Transformative learning by design

Reflection on Module 3 – Part 2

Transformative learning can occur anywhere, anytime.  It is where the learner awakens to the knowledge before them and connects it with previous knowledge.  I guess it is often referred to as an “aha” moment.

Tagxedo summary of the discussion

In the second part of this reflection on Module 3 of Edtech 521 Advanced Online learning at Boise State I had the chance to lead and facilitate an online discussion.  This activity firstly was a choice and one I took for two reasons, (1) it was something I had never done before, (2) I wondered how it would work managing the process with a partner (as I had to do in this case).  With any collaborative work it always depends on the quality of the participants involved, both designing and working through the task.  I was lucky in that everyone I have had to work with at BSU to-date has been of the most impressive and I believe in many ways this is a testament to the Edtech program at BSU.

So what was the big “aha” moment for me during this discussion? Well I amazed how much we talked about Maths! You would expect an educational group reviewing how online discussions can transform learning to be focused on English, History or even Science but not Maths.  A huge shout out to those proud Math teachers out there in our class who were inspired and pushed the boundaries of what our creative minds could coalesce. In short the big idea was to do away with (or significantly reduce) “skills based homework” and increase (or make the focus) reflective discussions surround the mathematical concepts learnt that day in class.  The focus would be “so what?” and the class online discussion forum would provide exploratory reflective questions along the lines as suggested by Barry Duff (peer in Edtech 521 at BSU, 2012) and Palloff & Pratt (2007) and myself:

  • Based on the information from the lesson, what do you think t it means to …
  • Do you consider yourself able to … why or why not?
  • Reflect on the information from the lesson… based on this information you discovered, what are at least 4 are things you deem to be the most important when working with…
  • Discuss your thoughts, ideas, and opinions related to…
  • Thinking on the lesson topic… how does this new information relate to…
  • How would you view yourself in relation to teaching this concept to another student?
  • How much more do you feel you need to learn about the subject matter?
  • Do you disagree with how I taught you today’s concept, how would you do it better?
  • Do you feel that you like it when the teacher gives all the theory notes and worked examples? How comfortable would you feel if the onus of developing that theory (content) was shared equally between yourself and the teacher?
  • How do you define learning? What do you hope to learn from each class?
  • Where else (outside the class) do you feel what you learnt today could be applied?

Of course there are many other questions, this is just a start, but I believe this may well be a powerful concept if properly applied to learning Mathematics.  As Mathematics teachers we’re always complaining that kids don’t see the big picture and then when we try to explain it they just say “Why would I want to do that? I’ll just pay someone to do it or a computer will do it”.  Sure they probably have a point BUT I also think that it is a bit of a knee jerk response because THEY haven’t had to THINK about it THEMSELVES.  Reflection can change all of this.  I will leave you with a quote from Palloff and Pratt (2007) in this weeks readings,

Although it may seem daunting to.. [us as instructors] …to be far more than someone who imparts knowledge, there is no need to be fearful of the transformative process that this form of learning sets in motion.  It is a process that will occur, whether or not an instructor purposefully facilitates it, when the course is designed to allow participants to explore beyond the confines of the course material.  The subtitle… We are the Experts when it comes to our own learning.. defines the transformative learning process.  When students are empowered to become experts at their own learning, they cannot help but be transformed as people.

Palloff, R.M. & Pratt K. (2007). Building online learning communities: effective strategies for the virtual classroom (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass


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