Based on the OPEDUCA concept that learners should be enabled to learn anytime, anyplace, with anybody, through any device, on futures' most relevant themes, 'Flight for Knowledge' is the starting point of the pedagogy.
Flight for Knowledge comprises the basic instrumentation for the effectuation of the OPEDUCA principle students should be enabled to learn anytime, anyplace, with anybody, through any device on future defining themes. The pedagogy includes amongst others inquiry-based transdisciplinary learning, a process continuously connected with distributed sources of knowledge in the region. Although elements of the instrument are inextricably linked and part of an integrated whole, it can be best understood by first highlighting the underlying idea of ‘Fields of Knowledge' and then the student-driven process ‘Flight for Knowledge’.
The instrument integrates contemporary subjects through the lens of future-defining themes i.e. the core of (education for) sustainable development. Flight for Knowledge is student-driven and engaging, provides meaning, underpins ongoing learning lines like a thread throughout the formal educational system and gradually builds understanding of the world from a holistic perspective to essential detail. In terms of student ownership, competencies development and the exploration of Open Educational Resources, OPEDUCA Flight for Knowledge is the most demanding pedagogy so far.
As we spatialize the world continuously, sketch configurations of phenomena, ideas, matters and concepts, each future-defining theme derived from the Dimensions of Sustainable Development is developed through study as a ‘Field of Knowledge’; a mind-map like structure that encompasses the entirety of a theme, providing knowledge-schemes with pegs to organize data and information in a logical sequence.
A Field of Knowledge can be seen as a multi-layered neural network, presenting a hierarchy of interrelated concepts starting out from ‘simple’, then added to complex. It offers a scaffolding to place and (also literally) store data, when combined providing information on a higher or lower abstraction level. The strategic thematic learning pathways are seen to unfold like coherent sets of branches, developing from simple to cohesive and comprehensive fluid schemes. Fluid since a Field of Knowledge is are subject to perpetual change, never finished, remaining changeable in extend, depth and breadth. Seeing the spread of the branches as working in 2 dimensions and the depth of each element as a 3rd, the ‘4th dimension’ of a Field of Knowledge unfolds when taking time into account.
Whereas generating concepts maps has already proven to significantly improve student performance (J. Berry & Chew, 2008), the construction of a Field of Knowledge does not distinct between mind-, concept- and argument-mapping (or any other description in that sense) as it proposes a combination of these by ways of:
- a logical order of subsequent elements, aspects, topics and objects,
- the registration of these in varying breadth and depth,
- the associating and interrelation between the various parts,
- the mapping of a corpus of investigation,
- a (re-)view of the process of construction.
The concept here differs from Novak who, following Ausubel’s assimilation theory of cognitive learning, also stated the value of concept mapping as learning strategy (J. D. Novak & Musonda, 1991). The research however rested in the realm of the instructional, addressing the challenge how to organize better instructional material. Flight for Knowledge departs from a constructivist view on learning.
stylized display of the continous feed of sources of data and informatin
Example of a basic, 2D, Flight for Knowledge on ‘Energy’.
(The OPEDUCA Project, France, S. Lardjane, 2018)
Introducing the idea of mapping themes as a practical way to note exploration, students basically start by writing the theme-name in the middle of a sheet of paper, then sketch what they think they know i.e. register prior understanding in order to later achieve learning goals (Ausubel & Fitzgerald, 1961). The construction of a Field of Knowledge builds on the conviction that representing a set of relationships as a diagram enhances both understanding and recollection. Noting down new findings in logical context, situating facts and interrelationships, students split complex matters in smaller still meaningful parts and build from what they already learned (Van Merriënboer, 2008), allowing them to bring what is newly found in relationship to what they have, interpreting information (Okukawa, 2008; Wolfe, 2006). As the students place further ideas, observations and findings, the field expands in breath (in 2D, more branches leading to complementary nodes, presenting further detail), meaning (considering the relations, lines, between the nodes) and/or depth (in 3D, ‘drilling down’). The tips of the branches touch on phenomena, the branches themselves stand for the dependencies and relations between them, the placement of concepts. The initiatial gatering of data and information is fueled by constant inquiry to further the collection, learning the nature of existence (ontology), determining when something is true, false, unknown or unknowable using appropriate logic (epistemology) that in turn helps determine the nature of fundamental values and of moral choices (axiology) (Engle, 2008).
- (random) inventory of prior knowledge
- the (intermediate) logical ordering of elements
- expansion in breadth and depth through inquiry (exchange, debate, search)
- intermediate presentations and feedback/feedforward
The students use the spatial sensemaking infrastructure for construction in parallel with a structured discourse to clarify random observations in real life, starting out from the element closest to the observation, switching between deduction and induction. Data and information, concepts and relations are derived from a multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary perspective, presuming the integration of every school subject, providing place to incorporate each curriculum element of the various school levels, from primary up to and including higher education. Such can include traditional (text-)books, films, interviews, personal observations and a critical inquiry of data on the internet. The collection is assumed to take place by ways of careful search and consideration but also ‘on the go’, meaning the gathering is continues, each Field of Knowledge accessible and modifiable all the time.
As todays’ truth can be tomorrows’ uncertainty and next years’ mistake, learners need to be able to scrutinise findings and interrelations constantly and most critical. Where they experience the need to reconsider their opinion and amend, such corrections are deemed useful as the learning process then remains open for new observations, other insights and others’ opinions. It makes them critically question what is thus far perceived as knowledge, adding meaning to their learning (Merriam & Clark, 1993).
The Learning process Flight for Knowledge includes the invitation of experts and the various aspects of a Field of Knowledge
Building a Field of Knowledge is a cooperative, joint, process - crossing classrooms and ages
Flight for Knowledge starts with an open exchange between students and (a group of) teachers regarding the world we live in today, how it unfolds and what we can expect from the future, how we can take part in it, what we need to understand. Students are explicitly invited to ponder and voice their thoughts on a variety of aspects in order to jointly come to a first inventory. The teachers guide the students by ways of narrative, debate, reflection and opinionating to develop an emergent curriculum through collaborative investigation, taking in critical themes in students’ own lives but following a structured process for developing context-specific curricula (Auerbach, 1990).
After themes are set, without further ado students start their construction of a respective Field of Knowledge. Most practical, they do so with pencil and paper in Study-Teams of four grouped on theme preference and indulge in sharing and recording all they (think to) know by taking inventory through dialogue. A collaborative process that intends to include debate and discussions, inviting varying and different opinions. The Study Teams work in physical theme areas, rooms/halls that hold (construction-) materials as well as virtual utilities, all textbooks (from mid-primary up to and including higher education), regional and national newspapers, live news bulletins on screens, etc.
As students are simultaneously part of various Study-Teams for each of eventually 4-5 overarching themes, they cooperate with around 12-15 peers directly. Position and role in each of the teams are expected to be dissimilar from nature and proposed to allow for reflection on own behavior, practicing (shared) social regulation. The learning is individual, the education social. While the Study-Teams produce collaborative Fields of Knowledge, each student manipulates (reconsiders) the personal version by taking in the findings, interpretations, opinions (and underlying values) of peers. Students finding a ‘misfit’ with an earlier construction of their own is perfectly acceptable and wished for. Eventually, the Study-Teams include students from various ages i.e., levels, where possible formed across schools and beyond borders.
After having created their first base-line of studies for each theme, students go out in their community to further investigate, record and present a set of subtopics. They draw from practice through exchanges with businesses, societal organizations and other ‘Partners in Knowledge’ that share and further enrich their ‘Flight for Knowledge’.
In the course of the process Study-Teams regularly manifest and present their learning outcomes before a live audience, on location at their school, at company premises and through exhibitions at cultural and societal locations in their region. Doing so to:
- (externalise their understanding by ways of plausible narrative,
- present a mirror to themselves,
- experience and further develop their communication- and presentation skills (apperance, verbal expression, use of presentation tools, etc.),
- expand the collaborative learning process as other Study-Teams are positioned as ‘audience’ to question and advice upon what they see and hear while taking notes to enhance their own work,
- seek advice and support in terms of content, concepts as well as regarding the learning-process as such.ate, search)
- intermediate presentations and feedback/feedforward
The quality of the Fields of Knowledge is considered specifically relevant for the presentations as they have to allow for a clear visualisation, argumentation, presentation of facts and figures, (presumed) interrelations and dependencies as well as the validity of arguments and propositions.
Eventually the students’ presentations work out towards and replace written tests, students literally taking the stage to give proof they mastered content, understand concepts, developped transversal competences, are becoming more competent.
The presentations expand to (semi-annually) appearances before a live audience of family, friends, teachers and Partners in Education from their OPEDUCA-region with the potential to grow into larger scale ‘learning-festivals’. During these events students are challenged to also more materially show the fruits and proof of their learning.
OPEDUCA practice shows that the students embrace Flight for Knowledge rapidly, with pleasure and measurable learning outcomes, where it is the teachers that have to face the challenge of adapting, to keep pace with their students who grow wings and go out to discover, observe, question, debate, report and question again; who learn.
As the construction of a Field of Knowledge is student-driven, limited prior knowledge to construct from is acknowledged while the teacher is supposed to refrain from handing over information and focus on guiding the learning process (Steffe & Gale, 1995). The student should be clearly challenged by a notion of initial ignorance to give an active mode of learning a chance to awaken. The role of the teacher however not that of a bystander as she is supposed to be involved and content-informed, able to gently support the students’ process by observing, questioning and hinting while joining the students in their ignorance.
Acknowledging students should not be forced outside their zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1980), from the perspective of ESD-based Education students are encouraged to pro-actively expand their cognitive models by revisiting the present borders of their understanding. A process still supported yet not commanded by the teacher's instruction.
Teachers remain with their encouragement and effort to make all means available to the students. Contrary to the traditional master-pupil relation, they upfront voice their (per definition) imperfect understanding of the issue at hand, lay a base for their later collaborative role, provide for occasional room in the teams for themselves.
Teachers’ questioning preceeds explanations, explanations preceed intermediate instruction. Joining Study-Teams for brief moments is meant to observe, raise (exploratory) questions, compliment and point out where logic tends to fail, facilitate the construction process. This interplay considers an expert-perspective on both content and process, sees to teaching beyond mere guidance or coaching.
The teachers’ encouragements and clarifications are first to be understood as contributions of a potentially better-informed student.
Flight for Knowledge includes two occasions for more actual instruction, firstly by ways of pre-scheduled (daily, weekly) mini lectures that intend to provide students with content and tools to enhance their study. They are assumed to be planned in the morning hours for a maximum of 20 minutes each, are accessible for every student, in principle regardless of study-year. The mini-lectures are one-way settings during which a pre-set range of standard-concepts, subject-specific elements and content of general relevance is presented (transversal ‘building blocks’). The content is initially presumed by the teachers and later build up from their reflections of students’ progress, next to which students can call for a specific programming.
The mini-lectures conclude with a brief round of exploratory questioning and are as of then available to the students anytime, become part of their digital resource-base. Students decide how often they attend the (same) mini lecture (opting for repetition).
Secondly, teachers are regarded to instruct by brief intermediate lectures during the process (on the go) in case they notice students run into a wall, alike deficits reoccur in more Study-Teams, a general question requires clarification or students are observed to miss specific elements and insights (basing a new mini-lecture). They therewith provide for the intellectual part of inquiry-based learning, providing additional room, momentum and function to argumentation, discussion and debate to a continuous constructive discourse.
The teachers are regarded and required to function as a professional team for and amongst themselves to:
- consider and evaluate the learning-process as such,
- elaborate on individual students’ participation and progress,
- reflect on the availability and quality of educational sources,
- evaluate the need and working of intermediate instructions,
- evaluate and (re-)plan the mini lectures.
The teachers’ encouragements and clarifications are first to be understood as contributions of a potentially better-informed student.
Obviously, implementing OPEDUCA Flight for Knowledge requires a gradual re-built of a schools' physical structure; the well-known class-room set-up replaced by ‘Open Learning Spaces’ and settings for lectures, the schools' premises being made accessible to wider community. Furthermore, time- and energy consuming project-weeks and other more mass-scale efforts to highlight an educational priority, are no longer necessary. Overall these aspects and others require a thorough and most dedicated transition of present practice to an OPEDUCA Based School.
Through OPEDUCA MasterClass, during which Flight for Knowledge was extensively introduced, debated and practice with teachers from every school level, it became clear that despite unwavering support for the instrument, teachers fall short when it comes to their own associative capacity, specifically when it comes to linking real-world phenomena and interrelations to respond to the students' search and questioning.
Fields of Knowledge grow more divers, detailed, complex, including more dependencies and links to real world phenomena.
Following my proposal to see ESD as an ongoing learning process beyond the formal system, a Field of Knowledge develops and expands over time as the recording of a learners’ personal work and diligence.
This sense of evolution allows folding consecutive parts of the fragmented (broken) structure of formal education together, ‘dove-tailing’ school levels.
The time-element provides for metacognitive qualities through
a ‘re-wind’ of the learning process and allows for re-considerations I deem crucial in the light of ESD. Each part of the Field of Knowledge is allowed to change
(be amended) over time as the students’ insights, understanding and convictions change, data is re-interpreted, information leads to new insights, knowledge is developed along other pathways.
Following the idea to see ESD as an ongoing learning process beyond the formal system, a Field of Knowledge develops and expands over time as the recording of a learners’ personal work and diligence. It is a living scheme, subject to perpetual change, never finished, remaining changeable and fluid in extent, depth and breadth.
The strategic thematic learning pathways are seen to unfold like coherent sets of branches, developing from simple to cohesive and comprehensive fluid schemes.
This sense of evolution allows to fold consecutive parts of the fragmented (broken) structure of formal education together, ‘dove-tailing’ school levels
When speaking of ‘Knowledge’ in the framework of the OPEDUCA Concept, it comes close to the definition that knowledge is assimilated information and understanding of how to use it (Hess & Ostrom, 2005), a high-value form of information applicable to decisions and actions, knowledge derived from information as information is derived from data (Davenport & Prusak, 1998). Knowledge creation is seen as the transformation of concrete experiences, followed by reflection, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation (Kolb, 1984). Thereto the knowledge-creating process in OPEDUCA constitutes the notion of:
- data (facts that can be looked up and taught),
- information (useful combination of date underpinning ‘knowing’),
- knowing (application of information to understand phenomena),
- knowledge (application of ‘knowing’ to make informed decisions),
- wisdom (the valuable application of knowledge).
This ‘hierarchy’ intends to offer a basic framework for a student to better understand, incorporate and evaluate the quality of observations, enhance a critical notion of what is dealt with. The OPEDUCA instruments intend to enable students to study towards wisdom to guide one’s ideas, opinions and actions. Following, this basic framework requires being aware of facts, the ability to interrelate those and built information, combining such to generate knowing whereafter the just and skillful application of such knowing defines knowledge. Deciding how to use knowledge is a matter of wisdom, which underly values. As without values the application of knowledge turns awry, it is essential the student herself gains a profound understanding of the Dimensions of Sustainable Development which intend to provide leitmotiv. Such in turn serves the essence of her own discovery, her notion and her interpretation of values. Values can therefore never be commanded as they result from the learning, are not a commodity to be infused up front - the learner must undergo the (e-)motion. Relating this to a person’s balance, I refer to Schumacher who wrote: “Unless that person has sorted out and coordinated his manifold urges, impulses, and desires, his strivings are likely to be confused, contradictory, self-defeating, and highly destructive. The ‘center’, obviously, is the place where he has to create for himself an orderly system of ideas about himself and the world, which can regulate the direction of his various strivings.”
Improves the learning process since it:
Effectuates ESD as it: