Report highlights 10 trends set to shake up education

Massive open social learning and dynamic assessment on the Open University’s list

November 13, 2014

The Open University has published the Innovating Pedagogy 2014 report, which explores new forms of teaching, learning and assessment.

It proposes 10 innovations that, although already established to some extent, have not yet had what it describes as “a profound influence” on education.

To produce the report, academics at the university’s Institute of Educational Technology proposed a long list of new educational terms, theories and practices, which were then boiled down to 10 that it deems to “have the potential to provoke major shifts in educational practice”.

1. Massive open social learning

This is all about bringing the benefits of social networks to massive open online courses (Moocs). The aim is to engage thousands of people who are studying together online in productive discussions and projects, rather than in tangential off-topic discussions on messy course forums.

“Possible solutions include linking conversations with learning content, creating short-duration discussion groups made up of learners who are currently online, and enabling learners to review each other’s assignments,” the report says.

2. Learning design informed by analytics

“A learning design specifies intended learning outcomes, identifies the ways in which these are to be achieved, and sets out how they will be assessed,” the reports states. Using data from the tracking and management of learning activities “can inform learning design by providing evidence to support the choice of media and sequence of activities” meaning design and analytics work together to support the development of successful learning and teaching. There are ethical issues to be considered, though.

3. Flipped classroom

Why learn facts in a lecture hall at university when you could learn them online in the comfort of your own home? Flipped learning sees students learning with, among other resources, video lectures, which allows them to work at their own pace. Contact time with lecturers can then be spent on activities that exercise more critical thinking.

4. Bring your own device (BYOD)

“When students bring their own smartphones and tablet computers into the classroom, this action changes their relationship with the school and with their teachers,” the report says, because they are “equipped not only with individual technologies that they maintain and improve, but also with their own personal learning environments and social networks”.

Lecturers can therefore “become managers of technology-enabled networked learners”, not simply providers of resources and knowledge. BYOD also has the potential to reduce the cost of ICT provision.

5. Learning to learn

“Self-determined learning involves learning how to be an effective learner, and having the confidence to manage our own learning processes”, the report says, and so-called “double-loop learning” is central to this process. Double-loop learners “not only work out how to solve a problem or reach a goal, but also reflect on that process as a whole, questioning assumptions and considering how to become more effective”.

6. Dynamic assessment

Are you good at identifying ways to overcome each individual student’s study problems? With dynamic assessment, “assessment and intervention are inseparable”, the report says, and although labour intensive, such an approach has the potential to be used as part of a range of assessment tools.

7. Event-based learning

Event-based learning involves creating a memorable sense of occasion. The report gives a number of examples, including “maker fairs” where enthusiasts who are keen on a particular craft come together, or “Raspberry jams”, where fans of the Raspberry Pi computer meet up and share ideas.

Having an event as a focus “gives learners something concrete to work towards and to reflect upon afterwards, together with a sense of personal engagement and excitement”.

8. Learning through storytelling

Perhaps more relevant for younger learners than those at university. “Writing up an experiment, reporting on an inquiry, analysing a period of history” are all examples of narrative supporting learning, the report says.

“Much of our education involves combining different things we know in order to create an understanding of what has happened and, as a consequence, what can be expected to happen in the future.” Storytelling can “provide emotional engagement and relevance for learners, together with personal involvement and immersion”.

9. Threshold concepts

According to the report, a threshold concept is “something that, when learnt, opens up a new way of thinking about a problem, a subject or the world” - such as understanding the physics concept of heat transfer to better understand everyday activities such as cooking.

“These concepts help to define subjects, they shift learners’ perceptions of a topic area, and they usually prove difficult to unlearn,” the report says, adding that they can also be used as a focus for dialogue between students, tutors and educational designers.

10. Bricolage

The practical process of learning through tinkering with materials is known as bricolage. It involves “continual transformation, with earlier products or materials that are ready to hand becoming resources for new constructions” and is more relevant to younger learners who are learning “through play” than those at university level.

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Reader's comments (1)

Interesting stuff. There's some cross over with a free report and short video we recently produced with The Student Room and first presented at the CASE Europe conference this Summer - although it looks at a broader student perspective and some of the trends we can expect more of in the next 10 years. You can get all the links via our blog

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