#PLENK2010 Learning Theory and Practice, and aims of education

I enjoyed reading Rita’s post here on the symbiosis-between-theory-and-practice, and shared her thoughts about the need of theory and practice.

I think theory and practice should go hand in hand, so that guidance to education practitioners are provided as a source of reference, and that researchers should also review with practitioners and learners based on the instructional and learning practice and feedback of the application of theories.

I don’t see these have happened that frequently in the past in open spaces, as it seems that many of the “best practices” principles were based on the minds of experts and great education philosophers, or researches done within education institutions, with relatively little input from practitioners and learners on the “front line” teaching and learning practice.

The current discourse on theory and practice in education and learning in the community is a relatively novel practice.  There has been rich discussion and debates over different spaces and media which allow various experts, educators, knowledgeable others and learners to share their ideas, beliefs, innovative and improved practices.  To what extent would these discussions and feedback be valued by the education authorities and communities?  How far would these voices be effective in leading to changes in education and learning practices?

Rita said “What it lacks is the role the learner plays in all this, as her or his voice is hidden in the pedagogy of the institution….At the moment they feel the teaching no longer relates to their lived in world and their context, they will leave the course.”  This seems to be a systemic issue which might need to be addressed with consultation and debates by all stakeholders concerned, including education authorities, parents, researchers, educators and learners. We also need to review the statistics on the attrition rates and the associated trends, and to understand the causes of loss of interests in courses.

How would /should learners be involved in the curriculum development and teaching process? What resources and support is required for learners to play a part in this curriculum and design development process?  Given the current emphasis of content delivery and assessment (on the achievement of learning outcomes through classroom teaching, and assessment like examination) in most of the courses and curriculum in institution (even FE & HE), the use of PLE/N would likely be perceived as an add-on to the already loaded curriculum.  So, I still think there is a need to reflect the learning theory and practice that could be used as a guide towards “best practice” for the particular sector of education (HE/FE), but also the associated education reform and learning transformation to ensure a more relevant, value-added education and learning (with PLE/N) be embraced by practitioners and learners in the learning journey.

But what are the aims of education?

In this temporal views on the aims of education

It is too easy within education to polarise debates – knowledge vs skills; teacher authority vs learner voice; ICT vs traditional practices etc.  But if we’re to learn from education research and previous practice, then we must recognise that the polarisations are unhelpful, if not frankly damaging.  We need to create ways of increasing the nuance in the way in which we talk about education and its purposes.

Of course, highlighting the aims of education is different from then putting in to place the processes to achieve them.  And this stage often brings about another unhelpful separation – that between formal (schooling) and non-formal (youth centres, scouting etc) as a way of achieving educational aims.  If the starting point is to support young people in all of these temporal aims, then we must recognise that we need a range of skilled professionals to guide and assist in this journey.

So, are polarised debates unhelpful? Do we still need to separate formal (schooling) from non-formal (youth centres, scouting) as a way of achieving educational aims? How about the addition of PLE/N to the education of youths and adults?

I don’t think there are easy answers to these questions.

I think helpful debates are important to deliver more relevant education to learners.  Sometimes, what learners are expecting would be an education that could prepare them for future jobs or those that would enrich their competencies at work, in addition to the provision of qualifications.

Are we waiting for the superman?

What do you think?


2 thoughts on “#PLENK2010 Learning Theory and Practice, and aims of education

  1. Hi John

    There are great examples of negotiated learning in community education in the UK. It is possible to negotiate the curriculum and learning outcomes. It is usually the institutional constraints that make that educators choose not to.

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