Mapping & Curation for OER Impact Research #altc

Here are my slides for today’s presentation at the ALT-C conference at The University of Warwick.


Evidence of OER Impact

Here are my slides from today’s presentation at the Open Access Conference in San Jose.  There will probably be some tweaks to this before presentation at Open Ed 2013.

Socratic Method, Mazur and ‘Peer Learning’

I realise I haven’t been keeping up with blogging here (the perennial blogging complaint), mainly because I’ve been contributing blogs to the OER Research Hub project.  But I think there should be a bit more activity here as well as a bit of cross-posting (oh for the ability to re-blog between .com and .org installs on WordPress…).

What’s prompted this is a presentation I’ve just attended by Kari Arfstorm of the Flipped Learning Network.  I hadn’t previously been aware of an explicit connection between the ‘flipped’ learning methodology and a particular kind of pedagogical approach.  For those who are unaware, here’s the skinny on ‘flipped’ learning from the FLN site:

Flipped learning is intended to make more efficient use of classroom time by making sure that passive learning (e.g. reading, watching lecture) takes place away from the classroom and the time spent in the classroom makes the most of discussion, debate and inquiry.  Kari made an explicit connection between this approach and Socratic method – one I hadn’t made myself until now.

I confess to still being a little unclear on exactly how Socratic we should take flipped learning to be; or the ways in which flipping encourages a certain kind of pedagogy.  Kari suggested in the session that some subjects (e.g. mathematics) we might abide by a more authoritative teaching model in order to reflect the ‘hard’ nature of the subject while in the humanities we might employ a more authentically Socratic method.  I’m behind the curve on the whole thinking behind flipping, but a few thoughts come to mind:

  • Part of my confusion seems to arise from the fact that I understand Socratic method as anti-didactic.  Of course, it’s still a form of instruction (hence the irony) but ultimately a kind of facilitated self-instruction.
  • Socrates does in fact use this method to ‘teach’ mathematics.  In Plato’s Meno he takes a young slave boy and demonstrates his innate knowledge of Euclidean geometry by asking him questions rather than ‘teaching’ him.
  • Do you observe, Meno, that I am not teaching the boy anything, but only asking him questions; and now he fancies that he knows how long a line is necessary in order to produce a figure of eight square feet; does he not?

  • ‘Flipping’ seems (at least at first glance) to be an irony-free approach to pedagogy, which makes its Socratic status unclear to me.
  • In some dialogues, Socrates is often regarded as a mouth-piece for Platonic ideas. We don’t mean this kind of instruction when we talk about Socratic pedagogy but obviously there’s a lot of debate about when & where this is happening and why.

In any case, it seems that simply ‘flipping’ the classroom need not in itself result in more critical forms of reasoning and/or learning, though it’s easy to see how having a bit more time devoted to discussion or ‘higher-order’ pedagogical exercises might facilitate this.

When I asked Kari about this aspect of ‘flipping’ she said that the connection was not simply to Socratic methods but to some of the pedagogical approaches inspired by critical approaches.  Foremost among these seems to be physicist Eric Mazur‘s concept of peer instruction which dates from the early 1990s.

Peer Instruction encourages more interactive engagement by replacing lectures with small group discussions of concepts, supplemented by larger discussions punctuated by mini-lectures between questions. Students contemplate answers individually then discuss the explanations for their answers with their peers and come to agreement on the underlying physics (or models).

Here’s an outline of the process based on C. Turpen and N. Finkelstein (2010).

  • Instructor poses question based on students’ responses to their pre-class reading
  • Students reflect on the question
  • Students commit to an individual answer
  • Instructor reviews student responses
  • Students discuss their thinking and answers with their peers
  • Students then commit again to an individual answer
  • The instructor again reviews responses and decides whether more explanation is needed before moving on to the next concept.

  • Here’s a lecture by Eric Mazur which explains his approach to peer-based learning.

    I feel like I’ve learned something today as I have a better understanding of some of the pedagogical principles underlying the idea of ‘flipping’ the classroom.  But I also feel that it may be better to think of these approaches as encouraging a kind of intellectual or critical autonomy (undoubtedly a Socratic aspiration) rather than thinking of them as Socratic per se.

    Interestingly, the idea of Socratic reasoning also came through in a separate presentation today. Thanh Le (of the Vital Signs project) explained how ther schoolchildren use negative method of hypothesis elimination in order to improve their knowledge of native and invasive flora and fauna.

    JiME Reviews Feb 2012

    We currently have the following books available for review at the Journal of Interactive Media in Technology.  Please forward these details to anyone who might be interested in being a reviewer for us.  If you’d like to nominate yourself as a reviewer, please email rob.farrow [at] or tweet philosopher1978.

    Dede, Chris and Richards, John (eds.) (2012). Digital Teaching Platforms: Customizing Classroom Learning for Each Student. The Teachers College Press, Columbia University: New York. 224+vi pp.  (see

    McDonald, J. P., Mannheimer Zydney, J., Dichter, A., and McDonald, E. C. (2012).  Going Online with Protocols: New Tools for Teaching & Learning.  The Teachers College Press, Columbia University: New York. 128+xi pp. (see

    Goh, T.-T., Seet, B.-C., and Sun, P.-C. (2012).  E-Books & E-Readers for E-Learning.  Victoria Business School, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.  Available from

    Information about house style may be found at

    Innovating Pedagogy

    The recently published Innovating Pedagogy report explores contemporary and innovative forms of teaching, learning and assessment for an interactive world, to guide teachers and policy makers in productive innovation.

    Here are the different sections of the report:

    Hornsey: research & self-consciousness

    ‎What do you do with a quote when you’re not sure what else to do with it?  Stick it on your blog, of course… there’s an interesting parallel to the Friere/Fromm quote here and also some overlap the forthcoming paper on OER and Bildung that I am writing with Markus Deimann.  Thanks to Matthew Bowman for drawing it to my attention.

    “We regard it as absolutely basic that research should be an organic part of art and design education. No system devoted to the fostering of creativity can function properly unless original work and thought are constantly going on within it, unless it remains on an opening frontier of development. As well as being on general problems of art and design (techniques, aesthetics, history, etc), such research activity must also deal with the educational process itself . . . It must be the critical self-consciousness of the system . . . Nothing condemns the old regime more radically than the minor, precarious part research played in it. It is intolerable that research should be seen as a luxury, or a rare privilege.”

    Students and Staff of Hornsey College of Art (eds.), The Hornsey Affair (Harmondworth: Penguin, 1969), pp. 38-39.

    For a bit of context, see What happened at Hornsey in May 1968.

    Freire & Fromm on ‘Necrophily’

    Just reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed and had to make a note of this quote.  Freire encourages us to adopt the general thesis that “only through communication can hold meaning” and suggests that in pedagogical situations the teacher may only authenticate their own thoughts through the thoughts of their students.  Hence “authentic thinking, thinking that is concerned about reality, does not take place in ivory tower isolation”.

    When pedagogy is based on a false, objectified or instrumental understanding of human beings, Freire contends, it cannot promote what Fromm terms ‘biophily’ (deep connection to life) but instead promotes its opposite.  Fromm’s description of this phenomena is strikingly Hegelian.

    “When life is characterized by growth in a structured, functional manner, the necrophilous person loves all that does not grow, that is mechanical.  The necrophilous person is driven by the desire to transform the organic into the inorganic, to approach life mechanically, as if all living persons were things…  The necrophilous person can relate to an object – a flower or a person – only if he possesses it […] if he loses possession he loses contact with the world… He loves control, and in the act of controlling he kills life.”

    This seems distinct from, say, Freud’s depiction of the death-drive termed Thanatos.  If anything, it reflects a particular form of reification or category mistake.  But what I find more interesting is Freire’s way of describing this in an educational context.  Freire (perhaps not unproblematically) co-identifies impaired communication, dominance of thought in education and the necrophilic attitude.

    “Oppression – overwhelming control – is necrophilic; it is nourished by love of death, not life.  The banking concept of education, which serves the interest of oppression, is also necrophilic.  Based on a mechanistic, static, naturalistic, spatialized view of consciousness, it transforms students into receiving objects.  It attempts to control thinking and action, leads men and women to adjust to the world, and inhibits their creative power.”

    Freire, P. (1996) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Penguin, London. p.58

    EDIT: Someone else has also picked up on this and written something a bit more developed

    Philosophical Pedagogy: Wittgenstein

    Philosophical pedagogy is unusual in that the learner is being encouraged by the teacher to think for themselves and develop critical skills rather than absorb a certain concept or datum.  Here’s a report on Wittgenstein’s teaching style that I read today.  According to two of his students, this is how Wittgenstein described his own teaching style (D. A. T. Gasking and A. C. Jackson, ‘Wittgenstein as a Teacher’, in K. T. Fann (ed.), Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Man and His Philosophy, New Jersey: Humanities Press; Sussex: Harvester Press, p.52, 1962.).

    In teaching you philosophy I’m like a guide showing you how to find your way round London. I have to take you through the city from north to south, from east to west, from Euston to the embankment and from Piccadily to the Marble Arch. After I have taken you many journeys through the city, in all sorts of directions, we shall have passed through any given street a number of times – each time traversing the street as part of a different journey. At the end of this you will know London; you will be able to find your way about like a Londoner. Of course, a good guide will take you through the important streets more often than he takes you down side streets; a bad guide will do the opposite. In philosophy I’m rather a bad guide.