Spotlight Session

The Teaching Gestalt: Learning Structures


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This is my rough recollection of the proudest moment in my teaching career:

Student (angrily): You’re not teaching me anything.

Me: But are you learning anything?

Student: Yes. More than any other course I’ve ever taken, as a matter of fact. But it’s because I have to learn everything myself. You’re not teaching me anything.

Teaching is always a distributed process, a gestalt facilitated by crowds of more or less visible participants, notably including the students themselves, and countless others, from textbook authors to timetablers.  By nature, distance and (especially) online learners normally have much more autonomy: they can far better control the time, space, pace, tools, content, media, and interaction in the learning process. However, this comes at a cost, notably including a loss of trust, social engagement and belongingness that comes for ‘free’ in traditional education and that is also essential to intrinsic motivation.

In this learning conversation, we will examine patterns that drive the design of learning experiences, and we will explore alternative ways that we learn, online and not. In particular, we will explore the distinctive social forms that online and face-to-face environments tend to most effectively enable, and ways that we can best take advantage of them. Above all, we will consider the distributed teaching gestalt that our students experience, rather than just focusing on our own practices. This process will, I hope, help to provide a framework to help us all to find better learning solutions.


Jon Dron

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