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UK-ICER20 keynote – Extra materialsAs of 9 Sept 2020, this page is (belatedly) complete as intended.
Department of Psychology,
University of Glasgow.
This page links back to my web pages to do with CCSE and some talks given as part of its "reading group".
This page contains extra materials such as references related to my keynote "Reflections on Computing Education Research" at UK-ICER20.
Why and how is peer interaction so important in learning? It does not rely on a peer telling you the right answer, nor on the soundness of their judgement. It works by making the learner question themselves under the stimulus of a peer suggesting something different. A peer is often more effective at this than a teacher (or someone you judge ignorant): because with a peer, if you disagree, there is roughly a 50% chance of them being right or wrong, which forces you to think about issue rather than relying on the status of the person. They act as a catalyst to your own thinking, not a source of pre-digested knowledge. They prompt subsequent learning through a metacognitive mechanism. In my view, this underlies both RPC (this section), and Mazur's PI (see below). An argument about how this works is given in Draper (2009), which also relates it to some empirical studies in psychology.
Draper,S.W. (2009) "Catalytic assessment: understanding how MCQs and EVS can foster deep learning" British Journal of Educational Technology vol.40 no.2 pp.285-293 doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2008.00920.x
Why might Paul Nurse's opinions be worth listening to? He has a Nobel prize; he has been President of the Royal Society; he is director of the Crick Institute. (And also, he didn't qualify for entry to any UK university; but fortunately for science, someone with more interest in getting good students than in following bad educational ideas bent the rules.)
In the talk I put it differently. Constructivism at its most basic can be thought of as these observations:
Learning is the same: defined by BOTH the intended learning outcome of the teacher AND the learner's prior knowledge, experiences, and perhaps misconceptions.
In my opinion, the issues raised in the CMU studies are largely about whether and how students feel in those classes: a feeling of belonging there. The paper at this conference which, to my mind, also revolves round this issue is: Catherine Mooney and Brett Becker "Sense of Belonging in Female Computer Science Students and their Self-declared Minority Status" (2020) doi: 10.1145/3416465.3416476. The feeling of belonging, and its opposite, correspond quite closely to what Tinto called "social integration". His theory was about what mainly predicted retention vs. dropout in HE; and the two major factors, Tinto posited, were "social integration" and "academic integration". My notes (and references, AND a diagram) on Tinto's theory are here.
Tinto's theory came essentially from Sociology, and by analogy with Durkheim's theory of suicide that apparently used two similar factors (Durkheim's were Social Integration, and Moral Regulation). I myself have basically been educated only in highly individualistic models of humans, and for people like me it is important to try to grapple with and address social aspects of education. I have brief notes on alternative senses of the word/idea "social".
He was clear about fun, and indeed love, associated with some objects and activities. He thus certainly was interested in connections between hobby activities and reasoning; and between both of these and developing formal reasoning and abstract concepts.
A significant element in his thinking was the notion he adopted from Lévi-Strauss' of "bricolage" – roughly, the kind of DIY that handymen do, but which perhaps we do mentally rather than physically when first knocking together a new concept out of old and familiar pieces of old ideas that were originally used for something else.
This is similar in fact to Darwin's theory of evolution. Contrary to shallow understandings of it (which only grasp the importance of being well adapted to an environment, and then equate "well adapted for" with "perfectly engineered for"), Darwin's theory says that an organism's form and function is the joint effect of the interplay of pressures (1) to adapt, and (2) of having inherited a body that was originally adapted for a different environment, and so inherits a lot of features which are poor solutions to current needs.
Some references related to constructionism:
"Creative" is a word quite frequently thrown around in education; and often in a number of apparently disconnected contexts. However there is a good theory of creativity that makes many good points. "Creativity is the ability to come up with ideas or artefacts that are new, surprising, and valuable." [from Boden] (Here is my 13,000 word web page with references and my notes on Boden's analysis of creativity.)
Most sentences you speak, and all essays written are novel and useful; but being surprising to the teacher is what marks out the creative and outstanding student.
A little more on Dewey:
"Realism": play vs. useful physical work
In the previous diagram of Dewey's concept, flow probably corresponds to the mid-point on the "realism" axis (play -- work; silliness -- realism), but the high point of enjoyment. But for Czickmilhail, flow is not only intensely enjoyable but is also intensely serious and valued. So: there are two distinct human values emerging here, both of which may support flow: "work" and "play". I suggest that work corresponds to producing material effects of value; and play produces informative (knowledge, learning) effects. Thus the graph may even imply that optimal experiences manage to fulfill both values in one activity.
Learning vs. doing as the goal of an action.
Dewey's "realism" is about play vs. work (adult-valued activity). But a fuller view of this dimension is the contrast between: Acting-to-learn-by-seeing-what-happens vs. Acting-to-be-productive-in-the-world. Or: Learning vs. Doing or producing.
(These are individual values, and the diagram shows Dewey's awareness that both are separately valued by school pupils; but the word "work" indicates that he was thinking of social not individual values, and so of physical work valued by adults (and children) rather than of either research or individual learning as of value.)
This duality of learning and producing is very general; all human actions in fact produce both as effects, but usually we do an action to achieve just one or the other. I.e. in most cases, one is the intended effect and the other an incidental side-effect. Flow may often occur when either one or the other is personally valued and fulfilled in the activity; but perhaps optimal experience involves both simultaneously. Certainly creative artists seem to be both learning (finding novel effects) and producing a "work" that others value.
It has been shown that most of the sentences you utter are novel: have not been exactly the same as any other sentence you previously uttered: creative at the lowest level. Essays similarly may be novel at the sentence level, but (depending on the discipline and level) may be marked against a simple scheme for including a fixed collection of points. On the other hand in some humanities disciplines e.g. History, they tend to regard truth as not available, but to judge essays as providing good (tenable) arguments; so essays are essentially the adoption of one from a set of important theoretical perspectives and then applying that perspective to the available evidence. So logical consistency rather than agreement with a consensus view is the criterion. Highest marks go for originality in the way this is done, partly for the individual arguments made, but also the conclusion adopted may be part of the originality. In art schools (which in the UK are part of the HE system) and in creative writing courses, there is a tremendous pressure to be original and creative at every stage - to be different from every other student in the class. This is often felt as oppressive by students, who may feel that it would be a relief, and productive, to do some strictly imitative exercises in order to develop their technical skills. I suggest that anyone interested in creativity in education, including Computing Education, might benefit from studying how it appears in a range of disciplines, and then bring that knowledge back to Computing as a stimulus for critiquing how computing is or might be taught.
I have the impression, though, that there is an implicit issue of Requirements: where many requirements are unstated but important (and handled creatively because implicit) e.g. is the program written to be robust against memory overflow? aganst power cuts, against .... So are the requirements always explicit? Or is it grasped that the job of most professions is not to take the client's word for it, but to add the requirements the client needs but has not stated such as fire proofing in architecture. In computing, an example might be to guard against infinite storage requirements (which Turing machines assume).
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