aligning before learning

This week I took Alastair Somerville’s workshop on Network Thinking. The format is based on a podcast, followed by a discussion on Zoom, supported by a card designed by Alastair. I must say it was quite effective. A key actionable insight I gained from our session was the importance of Alignment — “Sharing a moment to align a sense of place, of time, and togetherness. Rooting learning in a shared, but still personal, sense of being”. This reflects many aspects of PKM as well as social learning.

I was reminded of Marilyn Taylor’s (1987) model on how students learn in formal education. First they may be disoriented, and this lasts for different periods of time for each student. Then they are ready explore, and the end of which they reorient their thinking. They then achieve some kind of equilibrium until the next disorienting situation.

In 2007 I suggested that this disorientation in learning is becoming more frequent in workplace learning. I concluded that in information intensive work environments (which are almost everywhere), there will be longer and more frequent periods between disorientation and reorientation. That means that we have to be comfortable exploring options and possibilities, even though we lack a solid mental framework or easy solutions. Artists do this all the time and now it’s necessary for all of us.

Considering how much teaching and learning is done online and that it is difficult to align so many different perspectives, places, and even a sense of togetherness, it is important to find ways to assist with initial alignment. This could decrease the period of disorientation and provide more time for less stressful exploration. Showing Taylor’s model at the beginning of any intervention may be helpful. Providing cards as Alastair has done was helpful to me. Using ‘advance organizers’, developed by David Ausubel, is another established good practice in teaching.

Advance Organizers ARE:

Organizational cues
Tools that help connect the known to the unknown
Frameworks for helping students understand what it is they’ll be learning

Advance organizers are NOT

A review of what was covered in the previous class session
A simple overview
Recalling what was done last week or last year
Telling the students about tomorrow
Recalling a personal experience and relating it to what will be learned
Stating the objectives of the lesson
TOPR University of Central Florida

I will definitely put more consideration into alignment when designing any future workshops.

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