Which Learning Theory would be most appropriate for our Education System? Instructivism, Constructivism, or Connectivism

I know this would set out another fire, though you would surely like to know why this flame of debates about Learning Theory goes out.

First, let’s see the differences between Constructivism and Instructivism.

Second, the differences between Constructivism and Connectivism.

(a)    What is the difference between social interactions and networked interactions?  Social interactions certainly happen across multiple networks, through the use of many different tools.  What differentiates these? ; and

(b)   Do social engagement and participation correspond with diversifying a network?  If so, how is Constructivism different than Connectivism, and if not, how are these practically different?

Verhagen’s second argument against Connectivism regarded the potential for knowledge to be stored in appliances.  In my initial readings of Siemens’ discussion of Connectivism led me to this conclusion as well.  Further readings, however, led me to understand that “Learning may reside in non-human appliances” (2005, Connectivism section, ¶ 3) referred to the learning process and not knowledge itself.  Siemens (2008) seemed to have confirmed my understanding in a recent discussion on the IT Forum listserv, “In essence, information is a node, knowledge is a connection, and understanding is an emergent property of the network itself.”

Is Connectivism a re-wording of Constructivism?  In this wiki: The authors argue that
“No, we believe Connectivism is not a learning theory. It is the Constructivism theory reworked to fit the digital age.”

That’s the authors belief.  I see these differently, and that I don’t agree that Connectivism is the Constructivism theory reworked to fit the digital age.  It seems to be a matter of interpretation.  However, I reckon the authors have made a number of assumptions that were based on “weak grounds”.

Though there are overlapping areas in between Connectivism and Constructivism, they are essentially different.

My response here and here as shared below:

Part 1

Relating to Connectivism versus Constructivism, I could see the following similarities in principles:
(a) buffer between learner & potentially damaging effects of instructional practices, dialogue rather than a pure didactic approach
(b) provide a context – where Connectivism emphasizes the use of PLE and aggregate-remix-repurpose-feed forward in MOOC (networked learning with navigation and construction of networks), and Constructivism emphasizes on situated learning and COPs.
(c) Learning that supports autonomy and relatedness.
(d) embed reasons for learning – Under Connectivism-learning as personal growth and knowledge as pattern recognition (Downes) to achieve personal goals and create value networks, and under Constructivism- knowledge and truth are constructed by people and do not exist outside the human mind (Duffy and Jonassen, 1991). Learning as a change in meaning constructed from experience (Newby et al. 1996)
(e) Both support self-regulated learning – Connectivism stresses on autonomy, diversity, openness and interactivity and connectivity as property of networks. Constructivism stresses on social learning, and must be viewed as an active process where students actively construct their knowledge, and that learner is central to the learning process.
(f) Both strengthen learner’s tendency to engage in intentional learning process – Connectivism – the capacity to form connections between sources of information, and therefore create useful information pattern, is required to learn in our knowledge economy (Siemens, 2004). Constructivism – the design task, is one of providing a rich context within which meaning can be negotiated and ways of understanding can emerge and evolve (Hannafin et al., 1997)

– The design process is recursive, non-linear, and sometime chaotic
– Planning is organic, developmental, reflective, and collaborative
– Objectives emerge from design and development work
– General Instructional Design experts do not exist
– Instruction emphasizes learning in meaningful contexts
– Formative evaluation is critical
– Subjective data may be the most valuable

– The design process is based on chaos and complexity theory, theory of emergence and self-organisation. Chaos recognizes the connection of everything to everything (Siemens, 2004). Self organization and emergence in learning explains why the process is often “chaotic” and emergent in nature, when interaction among agents leads to connective and emergent learning.
– There are multiple objectives – all defined by individual pursuit of personal objectives, but all inter-related through complex emergent self-organised networks and communities
– Learning is situated at personal (neuro, conceptual) and social level (outside information sources and agents) and thus is distributed across networks.
– Instruction is based on demonstration and modelling, where learning contexts are likely based on PLE and conversation and cooperation (sharing of information). Here cooperation within networks and collaboration within groups, though small group collaboration and personal learning based on lurking emerge as self-organizing phenomena rather than imposition by outside bodies
– Formative evaluation is secondary to learning under Connectivism. Peer evaluation of PLE and artifacts emerged from interaction, conversation and negotiation.
– Critical thinking, curation, digital literacies and “aggregate-remix-repurpose-feed forward” is central to Sensemaking and Wayfinding

What are the common issues for Connectivism and Constructivism?

– Assessment based on “pre-determined learning objectives” may be a problem in a constructivist or connectivist learning environment.
– Connectivism – which is based on the integration principles explored by chaos, network, complexity and self-organization theory needs further elaboration on how those principles are integrated in practice. It seems a paradox when networked learning is heavily promoted within institutional and corporate education and learning environment, but then the challenges remained un-resolved – on openness – OER, open design, open research, open teaching etc., digital literacy development using social media and mobile technology, pedagogy etc. Currently, there are still too many “wicked problems” – where the problems are not clearly defined, and where risk management and innovation and creativity are at “odds” in a complex adaptive system.
– Constructivism – which is based on a social learning approach, encourages active, rather than passive learning and the use of group-based cooperative learning activities, which can be best mediated through telecommunication technologies. “A central strategy for building constructivist learning environment such as situated learning, multiple perspectives and flexible learning is to create a collaborative learning environment”. The reality is that such learning environment often requires students to question each other’s understanding and explain their own perspectives. This is easier said than done. Engagement and participation normally falls into the 1-9-90 or the 10-20-70 pattern, with the majority staying at the edge of Community. This may be due to the different backgrounds and skill levels of learners (i.e. digital literacy capacity), and the often perceived “power” and “group think” issues associated with group learning, with compliance and conformance that could silence the “critical thinkers” and “solo or solitary learners”, or the “dis-allowing” of lurkers or legitimate peripheral learners who often are situated in the networks and COPs.

So, in summary, the absence of specific learning objectives and outcomes has earned the “criticism” for constructivism as “inefficient and ineffective”. This may equally be a challenge for Connectivism to be adopted as a mainstream pedagogy. Unless the specific learning objectives and outcomes (based on competency-based learning) are adequately addressed and resolved, it seems both Constructivism and Connectivism would still be operating in a hand-in-hand “networked” informal learning “paradigm” waiting to be absorbed as new and emergent pedagogy.

May be the assumptions behind Constructivism and Connectivism need to be viewed under a new light, when those similarities and differences are leveraged, leading to a new form of emergent learning theory that meets the societal, institutional and personal goals. The paradoxes may be the catalyst of a transformation in education and learning. Who has got the crystal ball? You :)

Postscript: This blog provides useful information about Learning Theories – Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism and Networked Learning.  However, there wasn’t any mention about Connectivism.  Quite a surprise.

Part 2:

I found Jenny’s post thought provoking, and so this is a follow up post on my previous one relating to Connectivism & Constructivism – What’s similar and different.

Referring again to the diagram here.

How learning occurs:

What may happen is that social, meaning created by each learner (personal) could actually happen in a distributed network.  However, social doesn’t necessarily mean it would be within a virtual or digital space, or network, as it could happen in a space that once conceived to be navigation across networks.

I have reflected in my Intelligent and Dark side of Blogging, that:

Also, in networked learning, “it is not just what we learn, but how we feel about what we learn, which counts in the long term.” So is dancing as a metaphor. It’s the feeling of learning which makes a difference from the traditional education and learning, where group learning is believed to be based on a scientific approach, and individual feelings need to be constrained to avoid intervening the group’s performance.

So, it is important to encourage a dynamic between thinking and feeling in order to promote learning more effectively, rather than focusing on critical thinking alone, especially in networked learning.

“Learning is an interactive experience best achieved in a climate of relatedness, care and mutual respect. Such care is offered, not imposed, and respects humans’ need for autonomy, self-determination, and challenge as well as security” Rosyln Arnold (2005) (pg 28). This could be crucial to networked learning, especially where humans are interacting with each others in communities of practice. However, there are still paradoxes in between autonomy, diversity, openness and interactivity when educators and learners are immersed in a complex, emergent learning environment (MOOC).

It would be important to reflect on assumptions behind connectivist learning. Some questions include:
1. How could learning be best achieved under a connectivist environment?
2. What are the pre-requisite literacies and skills for educators and learners to consider in networked learning?

I suppose meaning created by each learner (under Constructivism or Social Constructivism) does assume the recognition and interpretation of networks.

I suppose there are overlaps in the Constructivism and Connectivism approaches

In this Beyond constructivism: navigationism in the knowledge era:

Teachers and educators should become the source of how to navigate in the ocean of available information and knowledge. We should become coaches and mentors within the knowledge era. Instructional designers should start to design coaching and navigating activitiesinstead of designing learning facilitation and learning activities; to configure navigation tools instead of the re-configuration of content.

Here is a video on Youtube:

I think this shows that a shift in the frame of reference would change the way we perceive an object’s appearance.  Similarly, the recognition and interpretation of the patterns as shown in this simple experiment well illustrates how a shift from Social to Network frame of reference (with neuro, conceptual and social) could make a difference.

Relating to Jenny’ example:

A constructivist approach involved challenging this deeply set misconception through physically demonstrating that heavy objects do not reach the ground before light objects. I believed that the physical demonstration had the effect of deconstructing the student’s existing thinking and reconstructing it or replacing it with the correct thinking.

How would a connectivist approach work? Yes, you still require the deconstruction of the student’s existing thinking, but not just based on the teacher’s input.  Rather, you would suggest the students to be immersed in networks, based on navigating activities and the using of appropriate tools or media (i.e. media and technology affordance), in exploring about the “right” and “wrong” concepts, and discerning those right from wrong through navigation tools and reflective thinking.  This is similar to what I have suggested here:

The concepts that are crystallised through such networked learning may be based on the ability of the learner to recognise and interpret the pattern (i.e. principally on the navigation and exploration, with or without the teachers), rather than the demonstration of the teacher and explanation of the concepts via “Constructivism or Social Constructivism”.  This means that the concept development under Connectivism is far more reaching than the typical “classroom” or social networks environment, but would also include technological and media enhancement for its nourishment.

This approach may take the form of Create, Interact and Track as discussed in CCK11.

Picture credit: CCK11

Picture: Garrison, Anderson, & Archer (2001)  Elements of an educational experience.

How would Connectivism and Constructivism differ in terms of the elements of educational experience?

Below is my Part 3 newly introduced in this post.

Part 3:

I am trying to shift my frame of reference and propose a different sense of looking into Connectivism:

As a transformative learning theory based on affordance and networks.

Why affordance?

Why networks?

Here I have reflected on how networks and connections are formed socially, most likely as a result of emotions and feelings attuned to the nodes or artifacts.

I have argued here on how technology would impact on our networking “affordance”:

It seems that we need both soft technology and hard technology to allow for the emergence of transformational learning.

The cMOOCs seem to be based on soft technology, with Connectivism as the principal model of education and learning.

The xMOOCs seem to be based on hard technology, with Instructivism and Mastery Learning as the principal model of education and learning.

For the current students, educators (including professors) and participants of xMOOCs, Instructivism and Mastery Learning may still be their favorite way of learning, whereas professors would likely prefer to adopt as a pedagogy.

For students and educators (including professors) and participants of cMOOCs, Constructivism and Connectivism would be their favorite way of learning, whereas all involved in the cMOOCs would like to experiment beyond the box, the four walls of institutions, and “test” the limits in terms of constraints imposed by the formal curriculum with stipulated timelines, set course structure with definitive and prescriptive learning outcomes, and routine video lectures of a didactic nature of teaching.

My verdict is: Behaviorism and Cognitivism would still ring supreme in xMOOCs, and it is not likely that these “massive” cohort of xMOOC students, professors would prefer the Connectivist or Constructivist approaches towards learning.  These may change upon time, as more and more learners and educators realize the need of adaptation and enormous changes that are required in order to survive and thrive in a highly complex education ecology.

MOOCs: Assumptions and Challenges

Are Assumptions part of the MOOC story? I reckon people have been making lots of assumptions about MOOCs since their inception, based on Assumptions Theory.

Photo image: Google

Assumption images (3)

Are people assuming a linear or complex pathways towards privatization or monetization with xMOOCs?  There has been some evidences showing that MOOCs movement is based on Complexity Theory and so its trajectory is non-linear, and is therefore complex, due mainly due to the interaction of the agents and changes in the environment.   At the early stage of MOOCs, the MOOC providers promised to keep MOOCs open and free, thus getting the name of MASSIVE OPEN ONLINE COURSE.

I don’t see many people could have predicted the outcomes of MOOCs nowadays, except a few people, like Clay Christensen, Dave Cormier, Stephen Downes and George Siemens.

What are the Assumptions and challenges of MOOCs?

Assumption 1:  When MOOCs are free of charge, people would love to try in order to experience the often highly appraised elite Higher Education Courses offered by Institutions.  I reckon this is most likely true, especially for those who couldn’t afford paying tuition for Higher Education courses,  especially in developing countries, or those who couldn’t attend Higher Education Institutions in persons, due to geographical reasons.

Are MOOCs freebies? MOOCs are now becoming the favorite off-springs of FREEBIES of elite Institutions.

It would continue to attract non-fees paying students all over the world.  Would these “global” students be looking for more MOOCs which are free?  I think this would likely be true.

What if…

  1. What would happen if MOOCs are not free of charge any more?  What percentage of students are willing to pay, and what percentage of students are not willing to pay, if MOOCs are charged?
  2. What would happen if learners realize that they are now more interested in the qualifications, rather than the education in MOOCs? What percentage of students are just interested in qualifications?  What percentage of students are not interested in qualifications?
  3. What would happen if professors are urging for a better pay or remuneration as a result of hundreds of thousands of students enrolled into their MOOCs?  What percentage of professors are willing to teach extra students “free of charge”?  What percentage of professors are not willing to teach extra students “free of charge”?
  4. What would happen if MOOCs are now closed, and become Massive Online Course only? What percentage of students would stay with a closed course MOC? What percentage of students would leave the closed course MOC?

To what extent would this pattern of free MOOCing be sustainable?

Is this massive version of online education going to invert the tradition of higher education?  There are no precedence relating to such huge education movement.

Assumption 2: MOOCs attract students as the MOOC providers carry the big “brand” together with the “super-professors”.  I reckon this assumption is very true, especially when nearly everyone said that this is true.  Most learners would prefer to learn with the prestigious institutions and famous and super-rock star professors.

Assumption 3: MOOCs’ success is  evaluated based on number of students enrolled into the course, and may be the number of students who successfully completed the course.

Here is a discussion panel on MOOCs.

Sounds like that every one is excited about MOOCs, as there have been huge success in the enrollment of massive students into the courses.  More students mean the possibility of getting a higher market share of the global education market, and likely more revenue generated with the potential students, especially if some of these students could join the mainstream degree or diploma course and pay the tuition fees based on their MOOCs’ completion or transfer.

The present MOOCs are now entering into the era where QUALITY and VALUE seems to be based on the number of student enrollments in the courses.

Assumption 4: MOOC as the last Call Cards in Higher Education

MOOC is now the CENTRAL ECONOMICS OF EDUCATION – DISRUPTING the Higher Education to its fullest extent. Here efficiency and effectiveness of education has finally been drawn based on this CALL CARD – MOOC to revolutionize Higher Education.  You got to love free Higher Education! But there is a price to pay.  MOOC and you’re out of a job: Uni business model in danger.

Assumption 5: MOOCs are successful because they are based on flipped class and an instructivist/behavioral approach in education.

Should Education based on MOOC be Teacher or Learner and Learning Centered?

Tony writes in his wonderful post web-2-0-will-change-everything-in-online-learning:

The need for course re-design The use of these tools need to be driven by the learning objectives. Indeed these tools enable us to achieve different learning objectives from more traditional modes of teaching, with a particular emphasis on intellectual skills development.

Tony outlines the need of advanced course design built around core skill and knowledge management, open content, online project, peer review and discussion and assessment by e-portfolio.

I agreed with the need to restructure course towards a student-centered approach where students could take an active part in the learning process, like choosing content and working on project either individually or cooperatively with others in order to achieve goals.  Indeed the use of e-portfolios as evidence of learning have been adopted by lots of professional institutions as a basis for certification and admission for professional membership.  e-portfolio is also part of the personal knowledge management strategy where the student develops and reflects on his/her learning.

Assumption 6: MOOCs must be based on prescriptive learning outcomes, and prescriptive knowledge and learning methodology.  Should Learning Objectives be prescriptive or emergent?

In a formal education framework, since most learning objectives are prescriptive in nature, students would likely be guided towards the achievement of those objectives through structured activities as designed in the course.  A traditional approach is for the students to listen to the lectures, follow what have been taught, and complete the assignments to demonstrate competency for the prescribed course. Even the present xMOOCs are following such an approach where students are expected to remember, understand and apply what the professor has explained in the video lectures, and to pass the quizzes, assignments, examinations set up for the course.  Students are not expected to generate multimedia content, as that is not what the course is based upon, and could hardly be assessed if there is a huge crowd of students of tens of thousands.

Assumption 7: MOOCs are still the “ruling master” in education, as standardized goals, curricular, and standardized tests, quizzes and examinations remain supreme in Higher Education.

What are the challenges associated with the educational use of the Web, Social Networking, and Media based on MOOCs (even for xMOOCs)?

“A challenge associated with the educational use of the Web, social networking, and media, based on the MOOC distributed learning model, is that the open, emergent, chaotic nature of online interaction might conflict with the rigidly organized social structure of formal education, which involves prescriptive learning, standardized goals and curricula, fixed schedules, age-based grouping, classroom-based organization, and examinations.” (Kop et al 2010)

Khan makes a convincing case that universities are no longer the only place where legitimate learning takes place; we should put learning from all sources on equal footing and assess it through an independent approach – competency-based assessments. In addition, those options must include affordable, accessible, timely and relevant learning opportunities that will meet the needs of students and employers.

Ray in this post on disrupting-degree-credentialing says:

Indeed, it is the lack of such options that is driving the advent of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and other open and affordable online learning alternatives. One method may be the Mozilla-hosted secure “backpack” to hold badges from universities and other sources.

Assumption 8: Prior Learning Assessment and credit transfer based on MOOCs would be supported by Institution soon. Would prior learning assessment be a solution in lowering the cost in degree education in Higher Education?

The critical questions relate to whether prior learning assessment would become a way to recognize learners’ learning formally, based on the evidences submitted for assessment.  I think there are merits with the use of prior learning assessment as a measure of learning.  How about the emergent knowledge and learning that are now critical success to business and education?  The current move towards MOOCs show exactly why the canonical knowledge is not sufficient to “survive” in the education industry.

Assumption 9: Credit Transfer of MOOC is a challenge and issue for Higher Institutions.  This seems also a critical moment for many institutions as they are still hesitant to introduce credit transfer for MOOC learners, mainly because of the doubts about the “quality” of the courses based on peer assessments, which are still not fully recognized as being fair and reliable, and the possibility of  students “cheating” and “plagiarising” in MOOCS. Besides, if the learners are to exchange their answers to the assignments, questions of the quizzes, examinations of MOOCs, would that be a concern for Education Authority or Institutions?  Students could also enroll into xMOOCs using a variety of identities, so as to attempt the quizzes, examinations, and assignments with multiple try.  To what extent have these happened?  Are there any statistics revealing such phenomena?   If MOOCs unit completion are accepted for credit transfer, would this become an issue?

Assumption 10: xMOOCs could exist mainly as disruptive technology, not sustainable technology. If xMOOCs are to be sustainable, then they would need to change its paradigm towards a connectivist or social constructivist approach in order to overcome the tsunami and turbulence that MOOCs have created to “overturn” or disrupt the traditions of Higher Education.