Friday 19 November 2010

Distinctions about teaching and knowledge - analysing OERs

Whilst all the stuff around inter-disciplinarity is interesting, we tend to study subjects: maths, physics, chemistry, music, geography, drama, etc. It's always struck me that different types of people are attracted to different types of subjects, and that the 'feel' of the study of different subjects is different too. The choice of subject may be biologically, psychologically or socially determined.

Is this to say that the knowledge within them is similarly differentiated? Is the nature of mathematical knowledge related to the 'feel' of studying mathematics - and to the preference of those who study it? Can we relate the feeling of studying something to a classification of the type of knowledge it contains? Can we relate the ways in which things are taught to the type of knowledge it contains?

With my 4 quadrant model, I may have a way of classifying the type of knowledge something contains. With so much open content, there's an opportunity to study this through looking at videos of lectures. For example, it might be interesting to compare this to Richard Feynman's lectures or Gordon Pask on Cybernetics.
In both these cases, there is a strong element of the purpose-form of knowledge: both these individuals exude the importance of what they talk about through their character and presentation. It's interesting that the content-form of knowledge is in the background, but only alluded to by the speakers, who also exhibit a strong aspect of the person-form of knowledge. There is little tool-form.

Pask and Feynman were great individuals and great teachers with high authenticity. I would suggest that the following is more normal for this sort of content:

Here there is a lot of content-form and person-form. Tool-form might be considered in the mathematical tools which are introduced. But the purpose-form is less strong: the teacher, whilst they might well be deeply grounded and authentic in what they do, fails to reveal it in the way Feynman does.

What about this video interview with a life coach? I think this is person-form and purpose-form but little content-form. I think there may be tool-form in the sense of the techniques which are presented ("use positive language.." etc.). There's also tool-form as well as a lot of content-form in this computer-science lecture:

I think these distinctions are important because confusion about different types of educational performance can lead to category mistakes. For example, the curriculum cannot be replaced with something like life-coaching - to wish to do so is to misunderstand the nature of knowledge. In the same way, boring lectures are just boring lectures, but may well do their job in allowing for different representations of the knowledge to be made. Some topics in the curriculum may naturally lend themselves to content-form or tool-form. But it's the language games that count - the different forms of knowledge are different ways of coordinating it.

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