ZML Didaktik / Innovative Learning Scenarios

Footprints for “Emerging Learning” – Variety of a creative method of reflection

Posted on: März 3, 2013

Finally Gudrun, Erika and I finalised our „workshop-report“ for the „ZFHE – Zeitschrift für Hochschulentwicklung –   a Journal for Pedagogy of Higher Education. We based our work on the concept of footprints of emergence (Roy Trevor Williams, Jenny Mackness, Simone Gumtau).

In the abstract we wrote that we are

approaching a method to measure learning qualitatively. Therefore not only teaching and learning achievements are considered. To a greater extent teaching settings are taken as a holistic object and the complex cooperation among teachers, students or participants will be illustrated. The used method is called “footprints of emergence”. First the method is going to be explained in theory and afterwards discussed with three examples.

In the introduction we wrote shortly about Weller’s pedagogy of abundance and about connectivism and MOOCs (Simon, Downes). Then we explained the concept of the footprints (as we understand it) and translated the clusters and factors of Roy, Jenny and Simon into German. These translation was not easy to do and we invested a lot of time re-translating the different terms.

Every author of our article brought her own case study:

  • Gudrun used her course „Introduction to Public Relations“ – a traditional course where the professor talks a lot.
  • I reflected my course „EDV 4“ for social work bachelor students, a course, which consists exclusively of exercises.
  • Erika reflected the pedagogical training of 3 semesters for teachers of our University of Applied Sciences FH JOANNEUM,  where large parts occur online with Erika as e-moderator.

In our discussions we learned that the footprint method is very subjective, there are no right and wrong answers. Everyone of us used the method in a slightly diferent way.

“Introduction to Public Relations”

Gudrun got 7 footprints of  30 students and in the footprint for the article she compared the maximum, medium and minimum of all footprints in one figure.

Fig. 1: Gudrun’s footprint (lecture)

We observed that the factors of Trust and Unpredictable outcomes (UnO) are in the area of  “sweet“ and „medium emergence”, which could mean that the students appreciated the tension between prescriptive and open scenarios.

With regard to the factors casual encounters/conversations (CC) and In/formal writing and inscriptions (InF) some students perceived a prescriptive learning environment whereas others perceived chaos. The factor risk is as well interesting for discussion, some students felt very safe in the learning environment whereas others didn’t feel well at all.


The students in my course worked in 5 groups, so I got 5 footprints and choose to discuss 2 of them.


Fig. 2: Jutta’s footprint (exercise, group RSS)

In the case of the „RSS feeds“ group the students experienced a safe environment with nearly 9 factors in the area of „sweet emergence“, 14 factors in the area of „medium emergence“ and 2 with the value „10“ (which means that they are in the prescriptive zone but very near to the area of „sweet emergence“). Maybe this group didn’t experience enough challenges?

Fig. 3: Jutta’s footprint (exercise, group video)

These students experienced the factors ambiguity (Amb), co-evolution (Co-ev), self-organisation (SOrg) and casual encounters/conversations (CC) in the area of „sharp emergence“. They were challenged by the openness of the learning scenario and the affordances of collaboration.

In my opinion this group could have failed as well. Creating their own video is a demanding task and the students investigated a lot of time to analyze videos but didn’t start to work on their video. In one of the lessons I addressed this problem and asked if they will succeed to produce a video. In this conversation I told them that in my concept for this class the failure of projects is tolerable. Maybe this discussion gave them so much security that they felt a small risk in their learning approach.

Training “Hochschuldidaktische Weiterbildung” – pedagogy for Higher Education

Erika compared a footprint of a training participant with her footprint as e-moderator.


Fig. 4: Erika’s footprint as e-moderator05-HDW-participant

Fig. 5: The footprint of a training participants

In the discussion with the training participant Erika got new insights into the training. Factors as Liminal spaces (Lim), Disruption (Dis) and Solitude and contemplation (S&C) were evaluated (very) differently, which shows how the intention of a training design and the perception of the design can differ.

Future Prospects 

We are fascinated by the possibilities of the footprint method. On the one hand the clusters and factors are a helpful tool to analyze courses, trainings and learning processes, on the other hand they are very intuitive to use, they are beautiful and they make fun. We plan to use them in future.

In this article we didn’t address the ambiguity of our translation of the footprint concept.

We want to thank Jenny Mackness for our discussions and Roy Trevor Williams for the beautiful footprints (in our first version they were only ugly excel graphs) – and we want to thank Natasa for her contribution to our discussion in the ZML Leseclub.


2 Antworten to "Footprints for “Emerging Learning” – Variety of a creative method of reflection"

[…] Footprints for “Emerging Learning” – Variety of a creative method of reflection […]

[…] often used them in their work in the past. Jutta blogs about them and has, with her colleagues, written articles and presented papers at conferences that make reference to the […]

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