Assembling the heterogeneous elements for digital learning

Extreme learning and teaching

The following is an initial development of taking some the fundamental premise from Extreme Programming and apply it to learning and teaching. The rationale for doing this is to see if it provides a more effective way of generating improvements in learning and teaching at higher education, and in particular CQU.

Some additional discussion around this idea is happening on the CDDU wiki.

What is extereme programming?

This is not a question I’m going to answer. There are better answers online from people with a much better understanding then I. This is one. Use Google if you want more definitions.

This answer to the question includes a range of factors that I’m not going to consider in this post. Including:

  • Emphasis on customer satisfaction.
  • Enable late change in customer requirements.
  • An emphasis on team work.
  • An emphasis on communication, simplicity, feedback and courage.

The idea I want to engage here is the fundamental premise behind extreme programming that has stayed with me. The “extreme” in the name comes from that premise.

The premise is that we know a range of practices or principles that are effective in improving the quality of software development. Extreme programing aims to turn those practices on/up to the extreme.

The problem

The idea is that current approaches to improving learning and teaching are simply to complex. Too encumbered by the baggage and arguments of different philosophical perspectives and ignorances.

For pragmatic, often cynical, academics engaging in deep and meaningful discussions about a practice (learning and teaching) that is perceived to be undervalued (in comparison to research) is destined to be difficult.

What if we had a simple, straight forward, apparently logical/common sense approach that was simple to understand?

Yes, there are a whole range of potential limitations and problems with this approach. But then that’s what research and innovation is about. Having a new, different idea and then trying it out. Finding out if it is any better.

The idea

The idea is to

  • Identify some simple practices/principles that are known to contribute to good learning.
  • Develop a curriculum design and development process that places an emphasis on maximising those principles.
  • Perhaps drawing in other ideas from extreme programing.

So what are the principles. The obvious first choice for someone from CQU are Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles of Good Practice. CQU has adopted these as a key component of its learning and teaching strategies.

The principles are:

  1. encourages contact between students and faculty,
  2. develops reciprocity and cooperation among students,
  3. encourages active learning,
  4. gives prompt feedback,
  5. emphasizes time on task,
  6. communicates high expectations, and
  7. respects diverse talents and ways of learning.

There are probably others, but this seems to be the simplest, most widely known collection of these types of principles.

What next?

This is a simple mind dump and doesn’t go any deeper than the surface. There would need to be a lot more thinking about how these principles can be “turned up to the extreme”.

There would need to be thought given to how this would actually be translated into a curriculum design process with academics. One that engages them in the process and also the organisation.

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