Learning contract ideas

March 31, 2007

I had some time of reading the three pdf files i got from Sebastian Fiedler to elaborate personal learning contract ideas. I have taken some notes from these and here is what seemed interesting.
From Harri-Augstein & Webb

CH. 4. The morphology and anatomy of a learning conversation (pp.53-69)

Most of the learners have no operational language with which to analyse, reflect and evaluate learning. This language needs to be personally meaningful to mediate learning processes.

When people leave the learning communities, they take away part of the community practice.

The construction and reconstruction of learning process of each individual is unique.
It should consist of:
– sustaining self-concersation with oneself about learning
– externalizing learning conversation for the learner
– passing the control back to the learner as the language of awareness and skills of learning
– this process goes in spirals, initiating learning networks
All this process is channelled into specific domains and work-settings becaming related wth on-job learning.

Can the learning conversation be objectively externalised by someone else and yet keep the meaningful operational language for the person? Would it mean that if this other is more knowledgeable person of the community, then what is developed, is the identification and ownership gaining process to the knowledge and practices of that certain community?
It seems that personally meaningful and meaningful for the learning community needs to be negotiated to get ownership of certain learning practices – the learners are expected of noticing learning events the way it is conventional, and then we claim it is also personally meaningful. But is learning so objective process?

Following the new understanding of the nature of scaffolding it is never one-directional process, but bidirectional. Both the learner and the supporter need to have a comprehension of each other’s intentions and the operational language they use for explaining learning events.

This makes me to think of networked communities in general and sort of unintentional scaffolding what happens when people read and comment each others knowledge artifacts. Each of them comes with the set of its own operational language and competence for learning (how they analyse, reflect and evaluate), which constrains and narrows down their learning experiences to the overlapping area of competences and language (all this semiotics and intersubjective knowledge ideas also work in gaining the competence from others).

The learning conversations consist of three kinds of dialogues: the process, support and referent dialogue.
1. The process dialogue focuses on gaining awareness of individual personal learning experiences. This takes place in phases:
What is my purpose in learning? (purpose phase)
Which learning startegies do i follow? (startegy phase)
What is my learning outcome? (outcome phase)
How do i evaluate my learning outcome? Was the startegy effective? (review phase)

MA(R)4S startegy is suggested to accomplish the process dialogue:
Monitor yourself
Analyse yourself
Record your activities
Reconstruct your learning
Reflect how you learned
Review your learning from this perspective
Spiral it always

Here again the possible problem is that without operational language and without the knowledge of effective learning practices it may be difficult of monitoring and analysing. Can it be done self-directed manner without any support from aside..i believe it is possible, however then these steps, what are meaningful for the learners in their self-observation and learning from ones’ own learning will seem totally meaningless to some person from aside who comes from another self-directing tradition. Can we think of multiple perspectives or multiple voices of how self-directed learning phases can happen? For sure it is context dependent and situated process which should not pressed to the constrained deductive kind of frames.

2. The support dialogue enables the learner to cope with the effects of becoming aware of own learning processes.
It is mentioned that becoming aware makes performance worse initially and this scares the learners back to their routine practices. To facilitate, the anxiety and tension must be reduced and the learners need to start trusting the learning situation which gives them more freedom to experiment and take risks in trying out new strategies. This anxiety can be reduced at on-job learning conditions where peer-support, resources and space are provided.

Reading this part, i remembered the example from Nonaka and Takeuschi about designing the city cars. The “tall boy” metaphor was externalised and it helped to develop totally new kind of car – but i think what happened in this example, was the lessened anxiety in the situation where people could freely suggest the metaphors and play with them, which increased creativity and helped to reate new knowledge that was implicitly there in the community.

I believe people must be encouraged of keeping and developing their own very personal operational language and startegies of self-organising their learning. What lessens anxiety is knowing there is no commonly accepted ways, but the dynamic development into your own way and trusting this way and improving this way of selforganisation while being openminded to revise it. The total uptake of deductive ways, what the purpose-strategy-outcome-review process is might not suit to half of the people.

If to think of this situation from the semiotic perspective, then again what we actually suggest by support dialogue is choosing between using strange frames of analysing known things or analysing strange things with known frames. Both will enable to see things differently, because people must translate in the areas which does not have an overlap.

3. The referent dialogue aims at defining the referent as a set of criteria against which learners can begin to assess their competence.
This is the process where persons themselves need to identify appropraite criteria amongst wide range of referents. One way it is suggested to happen is of copying the standards of community members as referents.

In online communities i guess to identify these standards is not that easy as in formal education system. Can we extract some universial standards of good self-directed learning competences without letting go the idea that all learning is contextualised into certain settings. Can we simulatneously swich from one set of standards to another set of standards if we contextualise what we do into different settings. Do i as a self-directed learner have multiple sets of standards?

CH5. Personal Learning Contracts for Change: SOL in action (pp. 70-95)

In this chapter the initial idea about learning contracts is introduced.
In learning contracts the learner and the teacher would agree with a set of rules what they agree to follow, these will be negotiated and mutually agreed and then followed.

This refers to the bidirectional scaffolding contract. One aspect of scaffolding is left out that is the fading out kind of actions which emerge dynamically and i doubt this can be contracted some ways.
I don’t think the contract idea was actually using this kind of scaffolding ideas.

Next, the book claims that the realisation of contracts has not been so ideally structured to support learner’s self-awareness of learning. the following aspects must be addressed:
Why i wish to learn something, what is meaningful for me?
What is my strategy to achieve it? What is the order of my actions?
How do I know that i was successful? What worked and what did not?

They also point out that often the learners face learning opportunities in which the inconsistency between the initial strategy of the task and the effective strategy is at present.


Again, it is needed to think what is meaningful? I don’t think it is a universally common and objective property. What are standards? I believe that the rating of what is relevant and what not for one person may be completely different than for another person.

Especially in the learning situations when this contract serves for some observation and support purpose for the tutor, these issues must be negotiated.

Would any online community use this kind of standards? Few days ago i was reading about closed poetry community blog, where certain people have been chosen by the community leader. This community facilitates their creativity by offering some kinds of prompts (images, situations). They also comment their achievements. Can we see it as a contract? In this case these members are purposfully trying to enhance their inspiration as a community.

In the book the iterative process of revising this contract with the help of the instructor is described.
Person is prompted to review what were the strenghts, weaknesses of implementing the strategy and what would be the future steps.

Again, this has to be learner-centered elaboration, rather than pressing the lerarner to the tutor’s path of learning strategies.

Recently i had to review a paper what intended to look at how did teacher’s implement e-learning into their instructional design and whether they used some Instructional Design model steps. The authors interviewed the teachers, and analysed whole dataset having ADDIE model in mind, thus probably the Instructional Design steps, that the teachers’ really had in mind, were left unintended and changed to the common and objectivist simplification. This exaple suggest that the evaluation of one’s strenghts, weaknesses has to be taken using one’s own meaningful set of referents as the set of criteria.

The learning contracts must support personal differencies and encourage people to be unique in the ways how to learn, not create some unified sets of criteria and strategies what garantee effective self-development.

CH 7. Self-organised learning and evaluation how to measure the process of change.

What i really like in this chapter is the idea that evaluation has to take into account the learner’s subjective perspectives.
They suggest that subjective judgements and objective measures must be the complementary sources of evidence for learning and strategically planned growth. The learners must record in timeline evidence of their learning, this evidence of learning must be subjectively traced bu someone who guides the learner; learners must be evaluating what were their meaningful outcomes, this cas to be also done subjectively by tutor; in addition some objective means must be measured as well which suggest indirectly is the learner successive

contract evaluation

I have elaborated the learning contracts in the community in the previous blog entry.

These are my preliminary impressions of the book chapters. I would like to do some thinking relating it with the distributed activity system ideas.


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