OCL Pedagogy

Linda Harasim is an expert in the field of online education

Collaborativist Pedagogy (aka OCL Pedagogy)

What do I mean by collaborativism as a pedagogy? The distinguishing factor between didactic pedagogies (which are based on lectures or other transmission of information to the student) is that collaborativism emphasizes student discussion of the information, posing questions, brainstorming their own ideas, debating the information through both among the peers and engaging with the instructor as well. The role of the teacher is important and is clear in Collaborativism.   The teacher or moderator facilitates student discussion and collaboration. A teacher in a classroom, whether online or f2f, should not be viewed as a solitary figure, but rather as a representative of the knowledge community to the students in that course. The teacher or moderator seeks to induct the students in the ways of informed discussion and debate that are used by members of the knowledge community.  The knowledge community is the mix of scientists and practitioners committed to advancing the discipline, and it is their work that embodies the “state of the art” in that field.

Thus the pedagogy of collaborativism is one that reflects how scientists, how we as members of various knowledge communities practice our field: through active discussion, collaboration, debate on the subject as new information and technologies are introduced into the discipline. Learning and building knowledge are dynamic processes, and should not be viewed as static. We are always learning and our ideas change as we encounter new information or new technologies that change how we understand our world.  That is how humanity has progressed and civilization developed. Twentieth century education was based on didactics, whereby the instructor would transmit a “correct answer” to students who received it as “truth”.  The test of didactic learning was to memorize and correctly repeat the “right answer”. There was little to no discussion, questioning or debate.    Twenty-first century pedagogies, on the other hand, emphasize the importance of student understanding and being able to apply the processes:  how to discuss the issues or problems, identify possible solutions, and then apply and/or improve upon the solutions.   Collaborative learning emphasizes the process of learning as the ability and analytical tools to determine the best answer at a given time.  Problem solving involves working with a moving target, evolving and changing as our information, experience, and opportunities advance.  Collaborativism emphasizes processes of learning such as discussion/debate, problem solving, innovation and knowledge building in classroom activities, as interns and ultimately throughout our professional life.

To those in the media, in the powerful technology industries who argue for technologies to replace teachers, that technology  pedagogies of transmits  information more efficiently and cheaper than do human teachers, we need to respond that learning is not about memorization of facts nor about cheap transmission of info to students. .  Education and information must not become blurred in today’s jargon. Learning is about understanding, about analyzing and thinking to solve problems in the best way available, even if and when we must invent new solutions.  Our role as 21st century teachers is to reject the transmission model, explain why we are doing so,  and adopt a learning theory and pedagogy that promotes thinking and understanding, not memorization of facts.

Albert Einstein wrote: “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.”

Figure  Learning theories and pedagogies