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Learning Objectives vs. Subjectives: Who Are They Really For?

subjective_objectiveIn the spirit of #rhizo15, if there is such as thing as being “in the spirit” of something that is fully open and to-be-determined-along-the-way, I read Laura  Laura Pasquini’s @laurapasquini‘s thought-provoking post What’s A Learning Subjective? This is “in the spirit of #rhizo15” because I do not read many blog posts (a time issue, really it is!). I have chatted with @laurapasquini on Twitter, though have not really read much of her work beyond the 140.

I have been missing a lot!

In her post, I was struck by her thinking in this area, as it is so timely for where we are in our #rhizo15 thinking as we finish the first week and prepare for the second:

With #Rhizo15 the lack of learning objectives provides a lot of freedom to explore ideas, connect to meaning, and identify new ways of knowing. I think a learning subjective is when students are encouraged to make their own learning personal. I felt bad for a delayed blog post on this topic — but then I remembered — being subjective means individualizing and customizing my own way to learn. Subjective learning allows for more preference and flexibility, which provides dynamic ways to engage in uncertain patterns and developments from within a course. Learning objectives provide well-defined outcomes and intentions for learning. The openness of learning subjectives provides opportunities for students to drive the course agenda and direct their interests for topics.

which in turn led me down a new path in considering learning subjectives (personalized) vs. learning objectives (externally-defined). I even offer my own comment on her post as well:

Great post, Laura.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about this learning subjectives notion, and have blogged about it a couple times as I continue to process it. Considering learning objectives, I am not really sure they are so much for the learner as they are for the department to have a sense of what the instructor will do in the course. Most of my students rarely look at the learning objectives, and quite honestly, why should they? They trust in the process and often are required to take the course anyway. For those of whom do, learning objectives often do not make sense without a knowledge of the subject matter anyway, so they often are not even understandable to learners who have not yet explored (mastered?) the content.

Hmm, I sense another blog post coming along here . . .

Yes, here is that other blog post.

We all get told what we are expected to learn; we have all (I suppose) been at the receiving end of learning objectives. After all, we want to pass, or get an A, or graduate, all while getting the approval from parents, the teacher, god, and what have you.

We learn that we need to be directed in our learning, and it is this external direction that challenges us with this week’s learning subjectives. I have tried to frame this as intentional Education Wandering, which I loosely called EduWandering, though this self-directedness comes about when we want to learn, trust the process, go with the flow, or ask questions that must be answered (at least for us).

Without these things, we often find ourselves in the world of learning objectives, partly because we do not know enough to ask the right questions or be able to move forward without the hands-on guidance of an expert (the educator) who somehow mystically knows what we need or want (learning objectives are meant for everybody in a class, aren’t they?). When was the last time you took a course and looked at the learning objectives?

The overview? Yes.

The purpose? Yes.

The instructor? Yes.

The objectives? Not too sure about that one. After all, how often do learning objectives NOT match my own personal objectives? Learning objectives are for when others determine for us what we need to learn.

Not so, learning subjectives.

Hmm, kudos to Dave Cormier @davecormier for inviting us to gather, with little content (ok, none), direction (create your own subjectives, if you want!), or information about the #rhizo15 experience (when does it even end, and what does that mean, anyway, as people still use #rhizo14!), though in the process something somewhat magical has happened. People are exploring this notion together, writing about it, moving their research agendas and networks forward, energetically following the various communication channels, and overall seem to talk a lot about nothing (in the immortal words of Seinfeld).

Welcome to adult learning in the mode of #rhizo15. Create your own subjectives and EduWander until you meet them, or not. Learning tends to work like that, even when we pretend to set “objectives” for others.