15 May 02004

More on unprogrammed learning

My last posting on unprogrammed learning was half-baked and unfinished. So will this one be, since I think it's the kind of problem you have to nag away at repeatedly. If and when a solution becomes clear, it will no doubt appear ungratifyingly obvious and simple with the benefit of hindsight...

To recap, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council has set out some proposed outcomes and impact of learning. Some of these seem potentially radical in intent, but I'm not sure if the proposed Generic Learning Outcomes fully encapsulate the deep-seated issues.

"Learning is widely seen as a lifelong process of making meaning" and "is a process of identity-building" says the document (see full definition). This is contrasted with the view of learning as a 'product', which is connected to scholarship and knowledge, and to formal education provision. Thus "learning in cultural organisations is associated with creativity and innovative thinking, and... is not separate from emotions," and this view "allows the potential for the out-of-the-ordinary, inspirational and wonderful experiences that are associated with learning in cultural organisations... to be counted as learning."

The Learning Impact Research Project has identified and piloted a set of five 'Generic Learning Outcomes' to try to capture the essence of this view of learning and measure its impact in cultural organisations:

  1. increase in knowledge and understanding;
  2. increase in skills;
  3. change in attitudes or values;
  4. evidence of enjoyment, inspiration and creativity;
  5. evidence of activity, behaviour, progression.

The reservations I have about this list are, first, that the first three outcomes will be familiar to theorists and practitioners of the learning-as-product tradition, and therefore add nothing new or different. In fact they emphasise continuity with that tradition.

The fourth outcome is a grey area: though the requirement for evidence of creativity hints at potential new measures of learning, my hunch is that traditionalists will see this outcome simply as a rephrasing of the requirement for learning to be a satisfying and motivating experience for learners — a requirement with which they are also familiar.

Finally, "evidence of activity, behaviour, progression" covers everything or nothing, depending on how you read it. The document gives a fuller definition referring to "what people do, intend to do or have done... [how they] balance and manage their lives." Looking for impact of learning on these factors could embrace fundamental changes in people's sense of themselves... or the impact could be invisible behind the changes in behaviour and perceptions that are part of the flux of everyday life. People change, like the weather changes, and to attribute any and change to learning is to make learning such an all-embracing process that it becomes virtually meaningless.

All of which is not to imply that I have any better ideas. But I'm still thinking about it.

Posted by David Jennings in section(s) E-learning on 15 May 02004 | TrackBack
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