TLCANZ18: Applying a Learner Driven Philosophy

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Applying a Learner-Driven Philosophy Into a ‘Deep Pattern’ Across Multiple Moodle Sites



What happens when you put a ‘learner-driven’ philosophy in the centre of the course design? How does it translate into the teaching and learning strategies and the organisation of the online site? This presentation looks at the process of developing a fully online Master of Laws degree at Flinders University, and highlights in particular how its philosophy is materialised in the online learning management environment and its tools.

The bespoke 'learner-driven' philosophy is a bricolage of a number of learning philosophies, apposite because "no single method is likely to meet all the requirements teachers face in a digital age" (Bates, 2014, p. 75). It draws on and combines aspects of experience-based learning, which engages 'the whole person' (Andresen, Boud, & Cohen, 2000); transformative learning, which aims to develop autonomous thinking (Mezirow, 1997); networked learning, which focuses on the pedagogical value of the connections between people and resources (Goodyear, Banks, Hodgson, & McConnell, 2004); self-directed learning, in which learners are expected to take the initiative and responsibility for their learning (Knowles, 1975); and personalised learning, which enables students to make choices based on their preferences. This learning philosophy is made explicit to the student in every unit of the course, and underpins the topic culture and expectations.

Each unit follows the same educational pattern (Goodyear, 2005) which consists of three concurrent activities: whole-of-cohort activities, often creating shared resources; a small group project with staged peer feedback; and an individual research essay based on a ‘focus of concern’ identified as important to the student. Assessment strategies include weekly self-reports which trigger teacher feedback, and a macro reflective self-assessment also peer reviewed. The unit site is organised with a narrative-style layout – a strength of the Moodle platform. The whole design pattern is used intact across nine separate units, taking the idea of consistency of the student experience to its extreme: for each new topic the structure and expectations are familiar, and only the subject matter is new. As such the design enacts a strange reversal: it ‘assumes’ the activities of learning as given, and instead directs student and teacher attention to the content and its materials – a renaissance of the substance of the curriculum, perhaps?

This presentation will also outline the unorthodox process of development in which the coordinator and educational designer worked carefully together for two years to bring the philosophy into its current form, exemplifying the principles of ‘slow design’ (Strauss & Fuad-Luke, 2008) and demonstrating a true working partnership between colleagues. In line with the principles, it understood that a design is always in process; and as such research into the initiative is beginning to reveal possibilities for new ways of bringing the philosophy into practice.

Andresen, L., Boud, D., & Cohen, R. (2000). Experience-based learning. Understanding adult education and training, 2, 225-239.
Bates, T. (2014). Teaching in a digital age. Open Textbook.
Strauss, C., & Fuad-Luke, A. (2008). The Slow Design Principles. Proceedings of Changing the Change.
Goodyear, P. (2005). Educational design and networked learning: Patterns, pattern languages and design practice. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 21(1).
Goodyear, P., Banks, S., Hodgson, V., & McConnell, D. (2004). Research on networked learning: aims and approaches. Advances in research on networked learning. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Knowles, M. S. (1975). Self-directed learning.
Mezirow, J. (1997). Transformative learning: Theory to practice. New directions for adult and continuing education, 1997(74), 5-12.