Monday, May 7, 2012

Zen, the Art of Metacognition & #MOOC Maintenance

Or more about Quality-Based Discrimination, Peer Assessment & Technology in Academic Matters, (Canadian) Journal of Higher Education. All are relevant to autonomous learning and other topics current on various mooc blogs and under discussion among participants. As the post progresses, I see it connect with New Faculty Majority (higher ed teaching, assessment), community (networked publics, informal learning), specific MOOC (Change11, Bon's digital identities) and personal networks /blogging concerns.

Steve Joordens, professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough, writes..

4170408526_4ae59b3e4f_z (113x188)In 1974, Robert M. Pirsig wrote a book entitled “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, within which he provided a philosophical argument for the primacy of quality. Quality is described as a metaphysical underpinning of, well, just about anything; an underpinning from which other characteristics can be derived. I read this book for the first time about 2 years ago, after I had become passionate about using technology to better support the development of meta-cognitive skills in students. I was completely amazed how well Pirsig’s conceptions fit with the sorts of assignments I had been promoting as powerful and much needed. In some sense, his depiction of the primacy of quality made explicit an assumption that was at the core of much of what I was doing.

Read the rest at Zen and the Art of Metacognition: Quality-Based Discrimination, Peer Assessment & Technology | Academic Matters

So here I am connecting it with connectivism, MOOC (especially ones recently following/followed). Connecting is, after all, a connectivist thing, well d'uh. So many connections across multiple distributed and relatively unstructured networks invites chaos, which, we are continually assured, goes with the territory. Vance Stevens speaks of navigating chaos intuitively. Grasshopper, does that sounds Zen to you? It does to me. The wandering mind now wonders if gRSShopper is that one's namesake.

Back to Joordens...
 When we view our jobs primarily as providing content to our students, we are building databases.  When we give our students practice with ... meta-cognitive skills..., we are building scholars.  In my assessment, we do too much off the former, and not nearly enough of the later.
In connectivism terms, we need to cultivate pattern recognition. Joordens recommends simple pattern recognition and comparison exercises to cultivate metacognitive skills. These move into peer and then self-assessment. That sound 'mookish' enough for me to build a post around even if more rambling self reflection than not. Hey, call it metacognition looking for patterns and muttering to itself. His comments about students and databases, contrasted with pattern seeking comparison behavior connect to classroom and informal teaching concerns.
Students are given a very clear sense of how their work compares to that of at least a subset of their peers.  This is an extremely powerful learning signal, and one that we typical do not provide our students with.  What’s more, if they are asked to also rate and comment on their own piece within this context we are strongly supporting self-reflect and self-critical processes, the sort of processes that must be the cornerstone to improvement.
Not cultivating these connections disconnects students from their formal learning situations. School and classrooms become places they are spend time because they have to but without any sense of belonging.

Wondering if I really 'belong' in the MOOC networks I follow exacerbates the disconnect but also drives me to look for other patterns embedded in my digital identities and networked publics. The alternate would be to let disconnect turn me off and away. What constitutes (who defines) "membership" and "belonging" is for another post. If Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance shaped this one, that one might be shaped by The Homeless Mind.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting post Vanessa - I remember well the excitement surrounding “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” when it came out - hmm almost 40 years ago! But I too never read it - now on my todo list. I'm persuaded about spending time "because they have to" - sums up much of what I saw of Higher Education in the last century. Engineering students are never more alive collaborating with others in project work but this was mainly postponed until the final year - after the basics were supposedly pumped into them! I've tried before to envisage how the HE system I knew could be adapted but it beats me. I suspect now that change when it comes will be radical and as they say - disruptive!

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