Learning metaphor – understanding of an elephant based on Instructivism, Constructivism and Connectivism

This is my response to the stimulating and interesting post  Instructivism, Constructivism or Connectivism by Ryan Tracey.

Ryan writes:

From a practical perspective then, is the popular “evolution” of instructional design from instructivism through constructivism to connectivism a furphy? All three pedagogies build on one another to provide a rounded theoretical toolset for the modern professional to exploit.

Therefore, I propose to replace the traditional left-to-right gradient with a new representation:

Complementary nature of Instructivism, Constructivism and Connectivism

This diagram acknowledges the chronology of instructional design theory, with the earliest pedagogy occupying the centre circle, and the later pedagogies occupying the outer rings. Yet it does not suggest that one pedagogy supersedes the other; instead, they complement one another.

Ryan concludes that if someone asks me “Instructivism, constructivism or connectivism?”, I say “All three, where relevant”.

Let me share with you my metaphor of the understanding of an elephant by learners (people).  Four persons were blind folded and were instructed to approach an elephant. They each approached an elephant’s particular parts of the body, sensed them and reported back what they thought an elephant looked like.  (1) The one touching the feet thought an elephant was like a trunk of a tree, (2)  the one touching the nose thought that an elephant was like a hose filled with fluid, (3) the one touching the tail thought that an elephant was like a string with hairs, and (4) the one touching the body thought that the elephant was like a huge body of mass that is embroidered with tough skin and sticky hairs.  They all claimed that they know what an elephant looks like, and they were sure they were right.

If you were an educator, a facilitator or an instructor, how would you assist the four persons to arrive to a “logical and rational” conclusion?

Under instructivism, the instructor will explain to the four persons why and how they learn about the elephant, just as one is exposed to the different knowledge or information in the artifacts, books, articles, networks, etc.  Mistakes are allowed, and needs to be corrected or intervened by the instructor (teacher, or mentor, or professor).  Under instructivist approach, the key may be teaching JIT (Just in time – using the right method (lesson plans), right course, right time, right cost (cost effectiveness with minimum time – efficiency is important), right channels (communication, media), right environment, and instructional design with the right teacher is the critical factor to success.  Mass education is preferred.

Under Constructivism, the four persons will communicate with each other, and share their understandings, feelings, and knowledge, experience, and then come up with new knowledge based on the re-construction of the knowledge each possesses.   Under a constructivist approach, the teacher may become the facilitator, and the four persons are encouraged to interact, exchange views and experience and co-construct meaning and knowledge that is based on their needs (still with the teachers’ intervention) under a learning environment (LMS or e-learning in a course)

Under Connectivism, the four persons will connect their thoughts, their understanding at neural, conceptual and external, social level with information sources, formally or informally.  They will also link with others who have experience with elephants – communities, networks and experts. Under a connectivist approach, the pipe (the connections) is more important than the content (as content may keep changing, and needs to be updated to ensure “correctness” or “validity”).  The four persons (may act as peer teachers and learners) encourage each other to be involved in networks, internet surfing and navigating, and make use of their sensemaking (metacognition skills – thinking how to think) , patterning (knowledge recognition), and way finding (identifying their goals and mission through those networks and community involvement) and realising the emergent knowledge (ontology – learning to be)  through an integration of  informal learning with their formal education.  This assumes that the four persons are motivated to learn the skills required to communicate, collaborate and cooperate over the net environment.