Lessons I learned from reading John Tagg’s “Learning Paradigm College”

Howdy folks,

Today, I want to introduce to you a great book about education and life I read some time ago: “The Learning Pardadigm College” by John Tagg. I read this book for my research on designing a new course concept for the Software Engineering course at  the Duale Hochschule of Karlsruhe and got a great bunch of inspiration from reading it that I want to share with you now. But some important questions first.

P question

What do you think about the Learning Paradigm College?

What do you think are the problems we are facing as students and as teachers at university/college/school?

Have you ever worked in a project in school/college/university and how did it feel compared to everyday’s learning?

I love to read and answer your comments, thanks in advance!

So now we can begin with the lessons I learned from reading John Tagg’s “Learning Paradigm College”.

Guidance from the map and feedback when you see a roadsign you expected to see. (Photo credit: fotalia.de)

Guidance from the map and feedback when you see a roadsign you expected to see. (Photo credit: fotalia.de)

Teaching is never adequate to cause successful learning because no matter how well you guide me in advance, I still need to determine whether I am successfully doing what you asked me to. (S. 189)

Guidance gives direction; feedback tells me whether I am on track or off track in a way that enables me to self-adjust. (S. 189)

This is an important thought first: A teacher can tell a student what to do but the student will need feedback from the teacher to determine if he/she is still on the way to success and how he/she could do better. If the teacher fails to give accurate feedback, every exercise will probably result in frustration for every student that accidentally lost the road (the way to success).

Many students will take time to learn to use their freedom because they have adopted a radically short time horizon, thinking in terms of the next test or the next assignment. (S. 245)

If you implement a new course concept which uses Problem-based and Collaborative learning (which I would really appreciate by the way, please remember to share your findings and experiences with us. Thanks!), don’t expect the students to change their habits from one day to another. As Tagg says, they have adopted a very short time horizon which makes it hard for them to work on problems that do not directly lead to the next test. This was the reason that I decided for the Software engineering course re-redesign to plan for almost weekly grades but always paired with feedback which is important to the students to improve as they will do the same activity again and again in the course.

When students write reflective journals or essays about their experience in the field – in internships, research, or service – they reify their formative meanings. And when they discuss those reflections, they participate in the ongoing negotiation of meaning. (S. 259)

Planned student activities during a "lecture" in my re-redesign of the Software Engineering course

Planned student activities during a “lecture” in my re-redesign of the Software Engineering course

In my SE course re-redesign, students are expected to write regular blog entries that are graded and that they receive feedback on. In their teams they discuss what they learned and how their project is doing and write a blog entry about it. Additionally, there are peer reviews for submitted project progresses with predefined criteria. The meaning of this criteria has to be negotiated, too.

Only if the teachers are learners too, and if they are seen to be learners, can they genuinely model deep learning for the apprentice learners in the community. The best design for learning in classrooms, it seems to me, is the combination of several teachers with a group of students who are addressing a theme that none of them quite has charge of, the meaning of which must be negotiated by the teachers as well as the students. (S. 263)

In this very inspiring quote, Tagg claims (in my opinion) for cross-discipline Problem-based and Collaborative teaching. There we get to a very central point of the Learning Paradigm College: Opposed to the Instruction Paradigm College with its “One teacher, one room, x students all focussed on the teacher (or should be)”, the Learning Paradigm College expects you to drop all the unjustificable relicts from the history of education: The blackboard and the teacher table do not have to be in front of the classroom and the chairs should not be arranged in lines. You may ask if it is still school then? No and yes. No, it will not be like school we know it today. But yes, it will (finally) be a school in the meaning of a “place where students learn something for life”.

English: 5th floor lecture hall at Baruch Coll...

English: 5th floor lecture hall at Baruch College. Taken on the day of an Economics Final Examination. The watermark is my own; I have full rights to this image and am the original photographer for this image. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A lecture hall affords sitting among a mass and listening. The overwhelming message sent by the room is “sit down and watch what happens at the front of the room.” (S. 290)

Lining up the chairs in rows is an Instruction Paradigm habit. (S. 309)

As I already told you, the Learning Paradigm College expects you to drop all the unjustificable relicts from the history of education…

Shupe’s template for categorizing learning outcomes:

–          Understanding: a student’s demonstration of what he or she knows and understands within a specific context

–          Performance: a student’s demonstration of what he or she can do that is specific to a context

–          Perspective: a student’s demonstration of what he or she knows and understands that can be carried from one context to another

Capability: a student’s demonstration of what he or she can do that can be carried from one context to another.

(S. 301)

This template can be used to evaluate a student. And remember, evaluation is to analyze where the student can still improve in a learning environment that has a long time horizon. If you do so, please share your findings and experiences with us. Thanks!

Rich feedback leads to learning, while frequent evaluation often deters it. (S. 332)

Think about it in relation to deep learning vs. short time horizon created by test and drop.

Collaboration Rooms

Collaboration Rooms (Photo credit: Robert E. Kennedy Library at Cal Poly)

A major focus of course redesign should be to create communities of practice among students. (S. 330)

Go for Collaborative learning, internships and team project work!

Everything depends upon how the institution uses technology, whether it reinforces the cool cognitive economy that thrives in most institutions today or raises the temperature. […] On the other hand, if we look at many online courses offered today, we see a very cool cognitive economy, where students are isolated and denied significant feedback for most of their activities.

I laughed wenn reading these lines in Taggs book because I remembered the Duale Hochschule using Moodle but having deactivated the messaging function between students so that only the teacher could communicate to (not with) the students. Does not sound like Instruction Paradigm yet? You have to read or ask about it again, I guess…

If the goal is to facilitate and highlight student performances, the tools that count most are the tools that students use. (S. 333)

So Facebook and Co. have a great potential for learning? Anyone got any experiences with it? Would be great to read about, share them with us, please. Thanks!

So much for now, I added the “Golden rule – a kind of Ten Commandments for teachers” to the poll to vote for the next blog entry. Maybe you want to learn more about it…

P question

P question (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What do you think about the Learning Paradigm College?

What do you think are the problems we are facing as students and as teachers at university, college and school?

Have you ever worked in a project or taken an internship in school, college or university and how did it feel compared to everyday’s learning?

I love to read and answer your comments, thanks in advance!

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6 thoughts on “Lessons I learned from reading John Tagg’s “Learning Paradigm College”

  1. Pingback: Ten Thoughts That Changed My Life | On the light side of gamification

  2. Pingback: What’s “The Learning Paradigm College” ? | Classroom Aid

  3. Greetings Chris,
    What are colleges for? This simple, but profound, question begins the book: “The Learning Paradigm College” by John Tagg..

    I have not read the book, however I invested some effort into researching it and have read a few free pages, excerpts, and summaries.
    Yes, John Tagg has some sound observations about the limits within colleges. However, John Taylor Gatto is more blunt when he said: “University is a great illusion”.
    I encourage everyone to read John Taylor Gatto’s book “Weapons of Mass Instruction”, or view: “The Ultimate History Lesson”, or view his lectures on youtube.

    https://www.tragedyandhope.com/th-films/the-ultimate-history-lesson/catalog/research-bonus-pack/
    “This interview also includes solutions, documents, and references; asking only that you consider the information – THINK FOR YOURSELF – and communicate with others in order to share a higher-level of awareness, thus protecting ourselves from financial predators.”

    When I was enrolled in the university the goal was to qualify for a paid profession.
    Later that goal morphed into my desire to learn the steps to operate my own business.
    In that final pursuit I discovered what the university were for and I also discovered that the university failed to offer what I wanted and I discovered that hands on experience was more important than textbook information.
    There may exist some colleges and universities that apply training tools for practical applications rather than relying on lectures and textbooks, but the real treasure I discovered was that the true teaching and learning comes from within.

    My wish is that you find this helpful.
    Sincerely,
    Ron

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