Workshop: Teaching on the Edge of Chaos

by Bryan Miyagishima and Robert Hautala (Western Oregon University)

The session started with a group discussion where we got a chance to talk with our neighbours about what student groups we work with, what a typical session is like and what we do well and what we would like to do better. They showed a typical IL lesson plan with items like Intro (5 min), how to navigate the library web page, books vs. journals, active learning activity and how to find books. Most recognized themselves in this very stereotypical IL session plan. They then talked a bit about the Madeline Hunter Model and the ASSURE Model as alternatives ways to structure a lesson. How else could it be done?

Using the example of a little kids basketball camp, the presenters showed how students can be challenged to learn a good way of doing things slowly, by starting with a variety of tasks, some easier and some harder. The example was kids using a wide range of basketballs and a wide range of heights for the nets. They keep on trying new things, starting with easy tasks that they can have some success with. This is dynamic systems theory: the tension is a pyramid with the different corners being the individual, the environment and the task. The model takes into account constraints such as the strength of 5 year olds.

The application of this model: How to you change and individual’s constraints, such as physical conditioning. How do you change environmental factors such as stability, predictability and space. How to you change the task: speed, accuracy, distance, force, type of equipement. We did a group session where we can pick a skill and manipulate 3 aspects of the dynamic system, such as hitting a baseball.

The dynamic systems teaching model has 4 aspects:

  1. Establish task goal: structure the environment, give info about the task but do not demonstrate
  2. Provide choices: one size doesn’t fit all, have selection of skills, movements and equipement, allow safe student decisions
  3. Modify the variables: restructure the environment, for the group and for individuals who are ready
  4. Provide instruction: only after first 3 steps, instruct about skills students have selected, instruct about teacher prefered skills

Quesitons/Problems: you need time to do this, you need to think about what students are really learning and the effectiveness of learning. How much chaos can you handle? Our question to think about during the coffee break was to find potentials for this model in IL.

We want to model a desired behavior (choose a database), a research task (find a scholarly article) and we want to change the task (on a specific topic; by a specific author; peer reviewed; different discipline). An interesting problem was to try and use this model for a desired behavior like: demonstrating an understanding of the search process. Our next exercise was to use this model for our own desired behavior. Finally, we discussed using this model over the long term, looping the 4 aspects over and over to refine our dynamic system.

I would encourage others at the session to add further posts to fill in what I missed.

Posted by John Dupuis.


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