dialogue with F. Saba:-)

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Subject: dialogue with F. Saba:-)
From: Ania Lian (ania@lingua.arts.uq.edu.au)
Date: Tue 09 Nov 1999 - 23:58:47 MET

Date: Wed, 10 Nov 1999 08:58:47 +1000 (EST)
From: Ania Lian <ania@lingua.arts.uq.edu.au>
Subject: dialogue with F. Saba:-)

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On Mon, 8 Nov 1999, Farhad Saba, Ph. D. wrote:

> > [I] can predict when the learner will be given a chance to think
> > critically and when this chance will be removed from them. Is there
> > anything else that I should predict, assess or know?

> ===> I am not sure what method you are using. It would be nice if you can
> share your approach with us.

the method is simple: how much learning in a given environment is a
function of a dialogue between teacher and learners (this would be a
negative case for critical thinking) and how much it is a function of
learner dealing with real life problems in a context where problems
and solutions are sociohistorically grounded (this would be a positive
environment for facilitating critical thinking).

> ===> Experimental studies are needed to test the validity of the
> relationship between the rates of dialogue, and structure, and the level of
> transactional distance.

I still cannot understand what is the issue. Let me translate the
assumptions of your theory into my simple language. You want to test
whether less structured models facilitate more dialogue. This is with teh
view that learning somehow is mainly an affair between teachers and
learners (as I cannot see as yet teh notion of teh sociohistorical context
problematised sufficiently for acrutical analysis of teh assumption that
more talking facilitates more learning).

In other words, the assumption is: unstructured environment (which
means??) may lead to a structure of talking which is a good thing.
Now, I still cannot see how the structure of the dialogue (dialogue
is a structure just like any models are structures) between teacher
and learners, or for that matter between the learners themselves is per se
a good thing? I think I said it before, why aim for the dialogue betwen
teachers and learners? And if the answer is about negotiation of needs, we
know that such negotiation will always be a product of interpretation and
hence of a bias intervention i.e. it will be an asnwer to teacher's
understandig of the problems, not an answer to the actual problem.

> ===> As I mentioned before, in dynamic systems, the act of instructional
> design becomes part of the teaching and learning process. It is a negotiated
> event between the teacher and the learner. The lesson, depending on
> requisite structure is designed as the dialogue progresses. The linear

Furthermore, the difficulty I have is that I cannot put in one sentence
the concept of dynamic systems and a lesson. It appears that so far
knowledge is a product of well structured lesson is so far that it
produces a well structured envronment for a what appears to be a well
structured dialogue. What makes the dialogue a good thing? I think this is
where my difficulty lies.

> ===> I am not sure what is meant by pushing "students to those statistically
> derived model of processing." In system dynamics, there is no agent who
> pushes independently of all the other system components.

Well you said you were looking for patterns so I gather patterns are
statistical things i.e. a product of selection of dat athat seems
important. But more importantly, you do not see the reliance on dialogue
as a method or as pushing people to some model of learning?

> What I have set to verify in my studies is not the
> quality of the structure, or the dialogue, but that beyond a chance
> probability, when students and teachers are involved in a teaching and
> learning session there as in inverse relationship between dialoged and
> structure (negative feedback loop) and such inverse relationship determines
> the "level" of transactional distance. What the experiment shows is the
> validity of this relationship.

right, so it seems you say that less structure = more dialogue. In my view
though, as soon as there is a learning occasion, situation, there *is* a
structure, or to be more clear: there is alwys a very definite, highly
structured structure even if the teacher claims that there is none. The
teacher's understanding of the presence or absence of structure is
*skewed* by his/her education. It is the teacher's education that teaches
us what a structure is and is not. This is why we fail to notice that
structure takes different forms and in each and every one of them, a
learning environment is *always* highly structured. This of course does
not mean that each of these structures facilitates equally well
development of critical thinking. But it does say that this structure will
influence directions into which it will push learners. We always push them
somewhere. Dialogue is one way of so doing.

Students therefore always enter learning structures which are highly
structured. So in my view, the question should not be about more or less
structured models of learning and dialogue as a promise toward better
learning. Instead the question should be: how to structure (as structure
is always present) in order to facilitate more *movement*. More movement
therefore is seen as equivalent with access to dynamic systems. If systems
are dynamic then it is not one single structure (like dialogue) that
facilitates learning: it is the ability to move that facilitates the
ability to undertsand the dynamics of systems.

> ===> Why do you assume that running experiments in transactional theory does
> not make sense to my students?

I do not: I just think that teh conclusions as to the method preferred are
not ours. Our goal is to facilitate access to dynamic systems by
facilitating movement. The membership to a specific intellectual party
however is not our decision.

Ania Lian

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