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The value of adversity in learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 18:33

Seery, M, Holman, E, & Silver, R 2010, 'Whatever does not kill us: Cumulative lifetime adversity, vulnerability, and resilience', Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 99, 6, pp. 1025-1041, PsycARTICLES, EBSCOhost, viewed 12 February 2014.

And failure is good for deep learning  Seeley Brown http://www.johnseelybrown.com/newlearning.pdf 

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Learning Theories in a mind map

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 18 Nov 2013, 13:56

Fig. 1. Learning Theories. Click on this and you can grab the original in a variety of sizes from the Picasa Web Album where it resides. (Created using SimpleMinds APP)

In an effort to impose some logic these are now grouped and various links also made. The reality might be take a large bowl of water then drip into these 12 coloured inks. The reality of how we learn is complex and will only be made the more so with fMRI imaging and advances in neuroscience.

My favourite Learning Theory here is one that Knud Illeris (2009) came up with - not learning at all, resistance too or defence learning. You just block it. That's how I did 9 years of Latin and can decline how to love a table - I have no idea anymore what 'ramabottom' or some such means either. Ditto French as taught before secondary school and Chemistry - right or wrong, tick and box in a multiple choice each week. Still, for someone who couldn't give a fig for either this approach got me through on a C grade. For French the 'holistic' approach worked a treat - French exchange, then back to hitch through France with some French guys who didn't have a word of English, then got a job out there. Chemistry worked best with my Chemistry 7 set.

Activity Theory and Communities of Practice are surely in meltdown with the connectivity of Web 2.0?

The nodes and silos are too easily circumvented by each of us going directly to the source. 'Community of Ideas' works best for me.

Learning Theories

1) Neurophysiological - stimulus response, optmization of memory processes: Sylvester, 1995; Edelman, 1994; Jarvis, 1987.

2) Holistic - Illeris, 2009.

3) Behaviorist - Stimulus response pairs, Skinner, 1974.

4) Cognitive - Communication, how the brain receives, internalises and recalls information, problem solving, explanation, recombination, contrast, building upon information structures, focus on internal cognitive structures, models, methods and schemas, information processing, inferences.; Wenger, 1987; Hutchins, 1993; Anderson, 1983; Piaget, 1952.

5) Constructivist - Learners build their own mental structures, design orientated, assimilative learning (Illeris, 2009); task-orientated, cohort/collaborative group. Leonard, 2010): Vygotsky, 1934; Piaget, 1954; Bruner, 1993; Papert, 1980.

6) Transformative Learning - significant (Roger, 1951, 59); Transformative (Mezirow, 1994); Expansive (Engestrom, 1987); Transitional (Alheit, 1994).

7) Social - Socialization, a psychological perspective, imitation of norms, acquisition of membership, interpersonal relations (Bandura, 1977)

8) Communities of Practice - The focus is on participation and the role this plays to attract and retain new ‘members’; knowledge transfer is closely tied to the social situation where the knowledge is learned, (Learnard, 2010); shared, social and almost unintentional; legitimate peripheral participation (Lave, ); taking part in the practices of the community. A framework that considers learning in social terms. Lave & Wenger, 1991.

9) Communities of Interest -

10) Accommodative Learning - Illeris, 2007.

11) Activity Theories - Learners bridge the knowledge gap via the zone of proximal development, Wertsch, 1984. Historically constructed activities as entities. Thinking, reasoning and learning is a socially and culturally mediated phenomenon. Learnard, 2010. Engestrom, 1987; Vygotsky, 1934; Wertsch, 1984.

12) Organizational - How people in an organisation learn and how organisations learn. Organizational systems, structures and politics. Brown and Dugiod, 1995. Noaka and Takeuchi, 1991.

13) Resistance to/defence learning - Illeris, 2007

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Balancing on a thin line - Thoughts from a study of Swedish voluntary leaders in children’s football.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 18 Nov 2013, 13:34

Learning and identity

The concepts of learning and identity are closely interwoven and seen as a social process of making meaning, primly inspired by the situated learning. (Wenger 1998)

Identity is not only about our self image or other people’s image of ourselves, it is our way of living our everyday life, it is the layers of experiences and interpretations that we have made by participating in social practices (Wenger 1998) the nature of participation, power, enterprise, mutual engagement and sociality, shared repertoire, and identity

‘Legitimate peripheral participation is not itself an educational form, much less a pedagogical strategy or a teaching technique. It is an analytical viewpoint on learning, a way of understanding learning. We hope to make clear as we proceed that learning through legitimate peripheral participation takes place no matter which educational form provides a context for learning, or whether there is any intentional educational form at all'.
(Lave and Wenger 1991, page 40).

Communities of Practice was developed by considering a wide range of apprenticeship learning situations, from traditional tailors through to participation in communities such as alcoholics anonymous.

Learning is thus characterised as a process of changing participation, from initial peripheral participation of the apprentice or, more generally, newcomer to the practices to the fuller participation available to a 'master' or old timer in the practices.

Wenger (1998) identifies three essential features:

  • mutual engagement
  • a joint enterprise
  • a shared repertoire.

Engaging in practice over a period of time develops a shared repertoire of practices,
understandings, routines, actions, and artefacts (Wenger 1998).

Participation in communities of practice is not only about learning to do, but as a part of doing, it is about learning to be (Lave and Wenger 1991)

Firstly, it shifts the focus from teaching to learning and the practices the learner engages in (Adler 1998). 

Secondly, it recharacterises the role of the teacher as not primarily being a holder of knowledge but an expert in the practices of a subject based community. The teacher exemplifies for the learner how to legitimately participate in these practices.

Thirdly, as a situated theory of learning it helps to explains the issue of a lack of ‘transfer’ of knowledge from school to non-school contexts (see Evans 2000; Lave 1988; Lerman 1999, for a discussion of this issue).

Fourthly, it recognises the intimate connection between the ‘subject’ practices and the pedagogical practices and therefore helps us to understand why different pedagogies not only influence the amount that is learned but also what is learned. The acquisition (Lave 1988) or representational model (Seely Brown and Duguid 1989) of learning in school contexts distinguishes between what the students are to learn or to ‘acquire’, and the means by which this learning occurs. A division is made between subject and pedagogy.

Fifthly, it highlights the extent to which educators are not imparting knowledge nor even only helping their students to engage in particular social practices but rather to become particular types of human beings. Thus it opens avenues of inquiry to understand learners' patterns of identification and non-identification with schools mathematics (see for example, Boaler 2000)

The community of practice model, based on the metaphor or actuality of apprenticeship learning identifies three basic positions that participants take up.

These can be referred to in the following way:

  • master/old-timer/expert,
  • journeyman/established-member/adept,
  • apprentice/newcomer/novice.


However, it is clear that the basic positions in a classroom are not like this, there is generally a single teacher and a relatively large number of pupils. Moreover, the trajectory of participation of the student is not to become a teacher (Adler 1998; Lemke 1997; Lerman 1998).

One way of reconceptualising or extending Communities of Practice is to consider learning as taking place in 'ecologies of practices' (Boylan 2004)


Adler, J. (1998) "Lights and limits: Recontextualising Lave and Wenger to theorise knowledge ofteaching and of learning school mathematics." In Situated Cognition and the Learning of Mathematics, ed. Anne Watson, 161-177. Oxford: Centre for Mathematics Education, University of Oxford Department of Educational Studies.

Boaler, J. (2000) "Mathematics from another world: Traditional communities and the alienation of learners." Journal of Mathematical Behaviour 18, no. 3: 379-397.

Boylan, M (2004) Questioning (in) school mathematics: Lifeworlds and ecologies of practice PhD Thesis. Sheffield Hallam University

Herting, K (2006) Balancing on a thin line - Thoughts from a study of Swedish voluntary leaders in children’s football. AARE’s 36th Annual International Education Research Conference Adelaide Australia November 27 -30 2006

Lave, J, and Wenger.E (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lemke, J. (1997) "Cognition, context, and learning: A social semiotic perspective." In Situated Cognition: Social, Semiotic, and Psychological Perspectives, ed. David Kirshner and JamesWhitson, 37-56. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Lerman, S. (1998) "Learning as social practice: An appreciative critique." In Situated
Cognition and the Learning of Mathematics, ed. Anne Watson, 33-42. Oxford: Centre for
Mathematics Education, University of Oxford Department of Educational Studies.

Seely Brown, J, and P. Duguid. (1991) Organisational learning and communities of practice: Toward a unified view of working, learning and innovation. Accessed November 2000. Available from http://www.parc.xerox.com/ops/members/brown/papers/orglearning.htm.

Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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How people learn and the implications for design

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 21 Feb 2014, 15:43

Had this been the title of a post-graduate diploma in e–learning it would have been precisely what I was looking for a decade ago – the application of theory, based on research and case studies, to the design and production of interactive learning – whether DVD or online.

A few excellent, practical guides did this, but as a statement of fact, like a recipe in a cook book: do this and it’ll work, rather than suggesting actions based on research, evidence-based understanding and case studies.

Mayes and de Frietas (2004) are featured in detail in Appendix 1 of Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age (2007) Beetham and Sharpe.

Four types of learning are featured:

  • 1. associative
  • 2. constructive (individual)
  • 3. constructive (social)
  • 4. and situative.

Of these I see associative used in corporate training online – with some constructive (individual), while constructive (social) is surely the OU's approach?

Situative learning may be the most powerful – through application in a collaborative, working environment I can see that this is perhaps describes what goes on in any case, with the wiser and experienced passing on knowledge and know how to juniors, formally as trainees or apprentices, or informally by 'being there' and taking part.

Each if these approaches have their champions:

Associative – Skinner, Gagné (1985).

Constructive (individual) – Piaget (1970), Papert (1993), Kolb (1984), Biggs (1999).

Constructive (social) – Vygotsky (1978).

Situative – Wenger (1998), Cole (1993), Wertsch. (Also Cox, Seely Brown). Wertsch (1981), Engestrom (), Cole and Engeström (1993)

Beetham and Sharpe (2007:L5987) – the ‘L’ refers to the location in a Kindle Edition. I can’t figure out how to translate this into a page reference.

How people learn and the implications for design

Associative – Skinner, Gagné (1985) (in Mayes and de Frietas, 2004)

Building concepts or competences step by step.

The Theory

People learn by association through:

  • basic stimulus–response conditioning,
  • later association concepts in a chain of reasoning,
  • or associating steps in a chain of activity to build a composite skill.

Associativity leads to accuracy of reproduction. (Mnemonics are associative devices).

  • Routines of organized activity.
  • Progression through component concepts or skills.
  • Clear goals and feedback.
  • Individualized pathways matched to performance.
  • Analysis into component units.
  • Progressive sequences of component–to–composite skills or concepts.
  • Clear instructional approach for each unit.
  • Highly focused objectives.

For Assessment

  • Accurate reproduction of knowledge.
  • Component performance.
  • Clear criteria: rapid, reliable feedback.
  • Guided instruction.
  • Drill and practice.
  • Instructional design.
  • Socratic dialogue.

FURTHER READING (and viewing)

Brown, J.S. (2002) The Social Life of Information

Brown, J.S. (2007) October 2007 webcast: http://stadium.open.ac.uk/stadia/preview.php?whichevent=1063&s=31

+My notes on this:


+The transcript of that session:



Biggs, J (1999) Teaching for Quality Learning at University, Buckingham: The Society for Research in Higher Education and Open University Press.  (Constructive alignment)

Cole, M. and Engestrom, Y. (1993) ‘A cultural-historical approach to distributed cognition’, in G. Salomon (ed.) Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations, New Work: Cambridge University Press.

Conole, G. (2004) Report on the Effectiveness of Tools for e-Learning, Bristol: JISC (Research Study on the Effectiveness of Resources, Tools and Support Services used by Practitioners in Designing and Delivering E-Learning Activities)

Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Engeström, Y (1999) ‘Activity theory and individual and social transformation’, in Y. Engeström, R, Miettinen and R.-L. Punamaki (eds) Perspectives on Activity Theory, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Eraut, M (2000) ‘Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work’, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70:113-36

Gagné, R. (1985) The Conditions of Learning, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Gagné, R.M., Briggs, L.J. and Wagner, W.W. (1992) Principles of Instructional Design, New Work: Hoplt, Reihhart & Winston Inc.

Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as a Source of Learning and Development, (Kolb’s Learning Cycle) Englewoods Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

Kolb, D.A. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development, Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice Hall.

Littlejohn, A. and McGill, L. (2004) Effective Resources for E-learning, Bristol: JISC (Research Study on the Effectiveness of Resources, Tools and Support Services used by Practitioners in Designing and Delivering E-learning Activities).

Mayes, T. and de Frietas, S. (2004) 'Review of e–learning theories, frameworks and models. Stage 2 of the e–learning models disk study', Bristol. JISC. Online.

Piaget, J. (1970) Science of Education and the Psychology of the Child (Constructivist Theory of Knowledge), New Work: Orion Press.

Papert, S. (1993) Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas, New Work: Perseus.

Piaget, J. (2001) The Language and Thought of the Child, London: Routledge Modern Classics.

Seely-Brown, J.S and Duguid, P. (1991) ‘Organizational learning and communities-of-practice: toward a unified view of working, learning and innovation’, Organizational Science, 2 (1): 40-57

Schon, D (1983) The Reflective Practioner: How Professional Think in Action, New York: Basic Books.

Sharpe, R (2004) ‘How do professionals learn and develop? In D.Baume and P.Kahn (eds) Enhancing Staff and Educational Development, London: Routledge-Flamer, pp. 132-53.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978) Mind in Society, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Vygotsky, L.S. (1986) Thought and Languages, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wertsch, J.V. (1981) (ed.) The Concept of Activity in Soviet Psychology, Armonk, N

Appendix and references largely from Beetham, H, and Sharpe, R (2007) Rethinking Pedagogy in a digital age.

See also Appendix 4: Learning activity design: a checklist

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How to improve retention - scaffolding, mentors, interaction and community

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 18 Nov 2013, 13:40

Fig.1. For online learning to work you need scaffolding - Drawing by Simon Fieldhouse

Levels of interaction and support

  • Drop out rates from 20-50% for online courses ... more than for traditional courses.

A full breakdown of the figures, how prepared, representing which institutions and student groups would be helpful. Anyone can use a statistic if they don't identify its source.

Really this bad?

But if they've paid their fees the college has its cash and can free up resources. Do the bean counters recognise the contribution those quitting to make a course viable, let alone profitable? Educational Institutions should go to extraordinary lengths to attract and retain the right people to courses and to keep them on board and fully engaged.

A major issue is the degree of academic integration.

  • Performance
  • Academic self-esteem
  • Identity as a student

Against sticking with a course are :

  • isolation
  • instructional ineffectiveness
  • failing academic achievement
  • negative attitudes
  • overall dissatisfaction with the learning experience

Self-directed skill set:

  • self-discipline
  • the ability to work alone
  • time management
  • learning independence
  • a plan for completing

Especially Self-directed learning skills ... that are developed in a social context through a variety of human-oriented interactions with peers and colleagues, teams, informal social networks, and communities of practice.

'These challenges to the retention of distance learners, interestingly enough, have something in common, they seem to hinge on learners' need for significant support in the distance learning environment through interaction with others (e.g. peers, instructors, and learner support services personnel).' Tait (2000)

The central functions of learner support services for students in distance education settings are:

  • cognitive
  • affective
  • systemic

Scaffolding - ZPD (Vygotsky, 1934) Scaffolding involves providing learners with more structure during the early stages of a learning activity and gradually turning responsibility over to learners as they internalize and master the skills needed to engage in higher cognitive functioning. (Palinscar, 1986; Rosenshine and Meister, 1992).

Scaffolding has a number of important characteristics to consider when determining the types of learner support services distance students may need:

Academic course 'scaffolding':

  • Provides structure
  • Functions as a tool
  • Extends the range of the learner
  • Allows the learner to accomplish a task that would otherwise not be possible
  • Helps to ensure the learner's success
  • Motivates the learner
  • Reduces learner frustration
  • Is used, when needed, to help the learner, and can be removed when the learner can take on more responsibility.

(Greenfield, 1984; McLoughlin and Mitchell, 2000; Wood et al., 1976)

'Scaffolding is an inherently social process in which the interaction takes places in a collaborative context.'

In relation to learning with the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA)

  • Are people coming onto the Level II course who are not yet suitable? Do they submit a learning orientation questionnaire?
  • Is the candidate's club or pool operator giving them ample assistant teaching opportunities and support?

Mentors utilise the items gathered during the admissions process - data from the intake interview, self-assessment, diagnostic pre-assessment, and Learning Orientation Questionnaire - to develop to Academic Action Plan, that provides a roadmap for the learner's academic progress including information about learning resources and assessment dates.' At WGU.

Learning is a function of the activity, context, and culture in which it occurs - i.e., it is situated (Wenger, 1998).

Successful completion of and satisfaction with an academic experience is directly related to students' sense of belonging and connection to the program and courses (Tinto, 1975).

Social learning experiences, such as peer teaching, group projects, debates, discussion, and other activities that promote knowledge construction in a social context, allow learners to observe and subsequently emulate other students' models of successful learning.'

'A learning community can be defined as a group of people, connected via technology mediated communications, who actively engage one another in collaborative learner-centred activities to intentionally foster the creation of knowledge, while sharing a number of values and practices, including diversity, mutual appropriation, and progressive discourse.'

N.B. 'Creating a positive psychological climate built upon trusting human relationships.'


Collins, A., Brown, J. S., & Newman, S. (1989). Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the craft of reading, writing, and mathematics. In L. Resnick (Ed.), Knowing, learning and instruction: Essays in honor of Robert Glaserm, 453-494.

Duguid, Paul (2005). "The Art of Knowing: Social and Tacit Dimensions of Knowledge and the Limits of the Community of Practice". The Information Society (Taylor & Francis Inc.): 109–118.

Ludwig-Hardman & Dunlap. (2003) Learner Support Services for Online Students: Scaffolding for success in The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol 4, 10, 1 (2003)

Palincsar, A.S. (1986). Reciprocal teaching. In Teaching reading as thinking. Oak Brook, IL: North Central Regional Educational Laboratory.

Rosenshine, B. & Meister, C. (1992) The use of scaffolds for teaching higher-level cognitive strategies. Educational leadership, 49(7), 26-33.

Seely Brown, John; Duguid, Paul (1991). "Organizational learning and communities-of-practice: Toward a unified view of working, learning and innovation". Organization Science 2 (1).JSTOR 2634938.

Tait, J (2004) The tutor/facilitator role in retention. Open Learning, Volume 19, Number 1, February 2004 , pp. 97-109(13)

Tinto, V (1975) Dropout from Higher Education: A Theoretical Synthesis of Recent Research. Review of Educational Research Vol.45, No1, pp.89-125.

Vygotsky. L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of the higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: The Harvard University Press Vygotsky, L. S. (1998a). Infancy (M. Hall, Trans.). In R. W. Rieber (Ed.), The collected works of L. S. Vygotsky: Vol. 5. Child psychology (pp. 207-241). New York: Plenum Press. (Original work written 1933-1934)

Wenger, Etienne (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-66363-2.

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