ZML Didaktik / Innovative Learning Scenarios


Reading Schön’s book „Reflective Practitioner“ is a great pleasure for me. In this post I will focus on the preface and Part I: Professional Knowledge and Reflection-in-Action (p. 3-69)

In the eighties Schön speculates that universities are committed to an epistemology of hard knowledge and science – mostly ignoring practical competence and professional artistry. In the first part of the book Schön explorers the causes for the crisis of confidence in professional knowledge and presents a new approach.

Since the Reformation the advancement in science and technology  and the industrial movement contributed to an increased importance of the profession. Professionals as doctors, lawyers, managers, teachers, military professionals… were shaping our society and were expected to define and solve our problems. Society depends on the work of professionals.

The Crisis of Confidence in Professional Knowledge

But in the last century there were many failures of professional actions and therefore a „crisis of confidence in professional knowledge“ emerged. Professionally designed solutions to public problems often didn’t work as they should and had negative side-effects as pollution, poverty, shortage of energy and others. New technology couldn’t fix the problems and often created new problems.

In their practice professionals were confronted with situations of complexity, uncertainty, instability, uniqueness and value conflicts. The professional knowledge couldn’t catch up with these new demands. Professionals were confronted with „messes“ –  dynamically changing, complex and connected problems. This situation has led to professional pluralism where competing theories arise – which further reduces the teachability of this practice.

Nevertheless practitioners of all fields somehow succeed to make sense of complexity and reduce uncertainty in their day-to-day practice. The art of practice appears to be learnable for individuals, whereas educators struggle to describe manifold processes in terms of the model of professional knowledge.

From Technical Rationality to Reflection-in-Action

According to the model of Technical Rationality „professional activity consists in instrumental problem solving made rigorous by the application of scientific theory and technique“ (p. 21). Professional work is based on general principles with respect to specific (standardized) problems. Therefore educators train specialized skills based on an underlying theory.

The model of Technical Rationality focusses on problem solving and ignores problem setting.  Professionals face a dilemma, „their definition of rigorous professional knowledge exclude phenomena they have learned to see as central to their practice“ (p. 42). There is a gap between professional knowledge and demands of real world practice. Within the model of Technical Rationality professionals resolve this dilemma of rigor by „cutting the practice situation to fit professional knowledge“ (p. 44) and therefore misreading situations or manipulating them. The model of Technical Rationality is incomplete and limited and therefore not entirely useful for the education of professionals.

„When ends are confused and conflicting there is as yet no problem to solve“ (P. 41). Problem setting is a process to name things and to frame the context by setting boundaries and impose coherence upon the problem. Methods of inquiry of successful practitioners combine experience, trial and error, intuition, and muddling through. A new approach – an epistemology of practice implicit in the artistic, intuitive processes –  is needed.


Knowing-in-action / knowing-in-practice: Our knowing is ordinarily tacit and implicit in our actions – „our knowing is in our actions“ (p. 49). „A kind of knowing is inherent in intelligent action“ (p. 50). As professional practice also includes repetition, practitioners develop a repertoire of expectations, images, and techniques. In this way the knowing-in-action becomes increasingly tacit, spontaneous, automatic.

Ordinary people and professionals think about what they are doing; often stimulated by surprises they reflect their action. This process of reflection-in-action is central to the art by which practitioners deal with situations of uncertainty, instability, uniqueness and value conflicts (learning-by-doing). Through reflection a practitioner scrutinizes the tacit understandings and can make new sense of new situations.

For reflective practitioners reflection-in-action is the core of practice. „Nevertheless, because professionalism is still mainly identified with technical expertise, reflection-in-action is not generally accepted as a legitimate form of professional knowledge“.

Donald, A. Schön (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. Basic Books.


I strongly believe that we learn by doing something: discussing, drawing, scribbling, modeling, reflecting and writing it down (or recording it). Therefore in my (training) classes people have to do something all the time. That’s also the basis of the online cos teachers‘ training I developed a month ago and which is running at the moment. Content Strategy (COS)  is a university program for students who work and study. A lot of the learning process is happening online and the teachers want to improve their asynchronous and synchronous teaching performance.

In my training approach my colleagues are now my ´students´. I prepare the online room as I always do with my students – in Slack and based on etivities (online tasks). The most important part of the training will be the project work where my colleagues have the opportunity for online work shadowing – observing their teaching scenarios, respectively.

Training weeks 1 & 2

The objective of week 1 is to build the group. There are six national and international participants in the group.  As teachers in the cos program they know each other but nevertheless they learned something new about each other. They struggled a lot with time management on the one hand and with getting orientation at the other hand. One of the training participants dropped out.

In the middle of the second week I moderated a synchronous meeting on ZOOM to show how I activate my students during an online conference. After a short introduction I told the two participants to do some research and come back to the online meeting and present what they have found. The second part of the video conference was open for discussion about the training weeks so far and about the upcoming project work. The feedback of the persons involved into the online meeting was positive whereas one of the participants who had to watch the video afterwards and to do a different task didn’t like it that much.

It’s not easy to get involved into a topic by watching the recording instead of attending the online meeting. Our cos students have up to 3 online meetings a week and many of them have to watch the video afterwards. As I hate to watch videos and it’s not my media to learn at all I would die! As an enthusiastic MOOC learner I watch videos from time to time. They work for me when I take notes at the same time, do some research, transfer it to my experience.

Also the asynchronous exchange is not that easy going in the teacher training, one of the participants had the feeling that it is a ´forced´activity.


I like Slack as communication platform a lot but in the case of an an online training it doesn’t support a lot of structure. And my nice overview and tasks files were totally ignored 🙂 These were the channels I prepared for the training.

Work shadowing – the observation project

In the weeks to come my colleagues in the training course have to collaborate in a project. At the moment they are preparing and scheduling their collaboration. The project work is unmoderated which means that they are responsible for their learning process and I’m not available for support and information.

According to my training design the participants should observe an online teaching session from each other (work shadowing). The session can be synchronous or asynchronous. Of course I prepared explanations what they have to do in the Slack channels – but based on my experience with this course so far I also created a comic page to visualize the process.

The observation minutes should help them to organize their thoughts during the observation, to create a document which can be discussed and share. I believe it will be helpful that I’m not moderating this phase. The participants have to figure it out and will do it according to their needs and their constraints.

Observation minutes

The training participants should reflect what you saw, heard, thought, felt with respect to:

  • The start of the synchronous session / the asynchronous period
  • The type of work and interaction – what type of interaction takes place? Does it change? 
  • The structure of the session/period of time –  is there a structure? Do I understand it? Is there a kind of dramaturgy? Is the purpose visible at the beginning, in the middle? 
  • What about the tasks? Are they easy to understand? Do the tasks initiate different types of learning – e.g. individual work, pair work, group work
  • Media: what media are used? Is there a mix?
  • Unexpected situations, disturbance: did you observe such a situation? How did the teacher react?
  • The end: How did the session end, the period of asynchronous tasks end?
  • Specialty: did you observe something which didn’t fit into the questions above?

Learning journal

Furthermore with respect to their interaction with their students I ask my colleagues to write weekly contributions to their individual learning journal. They can also record their voice or a video. The documented activities should be clustered according to:

  • What did catch my eye / what did I see, observe?
  • How did I react, what did I do?
  • What did I think?

Finish line

In about a month I will become active as convener/moderator in the training again. I will read the documentation of the projects, the learning journals and will collect material – which we will use in the final workshop at the end of January/beginning of February. Some of the participants will attend the workshop in person, others online.

I’m really curios what will happen in the cos teachers training in the next weeks.

In week 2 in the Learning with MOOCs for professional development MOOC we were asked to assess a MOOC to know if this MOOC is right for me. As I’m facilitator of week 1 in the AtLETyC MOOC I decided to choose this MOOC for the task. (I built this MOOC in collaboration with the project team as well)

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This week is a rather hard one for myself. The semester has started now, face-to-face and virtual student groups on slack, twitter, moodle, canvas, zoom, hangout and in the classroom (!) are fighting for my attention. I’m preparing a presentation which I have to deliver in about 5 hours … and I’m learning in two MOOCs. So – what better to do than to carry out an activity in the bizmooc Learning with MOOCs for professional development.

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Open matters for me because (1) I’m socialized in this way, (2) I love to share and learn from and with others. Until now I’m not sure how much I need (3) OER for open exchange and sharing but I hope to develop (4) my strategy during the #openedMOOC.

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Ich wurde eingeladen, bei der BNE Sommerakademie des Forum Umweltbildung 2017 eine der drei Keynotes rund um „Bildung On-/Offline: Digitaler Wandel als Chance einer Bildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung“ zu halten. In der Vorbereitung dazu wurde ich durch einige Posts meiner Content-Strategie Studierenden zur Methode MUSE angeregt, mit der man eine Geschichte entwickeln kann. In diesem Blogpost sind meine Überlegungen festgehalten.

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As university teacher and head of an e-learning center I’m wondering how my job will change during the next years. Already now students are different, many of them know less maths and spelling rules and speak English fluently. In courses of university teaching colleagues complain that students are not engaged anymore. Instead of immersing themselves in university topics many of them aim at finishing their degree as quickly and easily as possible.

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