This week we will explore the:
- Learning Approaches;
- Learning Environments; and
- Learning Communities.
With an understanding of Educational Technologies research from ontological, epistemological and methodological perspectives, there remains one other perspective that you should have clear both for yourself and to the audience of your research, your Pedagogical Perspective.
Your pedagogical perspective describes your approach to teaching, the theory and practices of learning you subscribe to, and how these influence, and are influenced by, the social, political and psychological development of learners.
Just as research has paradigms or world views, so does pedagogy - experiential learning, instructivism, unschooling, learning styles, discovery learning, constructionism, etc. that provide frameworks for different approaches to teaching and learning.
Not as developed as paradigms, there also exist key concepts that have emerged from educational research and can inform your pedagogy, such as the Zone of Proximal Development, Double Loop Learning, and Communities of Practice.
Each paradigm and concept has been developed by educational researchers and schools of educational research have developed around their seminal work, expanding and developing their initial approach, often generating variations that sometimes lead to new paradigms and concepts.
There will be a paradigm or concept, or set of paradigms and concepts, that often informs why and how you conduct research into Educational Technologies. As with the other perspectives we have explored, it is useful in interpreting research to understand the various perspectives held by a researcher, and while your pedagogical perspective may change when researching different questions, you should be able to articulate the approach you take to teaching and learning, especially when a research methodology is based around the particular choices informed by your pedagogical perspective.
In your Self Study research, you should describe your pedagogical perspective as it relates to learning or teaching about the particular Educational Technology you have chosen.
Educational Technologies generally represent a change to existing practice and require support, often in the form of instructional guides or training or professional learning, in order for the Educational Technology to be successfully adopted. Because of this effort, the introduction of Educational Technologies is often used to also introduce new pedagogical approaches.
Learning environments refer to the educational approach, cultural context, and physical or virtual setting in which teaching and learning occur. They are informed by pedagogy but include a wider range of influences on student learning and teaching, described as the learning culture - the presiding ethos and characteristics of how individuals interact, are governed, and the philosophical approaches such as ontology and epistemology that influence this culture. While individuals may experience such environments in different ways, there are generally a set of characteristics that commonly describe a learning environment.
Characteristics that can be used to describe a learning environment could include:
- Organization type: state or public school, independent school, parochial school, university;
- Structure: rigidly structured (military schools) to less structured (Sudbury school);
- Non-institutional: homeschooling, unschooling;
- Schedule: the length and timing of the academic year (e.g. year- round schooling), class and activity schedules, length of the class period, block scheduling;
- Staffing: the number of teachers, student-teacher ratio, single- teacher per room or co-teaching;
- Attendance: compulsory student until a certain age or standard is achieved;
- Teacher certification: varying degrees of professional qualifications;
- Assessment: testing and standards provided by government directly or indirectly;
- Partnerships and mentoring: relationships between the learning environments and outside entities or individuals in general study or chosen fields;
- Organizational model: departmental, integrated, academy, small
- school; and
- Curriculum: the subjects comprising a course of study.
Each classroom, course, school, university, club, team, society, etc. exhibit a learning culture, the collective influence on student learning. While individuals may experience such cultures in different ways, there are generally a set of characteristics that commonly describe a learning culture.
The learning culture may comprise beliefs, customs, arts, traditions, and values of a society, group, place, or time. This may include a school, community, a nation, or a state. Culture affects the behaviour of educators, students, staff, and community. It often determines curriculum content. A community's socioeconomic status directly influences its ability to support a learning institution; its ability to attract high calibre educators with appealing salaries; a safe, secure, and comfortable secure facility; and provide even basic needs for students, such as adequate nutrition, health care, adequate rest, and support at home for homework and obtaining adequate rest.
Professional communities involve
- reflective dialogue;
- focus on student learning;
- interaction among teacher colleagues;
- collaboration; and
- shared values and norms.
Learning Communities are groups who share common academic goals and attitudes, who meet semi-regularly to collaborate and learn. In higher education, they are often interdisciplinary or based around a particular pedagogy or research methodology, in schools, they are often based around a subject area to support professional learning and development.
Learning communities should include:
- fulfilment of individuals needs; and
- shared events and emotional connections.
The participants of a learning community must feel some sense of loyalty and belong to the group (membership) that drive their desire to keep working and helping others, also the things that the participants do must affect what happens in the community; that means, an active and not just a reactive performance (influence). Learning communities must give the chance to the participants to meet particular needs (fulfilment) by expressing personal opinions, asking for help or specific information and sharing stories of events including (emotional connections) emotional experiences.