ZML Didaktik / Innovative Learning Scenarios

Archive for the ‘Reflexion’ Category

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.


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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Nearly a year has passed since my last post about MOOCs in February 2016.

I have not been lazy in this year and I haven’t stopped thinking about MOOCs. For example:

  • In May 2016 together with Jenny Mackness I presented our work about Visualising structure and agency in a MOOC using the Footprints of Emergence framework at the tenth International Conference on Networked Learning in Lancaster.
  • I was and still am involved in two European MOOC projects led by my university: the AtLETyc project and the BizMOOC project.
  • In September, during the partner meeting of the AtLETyc project we decided spontaneously to create a small MOOC within a month to provide the partners with the MOOC experience on the one hand and to let them work on content for MOOCs on the other hand. If you are interested take a look at the AtLETyc MOOC camp.
  • And I did some really great MOOC learning in Matt Silady’s Comics: Art in Relationship MOOC. Because drawing Comics takes a lot of time I have spent less time writing about MOOCs ….

In the future my dealing with MOOCs will get more intensive as we will build one MOOC for athletes with useful knowledge for them with respect to the time after their sports career and another MOOC to provide business key competences to whoever may relate to.

In the BizMOOC project a common body of knowledge was collected which resulted in 14 discussion papers about MOOCS and online education, MOOCs initiatives, MOOC types, MOOC quality and MOOC pedagogy, drivers behind MOOCs, recognition of learning in MOOCs, business models for MOOCs, MOOCs and human resources, and useful online material for the BizMOOC.

Furthermore in the BizMOOC project we investigated needs and gaps with respect to business people, people in Higher Education and the society as a whole. I find the society survey on MOOCs very interesting. And I’m a little bit sad that according to this report face-to-face rather than online courses are still preferred by participants. There are so many amazing online courses out there in the web!

At the upcoming partner meeting in Cardiff this week we will work on the concepts for the three Pilot MOOCs focusing on life-long learning, business key competences and innovation & creativity. We will create a cMOOC, an xMOOC and a Hybrid-MOOC. I’m looking forward to our training session with Martin Weller, whom I got to now at the #change11 MOOC.

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Lancaster University, one of the leading universities in the UK, has long experience of dealing with distance students and for a long time I have been curious about how their e-learning works. Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk to Karin Tusting, a Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and English Language, and pose four questions.

(1) How are the Courses Organised?

  • How do you organise your PhD distance courses?  
  • Are all the different modules in a PhD distance programme fairly similar (with respect to how they are organised e.g. how many online meetings, how many assessments etc) or are they very varied?

Karin answered my first question with respect to the PhD in Applied Linguistics by Thesis and Coursework, where after six modules of coursework the students will start their research work for their thesis.


The distance students can attend the PhD programme full-time (completing all the coursework in one year) or part-time over two years. The programme is organised according to a blended learning approach.  Each year it is compulsory for the students to participate in four face-to-face residential weeks – one induction week in January and three further weeks in July.

There are 5-15 distance students every year. In the induction week at Lancaster University they get to know one another, visit the library, and attend classes where all the courses/modules are presented. After this week they should know which courses they want to take. Part-time students have to select three modules in the first year and three modules in the second year (dealing with the subjects of both linguistics and research methodology). After the induction week the online phase starts.

During the online phase in one of Karin’s modules for example, the students have two units in the first semester which last three weeks each, where they have to read papers, work on tasks, hand in their results, reflect and give feedback. Each module is offered once every two years; therefore there are two cohorts of students in each coursework module.

In the residential weeks at Lancaster University the students attend four to six hours a day where they have to apply themselves to their learning, present results, and communicate with teachers and colleagues. In their ‘free’ time they still have a lot of other work to do. After these three weeks the students are ready to work on their final papers for the modules. They have to hand in the first paper in September, and the second and the third paper in November. In this period they also start to focus on their thesis, by collecting data for example.


During their work on the thesis (and I forgot to ask how long this would last) the students are supported by their supervisor who will be available for them once every two weeks (for full-time students) or once a month (for part-time students). There are no group activities for students and there is no common learning community. Some cohorts of students do, however, self-organise in online groups.

(2) Which Software is Used?

  • Which technical tools do you use on the courses? (learning platform, video conferencing tool, messaging software e.g slack, social media)

Karin told me that they work with Moodle extensively and that no other technical tools are used in the coursework modules. This means that the students are mainly working asynchronously and alone. Furthermore the assessments are all text-based. – This is true of the modules Karin worked on, but there are other modules on the same programme which could have different kinds of activities and forms of assessment

This is in contrast to the undergraduate and Masters courses where the students work individually and in groups, and where the teachers are experimenting with more diverse assessment methods at the moment based, on the Digital Lancaster strategy.

During the thesis period students and supervisors communicate one to one mostly via skype.

(3) How do the Teachers do their Job?

  • How do you train the teachers of the PhD distance courses to plan the courses, to implement their concept/build the virtual learning environment, to deliver/carry out the courses?
  • Do the teachers have help with the courses e.g. pedagogical help to plan their courses, technical help to build the environment, assistance when carrying out the course?

Karin told me that there is no particular training programme for online teachers. There is some technical support from the IT Services. With regard to pedagogical issues inexperienced teachers tend to learn from more experienced colleagues mostly in ad hoc team teaching situations. Once a year the department organises a Teacher Day where the teachers focus on a pedagogical topic with no special emphasis on online learning.

At PhD level there are no tutors supporting the teachers.

(4) How do the Students learn?

  • Do you succeed in building a learning community of students and how well does this community work?
  • What percentage of the students’ workload is group work or pair work or individual work?

The distance students mostly learn individually and alone. Group activities and interaction organised by the programme is limited to the face-to-face weeks at Lancaster University and occasional online discussions. Karin told me, that the students have usually bonded quite strongly as a group while doing face to face work, which affects how they engage with the distance bits. Online group activities happen on the initiative of the students.

A final question

Before I left, I asked Karin if she likes being an online teacher. She said that teaching online is demanding and that it needs more preparation and more time than f2f teaching. She admitted that time was an issue – as indeed it always is for online teachers. And she started to beam when she mentioned how much she enjoys it and how satisfying it is to watch students think and develope.

I would like to thank Karin for the interview and I’m sorry if have misunderstood anything – this blogpost is just my account of our meeting.

As mentioned before in my contribution How to use comics to organize and reflect (online) learning processes I’m engaged in creating comics. My objective is to evaluate how to use comics in my teaching. You may ask:

Why should a teacher use comics in his or her teaching?

As I believe that learning takes place inside the head of a person and I cannot influence that a lot (constructivism) I’m looking for tools to nourish the curiosity of my students. My approaches are broad and diverse while I facilitate mostly online learning processes (connectivism, emergent learning).

Phase 1: In May of this year I started with Nick Sousanis Grids and gestures exercise which turned out to be a nice experience. I learned how to create abstract comics and use them for structuring and reflection. I even offered a comics workshop for my colleagues who liked it a lot. Stimulated by the comic making exercise I reflected the positioning of grids in a comic and considered the relationship between space and image.

Phase 2: At the moment I’m learning in Matt Silady’s Comics: Art in Relationship MOOC. This time it’s a lot harder because I have to draw „real“ comics. We are now in week 4 and I haven’t started yet with the homework of week 3! Until now I created a two pages comic about myself and 5 (!) comic diaries.

It’s amazing for me to discover that there is a lot of theory behind comics! And I love theory when I’m invited to apply it.


In the first week Matt defines comics as visual art in relationship and broadens the former definition of sequential art. He invits us to look for comics in our every day life.

In the second week he mentions three types of relationships in comics: visual art & visual art (image & image), visual art & text, visual art & cultural context (mainly used in comic jokes). He lists 7 image-image relationships (moment to moment, action to action, subject to subject, scene to scene, aspect to aspect, non-sequitur, symbolic) and 7 text-image relationships (word specific, picture specific, duo specific, intersecting, interdependent, parallel, montage/pictorial).

In the third week we think about time and space, which are one in comics, as Matt declares. The „gutter“ between one comic grid and the next can contain a different amount of time, one second, one hour, one day, a whole life, … And that’s the next assignment I’m thinking about at the moment!

Reflection: Drawing this comics I realize that I cannot draw … so I limit myself to stick figures and strange perspectives. On the positive side I  can imagine stories and I get ideas how to sketch them. During this time I moved from black&white images to colored ones.

In the back of my head I’m looking for ideas how to transfer comics into my teaching. And …. I already used some of my own comics in a presentation at a conference.