22 SES 03 D, Learning and Sustainability
This paper deals with the visible and invisible structures that establish self-directed learning spaces and how such spaces create various dilemmas especially in the relations between teachers and students and students among themselves. The paper presents results from a recently completed research project: "Didactic challenges in self-directed learning spaces". The project was initiated by the Association of University Colleges in Denmark responding to a growing education policy interests in knowing how students may increase their study time and be better at managing the study.
Progressive pedagogies, such as, for example, Problem Based Learning, contain some fundamental contradictions that some researchers have referred to as "double-bind" (Borgnakke 1996). This inherent contradiction is for students to be encouraged to think beyond the curricular framework while being sanctioned against objective requirements (pp.300-313). The purpose of the project was to investigate this paradox in order to gain a deeper understanding of self-direction dilemmas from both teacher and student perspectives.
In the paper, we focus on the question: What characterize the structural relationships that create self-directed learning spaces in an education practice, how do they appear in the positioning of students and teachers?
With structural mechanisms as a central object, we have chosen an education sociological perspective for the study, where the relationship between objective structures (in social fields) and the subjective structures (in the agents' habitus) is crucial (Bourdieu, 1996). Central to Bourdieu is that in the social field the actors enter into positions in relation to their dispositions (habitus) and capital in the field. Thus, the dichotomy between actions as either autonomous or heteronomous is irrelevant.
Another important theoretical and analytical framework for the study of the structural principles is the code terms "specialization codes" from Legitimation Code theory (Maton 2008). The concepts combine Bourdieu's field theory with Bernstein's code theory (Bernstein, 2000) (Bourdieu 2005) and make it possible to distinguish between different structural features for knowledge practices – in this case educational reproduction fields - and hence between different power relations.
The key concepts for the analysis of the structural principles are termed Epistemic Relations (ER) and Social Relations (SR), respectively. ER refers the relations of the practice to professional standards and procedures for knowledge production, while SR describes the relations of the practice with the individual's dispositions, such as class, gender, ethnicity and experience (Maton, 2008, 2014). The two structuring principles can move between relatively strong to relatively weak, independent of each other, which legitimize different educational practices through different codes. The strengths of the two structuring dimensions thus represent different power relations that regulate the educational practice.
Strong attention to the acquisition of a particular academic content for each learner and less emphasis on the teacher's dispositions express a “Knowledge code”, while weak attention to the academic content and greater emphasis on individual attributes and preferences express a “Knower code”. The latter shows the features of what Bernstein (1990) referred to as “invisible pedagogy”, which focuses on the learner internal acquisition procedures rather than performance is according to an external standard (Bernstein, 1990).
The study was designed as a collective case study. It comprised various educational practices and activities on selected programmes, respectively, a bachelor's degree programme of Architectural Technology and Constructing Management (ATCM) and a vocational academy programme of Retail, Design and Management (RDM). The selection of the two cases was based on the programmes being relevant to the phenomenon of self-direction and to represent a variety of University College programmes within a certain field, for which reason they represent significant differences in relation to each other. Thus, the case study is an approach to providing nuanced, profound and context sensitive data, which mainly is qualitative. The case study design was followed up by an analysis on three levels: curriculum, classroom and project group. The ATCM-program is the primary case for empirical analysis, while the RDM-program functions as a secondary case in order to put the primary in perspective. They are located at different institutional places and different parts of the region and both are exemplary in relation to empirically representing the issue of self-management within the University College area. In addition, the two cases show differences in relation to: a) types of education - a bachelor and vocational academy education respectively; b) the type of problem-based education; c) professional culture; and d) the organization of teaching / learning resources. Within the ATCM-program a third semester class of 22 students has been followed for six months, where the problem-based learning model (PBL) has been organised as project work and thus group work as the continuous and dominant form throughout the study program. Therefore, the lesson-based teaching is merged and adapted throughout the course. The RDM programme's problem-based learning course does not take place as continuous projects, but as short-term recurrent courses in a maximum of 2 weeks duration, where the lesson-based teaching precedes the PBL processes. This PBL-model is based on a business case, and study work within the PBL-course is group-organized (with inspiration from the PBL-concept of Stenden University). The different empirical elements - documents, observations and interviews - have highlighted different perspectives and levels of educational practice. The analysis of the curricular intentions has predominantly drawn on document analyses of curriculum texts. The analysis at the classroom and project group level included mainly observations and interviews with students and teachers.
Among the results of the research project, we wish to highlight and discuss the following results: Ambiguous codes: Both education's PBL courses contain ambiguous codes in the pedagogical communication. For the CATM program, the curriculum texts suggest a "Knower code." The curriculum documents emphasize the learning individual by highlighting the importance of students own experiences and learning attributes, while the specific academic content is backgrounded. This does not become explicit until the teachers prepares the specific lecturing plans. However, in pedagogical practice the coding is different. Here, the teachers strengthen Epistemic Relations. At evaluations and assessments in particular, it becomes clear what academic content, all students should ideally learn. A "Knowledge Code" thus becomes dominant. We found this code shift in both PBL courses. Valuation of cultural capital: The group formation process reflects the knowledge code by seeking to equate the student's differences by blending these in each study group. We discuss the ranking, which occurs, based on the student's cultural capital, where certain cultural backgrounds are favoured in relation to others. Invisibility: The ambiguity of the pedagogical codes is - on one side - what creates the self-directed spaces, but on the other side, it also creates dilemmas and uncertainties. We discuss this with reference to Bernstein’s concept of invisibility, especially the teachers' reluctance to provide solution-oriented responds. On the one hand, the students feel that it is improving their learning. On the other hand, they also get frustrated. Thus, they sometimes question this approach and feel it is too time consuming, if exaggerated. Particularly in the RDM-program, the students experience uncertainty concerning the role of teacher during group work, as to whether the teacher’s role seems to facilitating the process or controlling the students’ performance according to some external standard.
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