Outline Conceptual Framework

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					Conceptual Framework

Perspectives on learning generally1

Learner Centered Perspective
“A focus on the degree to which environments are learner centered is consistent with the
strong body of evidence suggesting that learners use their current knowledge to construct
new knowledge and that what they know and believe at the moment affects how they
interpret new information. Learner-centered environments attempt to help students make
connections between their previous knowledge and their current academic tasks.”


Knowledge Centered Perspective
“Effective environments must also be knowledge centered. It is not sufficient to attempt
to teach general problem solving and thinking skills; the ability to think and solve
problems requires well-organized knowledge that is accessible in appropriate
contexts…To what extent do they help students learn with understanding versus promote
the acquisition of disconnected sets of facts and skills?”


Assessment Centered Perspective
“Feedback is fundamental to learning , but opportunities to receive it are often scarce… If
the goal is to enhance understanding, it is not sufficient to provide assessments that focus
primarily on memory for facts and formulas.”


Community Centered Perspective
“The fourth perspective on learning environments involves the degree to which they
promote a sense of community. Idealy, students, teachers and other interested participants
share norms that value learning and high standards. Norms such as these increase
people’s opportunities to interact, receive feedback and learn.”
Bransford, Brown and Cocking (editors). 2000. “The Design of Learning Environments”,
How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School (ch6, p 153-154); Committee on
Developments in the Science of Learning, National Academy Press.

Implications
Implications: An effective support system for the STEP students would include all four
perspectives. It would be learner-centered, offering personalized support. It would be
knowledge-centered, providing sensibly organized information that goes beyond
keystrokes and memorized recipes. It would be assessment-centered, offering quick
feedback regarding underlying understanding. It would also support the STEP students as

1
 “The Design of Learning Environments”, How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School (ch6, p 153-154); Committee on
Developments in the Science of Learning, Bransford, Brown and Cocking (editors); National Academy Press, 2000
a community of learners, providing the tools that encourage interaction and feedback as
they learn to use technology together.

Situated learning
“Hallmarks of apprenticeship training methods included situated learning, where students
execute tasks and solve problems in an environment that reveals the various intended
uses of their acquired knowledge; external support or scaffolding from the tutor (or
master) in the form of ideal modeling of the performance, hints, reminders, explanations,
or even missing pieces of knowledge to assist the apprentice’s task execution; fading of
external suppport as the apprentice’s skill and autonomy build; and carefullly sequenced
learning activities that are both sensitive to changing student needs at different stages of
skill acquisition and robust and diverse enough to foster integration and generalization of
knowledge and skill (Collins, Brown, & Newman, 1987)… Cognitive models enable
this interactive and adaptive pedagogy by making tacit knowledge explicit and thus
knowable.”2 (Implications: Technology apprenticeships could become part of the STEP
program. This could include working alongside technology-informed instructors (in
STEP or at local schools) assisting in the use of technology in real-world learning
settings. This would help build a cognitive model of the various ways technology can be
applied, and provide experience (with scaffolding) in the use of the technology. The
support tool or “product” we’re creating could include a “classified ads” or match-
making service for these apprenticeship opportunities.)

Collaborative Inquiry (Situative Approach)
“This approach reflects our belief, building on Vygotsky (1978), that robust knowledge
and understandings are socially constructed through talk, activity and interaction around
meaningful problems, tasks, and tools.”3
Implications: This suggests that the STEP students would benefit greatly from additional
opportunities to discuss and collaborate on projects that use technology. Follow-up events
such as “best practices” sharing, interactive galleries of example work, and follow-on
workshops would be helpful. These could be informal or formal interactions, but
probably need to be officially sponsored (and time allocated) by the STEP program.

Zone of Proximal Development
“At one extreme, in behaviorally oriented social psychoogy, there is an idea of student as
agent without any accompanying notion of student as constructor of knowledge…At the
other extreme is the idea, often linked to Piaget, of the child as natural-born scientist,
building a knowledge of the world through acting on it and trying to make sense of the
results… In between is the Vygotskian notion of child and adult engaged in joint
activities in a zone of proximal development, with child functioning as an agent insofar as
the activities are concerned but with knowledge being an emergent of the social
interaction between the child and more knowledgable other…”4
2
  “Apprenticeship Instruction for Real-World Tasks: The coordination of procedures, Mental Models, and Strategies”, Sherrie Gott;
Review of Research in Education (Rothkopf, 1988-89)
3
  “Appropriating Scientific Discourse: Findings From Language Minority Classrooms” by Rosebery, Warren, Conant; The Journal of
Learning Sciences, p61-94, 1992
4
 “Higher Levels of Agency for Children in Knowledge Building: A Challenge for the Design of New Knowledge Media” by Marlene
Scardamalia and Car Bereiter; The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 1, 37-68, 1991
Explained further by Jim Greeno, the “Zone” is that in-between stage through which a
learner grows in understanding. An effective learning Zone has two characteristics: the
learner is being stretched (but not overly stretched), and the learner is provided with
sufficient scaffolding that offers the support needed to traverse the Zone successfully. As
the learner traverses the Zone, scaffolding slowly fades away.

Implications: A 3-hour workshop will not be successful if it is viewed as a standalone
event. The support tools we’re creating for the STEP students could be viewed as an
extension of the workshop, designed specifically to guide the learners through their Zone
of Proximal Development. The workshop begins the process, and the “support tools and
processes” continue the journey. As such, the STEP students benefit from access to a
“knowledgable other” who is engaged alongside the learner.

Scaffolding
Supports for learning that more experienced persons provide to help less experienced
ones succeed with tasks that are in or just beyond their zone of proximal development.
Some types of scaffolding:
Ideal modeling of the desired performance
Hints, reminders
Explanations
Templates, partially completed tasks
Questions, opportunities for reflection
Problems, exercises graded in difficulty to suit the learner’s needs

Reciprocal teaching
Teams of students learn together. All read or watch. Then one after another plays the role
of teacher, asking questions, summarizing, clarifying, and coaching the others in
repetitions and variations of what they have just learned and in discussing it.


Strategies that foster independent use (retention, reuse,…)
Researchers studying long-term retention of knowledge and skill have identified a
number of methods that positively affect a person’s ability to subsequently recall and use
what they’ve learned. Here is a brief list from several standard sources:
Gage and Berliner (1998) (Educational Psychology (Sixth edition). Boston: Houghton
Mifflin.)
O’Brien (2000) (Learn to Remember. London: Chronicle books.)
Healy, Alice F. et al. 1993. “The long-term retention of knowledge and skills.” The
psychology of learning and motivation 30:135-164.

Learn it well in the first place

Overlearn skills
Gage and Berliner (1998, p. 264) and Healy (1993) independently conclude based on
their reviews of research that students retain better if they overlearn skills to the point of
automaticity.
Practice it
The only skills that people seem to retain for a lifetime without continuing practice are
those that require a constantly varying response adjusting to a constantly varying
stimulus, like skating or riding a bike. Discrete skills that require a succession of discrete
actions “can deteriorate noticeably without practice.” (O’Brien, 2000, p. 39)

Practice repeatedly with breaks
Even five or ten-minute breaks help. “Memory improves steadily over a period of several
minutes after we have stopped learning it.” (O’Brien, 2000, p. 50)

Chunk
Break what you want to learn into fewer than five to seven pieces of no more than five to
seven parts (steps) each.

Generate your own responses during practice
Don’t just repeat the words or examples you’ve been shown. Invent your own and try
them. If they don’t work, figure out why.

Form vivid mental images
Generate personally meaningful images. Unusual images, exaggerated, even surreal ones,
are more easily recalled. (O’Brien, 2000; Gage and Berliner, 1998) Apparently, we
encode images differently in our brains than we encode verbal information, so forming
images gives us a second independent encoding.

Associate
Tie what is to be learned to something you already know in a clear and consistent way.

Method of loci
From ancient times comes the method of associating items in a list with places (loci) on a
familiar route.

Keyword method
Associate a new word with a familiar one that the new one reminds you of. For example,
to learn the Spanish word carta, meaning (postal) letter, one might associate it with the
image of a cart carrying a letter.

Principles from experienced software trainers

Strive for conceptual (vs. procedural – how-to-do-it) understanding
Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (v 16, n 4, December 2000) [special issue on
software training]

Limit and manage technical vocabulary

				
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