trash whether it’s Chomsky’s or my trash). The implication of higher education moving towards making professors into tutors is idealism without any sort of grounding. Maybe I’m so cynical that I believe that the power strutures that exist are unmoveable.

4 thoughts on “Reflections on Instructional Design – Week 7

  1. Pingback: » Reflections on Instructional Design - Week 7

  2. Jon,

    I don’t think that making teachers into tutors is idealism. In fact, some are already doing it: rather than giving boring lectures they’d rather ask students to perform readings and practical assignments where they will develop their critical thinking and analysis skills while at the same time learn about some subject matter.

    In my mind, the shift from teacher to tutor is quite compatible with the connectivist approach which principles include the fact that learning and knowledge rest in diversity of opinions and the fact that the capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known. In fact, decision making is considered as being a learning process and guiding the learner through situations where he will have to make choices is, in my mind, way more valuable than giving him the answer. What currently accepted as being right may be proven wrong tomorrow and therefore people must be able to prove things by themselves and not just accept blindly what is taught.

    I don’t think, in that context, that teachers (or tutors for that matter) have to know everything. They just need to be able to accept the diversity of opinion and be able to assess the validity of the arguments presented. In fact, being less knowledgable about the subject matter reduces the bias toward a theory and places the tutor in a better situation to support the student’s quest for knowledge.

  3. Guy –

    Thanks for commenting. I guess I should’ve stated stronger that I think that while this is a great goal – not all institutions and professors will welcome a change in the power structure, as they have a vested interest in their positions and titles.

    I do agree that things should change – clearly a shift is happening (has already happened even?) and the role of education has to reflect that. It will be a difficult transition. We still have professors (and administrators) playing power games.

    I personally don’t believe that a good tutor or teacher should have to be a knowledge expert, but I do think that if you are going to use tutor as a label, students will for the most part, have that expectation of subject matter expert.

    Again, this goes back to the idea that higher education is at times mired in behaviourist actions. That shouldn’t be a blanket statement, sure there are some people who are progressive and open.

    I wholeheartedly agree that critical thought is something that is lacking in most people, never mind students (and teachers and administration…). I will say that again, does education really serve to educate or to control? If one believes that it’s to control, then critical thinking isn’t one of the things likely to be endorsed. I’m on the fence, at times I see hope and other times I see despair.

    After re-reading my post the line “idealism without grounding” was cringe-worthy. I’ll make sure to use more precise (and less confrontational) wording next time. I do think to assume that people will give up their power without any other reason than it’s the right thing to do, is probably not going to get far.

  4. Really interesting thinking here about instructional design. While I agree that instructional design (which I have taught and which I get paid to do) does imply a “power structure,” what doesn’t? It seems most organizational and educational functions involve issues of power and positionality, and some have argued that no human action occurs completely innocently in this respect. Perhaps more of the issue involves one’s reflective practice in and around this and then how actions and choices can become more deliberate.

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