#CCK11 Problem based learning and Socratic Dialogue

Thanks to Irmeli in referring to this Socratic Dialogue

Kristof elaborates:

What is the role of the facilitator?

I personally hold to three rules in Socratic dialogue :

1. Say what you want to say, also about the conversation as such, at any moment you think

it is suitable

2. Be concrete

3.Try to establish a common enterprise

The interventions of the facilitator can be legitimised according to these three rules.

While the possibility and necessity of dialogue is increasingly called upon today, actually engaging in dialogue with one another is very difficult and often unpleasant.

What are the difficulties?

Why are dialogues unpleasant?

He explains that Dialogue differs from a discussion in that it is:

– dialectic (means knowing through)

– aimed at insight in the value of judgements

– suspending judgements

– investigating and checking

– wanting to know the truth

– investigation

– listening to yourself and others

– attitude of taking the others point of view

– questioning

– slowness

– community orientated

Photo: From Flickr

I came across this paper on problem based learning (PBL), Wood says:

“The role of the tutor is to facilitate the proceedings (helping the chair to maintain group dynamics and moving the group through the task) and to ensure that the group achieves appropriate learning objectives in line with those set by the curriculum design team.”  “The tutor should encourage students to check their understanding of the material. He or she can do this by encouraging the students to ask open questions and ask each other to explain topics in their own words or by the use of drawings and diagrams.” Problem based learning could be very effective in the training of medical students, as that would expose them to “real life problems” with the use of case scenarios.  It requires a “group” approach to tackle the problems.

Wood concludes that PBL also generates a more stimulating and challenging educational environment, and the beneficial effects from the generic attributes acquired through PBL should not be underestimated

I found this paper on Using the Case Method to Teach Online Classes: Promoting Socratic Dialogue and Critical Thinking particularly helpful.  I then reflected on the learning from these critical points:

– Tone is conveyed through word choice in the virtual classroom

– Sarcasm in particular comes across poorly in Internet communication

– Teaching students how to create substantial discussion responses to the cases is the critical task of the instructor.

In summary, the case approach promotes social change in that students reflectively and critically examine their own thoughts in relation to the course material and other students’ response.

Problem-based learning, as mentioned by Brooke is not novel, and has been used for decades.  The use of conversation, debates, and Socratic dialogue is also common in classroom environment, together with case studies, especially in more advanced courses in higher education or vocational education.  So the challenge is: how could these be adequately applied in virtual classroom?

The questions remain:

(1) How effectively will problem based learning be when used in virtual classroom in courses such as OOC or an MOOC?

(2) Do participants need to be directed or guided by the instructors in those problem based learning? Could participants be guided by knowledgeable others? How? Why?

(3) How to motivate students, learners, or participants to form into groups in tackling problem-based learning, especially in an online networked environment?

(4) How to improve learning online using problem based learning?

In the case of MOOC, like PLENK and CCK08, 09, 11, I think there were many problems brought out by the participants.  But then, most cases were discussed based on diversified perspectives of participants and so it was hard to come up with any conclusions, or even summary of “verdicts” or learning.

In future MOOC, could we make use of some of the past case scenarios, or those issues and problems people encountered in their online or virtual classes as learning cases?  I reckon this would be an interesting and challenging activity for both experienced and novice educators and learners to share their experience and views together.  Would there be volunteers who would develop those cases or problems?  How and what would help in achieving this?

How about a blog, aggregated blog, a gRSShopper, a wiki or Google document for such problems or cases development, discussion, and debate?

In the paper, Brooke concludes:

Using the case method to teach online classes promotes a learning-centered cultural milieu (Brooke, 2004; Brooke 2005). By learning-centered, I am
referring to students developing responsibility for their own learning. The instructor is the facilitator and further refines critical thinking skills and analysis.

What could you conclude?  Is problem based learning useful and effective in learning online? How about your experience?


14 thoughts on “#CCK11 Problem based learning and Socratic Dialogue

  1. Hi John

    You may wish to peruse this journal (open source):


    I found a couple of the articles helpful. I think PBL can be married with online courses. In PBL, an ill-structured problem starts the process. Generally the designer creates the problem, the students work to solve it, following a process that includes idea generation, assessment of known facts, learning issues, action plan. The process is inquiry-based, and the facilitator acts to guide it, sometimes employing a Socratic style in dialogue with the students. The biggest hurdle seems to be the creation of the problem – it needs to be ill-structured but reside in a real-world context in order to be useful, affective, applicable. It is in the latter area that I think experiential narrative has a role.

  2. Yes, Ken, the articles there are very helpful. Thanks. I particularly like this one http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1135&context=ijpbl The one that attracts my attention is the learning issues, that is also what I found intriguing when some students found cases to be interesting, whilst others hesitated on their usefulness, especially if they don’t relate to their own “learning issues” I recalled when I studied a post-graduate course with a unit on management, where we had to work in small teams to tackle a case, and wrote a report addressing the case. I found it useful to some extent only, mainly because the theme in the case was a complicated one, and there wasn’t any one “correct answer” to the case. So, I came to the conclusion that case study must be context specific and should allow for critical thinking in a group scenario, rather than a one person “thinking” in solitude. As you said it needs to be ill-structured to be “meaningful” and should reside in a real-worl context to be useful. I am still thinking about ways of introducing it in my face-to-face classes in a more extensive way, and also virtual classes or community discourse, to make learning more interesting, and learning-centred.

  3. Hi John. Yup, Narrative + PBL + digi-tech learning (DTL) is one option.

    I wonder if it is advisable to not use the term ‘networked learning’ as it might limit the context in which the above synthesis appears to be applicable. For example CofPs are not necesarrily networks, but they might benefit from the perspective of this synthesis.

  4. Hi Ken,
    If we were not to use the term ‘networked learning’, what would you suggest to call it? Most CofPs are some forms of networks, which may be based on groups with specific shared vision, missions and goals. I reckon they are blends of networks and groups with a community base, where members are interspersed and may sometimes be at the core, and other times at the periphery and edges of the COPs and multiple networks. These members would leverage the networks for Crowd sourcing with the goal of Collective Wisdom. Would the cutting across of those boundaries of global COPs and Networks give rise to meta-emergent learning? This means the collective learning (and eventually collective wisdom) of multiple networks, COPs blended with the “institutional based learning”, where the cutting edge and emergent technologies, individual and collective PLEs/PLNs are enhanced, and emergent knowledge (where tacit knowledge is manifested and serendipity emerged via interaction) and COPs are developing concurrently. I am not sure whether this is the Web x.0 or the Learning x.0 that we could name. How would such a model of learning look like?

  5. Hi Ken,
    The basic question is: What is the origin of learning, based on networked learning? Is it curiorsity? Serendipity? A desire to network? A desire to join a CofP? Back to basic – Maslow Hierarchy – sense of belonging?

  6. Hi John. I guess if I adopt an interpretivist perspective, then I might say that CofP are only networks if you choose to view them that way, and if you choose to use the network terminology. My hesitancy is doing so relates to the connotations that currently follow the term network – it suggests a digitized world of connectivized learning, and I think that description is too narrow to encompass the whole of learning, while appreciating the possibility of a link between narrative, pbl, tech for instructional purposes.

    So your question of ‘what is learning, based on network learning’ is something I can’t answer. That would best be left to the network or connectivist theorists as that is their way of describing learning, their paradigm. I think those theorists might say that learning is a property that emerges from a neural network, rather than having a primal cause. More Darwinian that Augustinian, perhaps.

    I am less inclined to try to pin down a definition of learning, preferring to watch what people actually do and make some observations about that. So what do people do? They create communication devices and tools: writing, recording, internet. They use these tools to share, congregate, work. The motivations for doing so could include all of the things you mentioned: Maslow’s needs, curiousity etc. Or maybe there are motivations that haven’t been articulated yet.

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