Pedagogy in a Box: Don’t Underestimate the Messiness of eLearning


This posting is a bit of a free flowing rant as I react to yet another attempt to place ‘pedagogy in a box’ in the context of technology-enhanced learning. I guess it’s human nature or a reflection of the Western condition to impose order on the ‘natural’ messiness of learning and I don’t deny there’s room for a little structure in academic thinking. And I need to self-disclose from the outset that I’m probably one of the most guilty on this front.

However, we need to be extremely wary of the dangers of reifying our abstract, conceptual and theoretical models as they’re rarely a good match with the messy reality of teaching and learning. Indeed, well meaning efforts to put ‘pedagogy in a box’ typically convey reductionist and instrumentalist views of teaching which oversimplify the educative process. These models and frameworks can potentially do great damage. For one thing many of them are constructed on flawed assumptions and lack of solid research evidence.

On that note it’s probably time to climb down from my soapbox but I have just one final point: I always remember as a student that some of my best, most challenging and personally rewarding learning experiences were during the worst taught and designed courses. The lack of explicit learning design actually forecd me to think and search for meaning as a learner. The point is not to support poor course design but rather reiterate there is no recipe or simple matrix that can capture the complexity, messiness and idiosyncratic nature of teaching and learning, and arguably many of the current course design aids and models are continuing to look for love in the wrong place.


About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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