Meaning Making, Agency, and the Intentional Brain


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For German Philosopher Martin Heidegger, “To be a work means to set up a world , and holds truth: Truth, as the
clearing and concealing of beings, happens in being composed.” Taking an adult-centered online course as “the
work” and a metaphor for a constructed world, the author uses an interdisciplinary approach to discuss the development of adults as learners.

Presented at the Jean Piaget Society for the Study of Knowledge & Development 37th Annual Meeting, Amsterdam
31 May–2 June, 2007

Published in: Education, Technology
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  • Meaning Making, Agency, and the Intentional Brain

    1. 1. Meaning Making, Agency, and the Intentional Brain Jean Piaget Society for the Study of Knowledge & Development 37th Annual Meeting, Amsterdam 31 May–2 June, 2007 Nicola Martinez Center for Distance Learning
    2. 2. The Work Sets Up a World <ul><li>Theory based design founded upon adult centered learning principles (Knowles, 1970) </li></ul><ul><li>Using the community of inquiry model for online learning emphasizing social, cognitive and teaching presence (Garrison, Anderson and Archer, 2000); </li></ul><ul><li>Infused with strategies to encourage deep learning (Marton and Saljo, 1978; Gibbs, 1972); </li></ul><ul><li>Social constructivist methods applied with a particular focus on scaffolding for the zpd (Vgotsky, 1978). </li></ul><ul><li>Post de facto analysis based on student data from 6 terms (2004-2007); includes pre and post reflections. </li></ul>
    3. 3. Adult Learners Need <ul><li>To know why learning is required </li></ul><ul><li>To direct their learning </li></ul><ul><li>To contribute their experiences to the learning situation </li></ul><ul><li>To apply what they have learned to serve real world problems </li></ul><ul><li>To feel competent and experience success throughout the learning program. </li></ul><ul><li>( Knowles et al., (1998); Wlodkowski, R. J. (1993). </li></ul>
    4. 4. Community of Inquiry Framework From: Garrison et al., (2000-2006)
    5. 5. Teaching, Social and Cognitive Presence <ul><li>Cognitive presence is defined as the exploration, construction, resolution and confirmation of understanding through collaboration and reflection in a community of inquiry. The practical inquiry model operationalizes cognitive presence and is ground in the work of Dewey (1933) on reflective thinking. </li></ul><ul><li>Social presence is described as the ability to project one’s self and establish personal and purposeful relationships. The three main aspects of social presence, as defined here, are affective communication, open communication and group cohesion. </li></ul><ul><li>Teaching presence is the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the realization of personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes. Teaching presence has three components: Instructional Design and Organization, Facilitating Discourse, and Direct Instruction. </li></ul><ul><li>(Garrison et al., 2000, 2006) </li></ul>
    6. 6. Table of Presences From: Garrison (2006)
    7. 7. Adult Developmental Webs <ul><li>Developmental webs portray adult cognitive development as a complex process of dynamic construction within multiple ranges in multiple directions. </li></ul><ul><li>The developmental web has at least three important features: </li></ul><ul><li>(1) Development occurs in a complex multilevel range. </li></ul><ul><li>(2) Developmental pathways undergo dynamic transformation through multiple strands or network links. </li></ul><ul><li>(3) Multidirectional construction is the form of development. </li></ul><ul><li>(Fischer, K. W., Yan, Z., & Stewart, J. , 2003). </li></ul>
    8. 8. The Web Metaphor <ul><li>Stresses that many components contribute to any activity, producing diverse shapes of development. </li></ul><ul><li>A person acts interactively, engaged with his or her many environments, and the action process is dynamic and nonlinear. </li></ul><ul><li>Because the outcome of an action involves more than adding together the behavior of the individual and the environmental components that contribute to it. </li></ul><ul><li>Specifically, each person constructs a unique web, while at the same time ordering principles help generalization across individual webs. </li></ul><ul><li>(Fischer, K. W., Yan, Z., & Stewart, J., 2003). </li></ul>
    9. 9. The zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) <ul><li>is the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers. </li></ul><ul><li>Vygotsky, L. (1978) </li></ul>
    10. 10. The web and the zpd <ul><li>Practice and familiarity with a domain, contextual support for complex activity, and joint participation with others all affect the level of a person’s activities along a strand. </li></ul><ul><li>Each single strand shows the developmental range in skill and knowledge of the individual for that particular task and domain given varying amounts of experience and contextual support. </li></ul><ul><li>(Fischer, K. W., Yan, Z., & Stewart, J. (2003). </li></ul>
    11. 11. Case Study <ul><li>The course is a sociological and philosophical exploration of the questions of privacy, security and freedom in the 21st Century in the context of both the theory and practical, policy-oriented aspects of these social concerns. </li></ul>Privacy, Security, Freedom: Social Concerns for the 21st Century .
    12. 12. Course Assignments <ul><li>(1) lead 4 discussion topics with a 250 word commentary; </li></ul><ul><li>(2) participate in a pro/con debate on privacy in relation to the Patriot Act using case studies and recent &quot;real&quot; events to support arguments. This assignment requires the research/review/analysis/evaluation of six articles; </li></ul><ul><li>(3) Join a team for a role play scenario based learning activity. This assignment includes deciding on the scenario (what happened, how, what are the implications), participating in a group discussion, researching and reviewing 2 articles/websites, and developing a 500 word security policy; </li></ul><ul><li>(4) Design a research project using one or more of the following methods: data collection, evaluation of evidence, and employment of interpretive analysis using resources on the World Wide Web, examination of primary text materials such as the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act, and observation within their communities. The research project includes a formal research proposal and an 10-15 resource annotated bibliography. </li></ul>
    13. 13. Role Play Scenario Collaborative Activity
    14. 14. Group Management Guidelines
    15. 15. Reflections on Learning
    16. 16. Comments from Students 1 <ul><li>Has this course achieved the objectives that it set out to accomplish? From every conceivable aspect, this course has surpassed these objectives and more. Our group as a whole was introduced to some of the most complicated issues facing citizens and government today. We explored, analyzed, researched and even debated acts of legislation, political and social commentary, not to mention philosophy. Our eyes were opened to the various issues facing modern society; privacy, security, terrorism and cultural awareness were only some of the topics we delved into. </li></ul><ul><li>Group discussions and debates allowed for us to deliver our individual and collective stances on the issues we examined. Although sometimes energetic and yes, maybe heated, we were all part of a unique learning process. By design and good chemistry within the group, I think we will all walk away from this course better students and citizens with a host of useful information. </li></ul>
    17. 17. Comments from Students 2 <ul><li>The course presentation and materials were excellent : I just wished that I could have absorbed more. Some of my pre-course thoughts have gotten stronger, others have weakened, while many new ideas have been aroused by the writers ,the tutor, and the classmates. Collective participation was both a necessity, and asset and not a hindrance which was my original fear. </li></ul><ul><li>How could I cut the other person off, just to insert my twopense into the discussion? This technique of preemptive interruption is widely used by the experts as they project their importance and knowledge, but rather useless in an online course. I learned to wait my turn, and not alone listen to, but also read and interpret what others had to say. What a blessing and what a lesson in manners for the information age. Can we teach our elite, the politicians? </li></ul><ul><li>The lessons we have learned in this course will probably stay with us for the rest of our lives. </li></ul>
    18. 18. Comments from Students 3 <ul><li>I would like to say how much I have enjoyed participating in the group/student led discussions and the group project. They have been very enlightening and have helped me to re-evaluate my personal beliefs about privacy, freedom and the impact that the Patriot Act has on both. </li></ul><ul><li>I have thoroughly enjoyed debating with my classmates about these topics and have learned so much from all of you. It always amazes me that just when you think you have a firm grip on your personal beliefs, that someone brings something to light that changes everything. This is how I felt, over and over again. I have always been a very opinionated and outspoken person, but I have often had a hard time being open minded to the opinions of others. This class has helped me to learn that being open minded may not always be easy, but that it definitely has it’s rewards. </li></ul><ul><li>More importantly, I learned a lot about myself , including how to “temper my arguments”. The way in which information is presented has a lasting effect on those who are listening, good or bad. Knowing that, will help me achieve the desired outcome of the information presented, whatever that may be. This is something that will stick with me forever. </li></ul>
    19. 19. Comments from Students 4 <ul><li>I thoroughly enjoyed the books as well as being involved in the projects. I thought that the groups projects really helped us to share a great deal of information and both groups put together some great presentations. </li></ul><ul><li>Believe it or not my favorite part of this class was the group reports/projects. While it was not the easiest task in the world trying to get all of us on the same page; the end result was well worth the effort. Other than enjoying the whole “group aspect” of it, I also found the task of making our own school weapons policy very intriguing. Also, a series of unfortunate events also synchronized with our project as well (shootings/stabbings in school). Those events, I believe played an important part in some of our decisions about what to include, and not include in our policy. </li></ul><ul><li>I have taken many classes, in a number of schools, throughout my life. Some of the information I absorbed, some went in one ear and out the other. The lessons we have learned in this course will probably stay with us for the rest of our lives. We will re-evaluate political policies and security measures, be more aware of privacy issues, and cherish more deeply the freedoms that remain available to us. </li></ul>
    20. 20. Adult Student Autonomy <ul><li>I think the fact that you allowed us to choose the group that we wanted to be a part of made the involvement as great as it did.   </li></ul><ul><li>Students choose: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Which chapters of the texts to focus on. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Which course topics to introduce. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Their team (and how to manage it). Their roles. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Their scenario and case studies. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Their pro/con position. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Their research topic. </li></ul></ul>
    21. 21. Personal and Political Autonomy <ul><li>After learning the information I have learned in this course I am eager to make a difference either in how I vote, what corporations I support, or even to be more informed about our nation and our government. I have really grown to appreciate academic and scholarly sources. Our media and news stories have such a slant on them that it's difficult for anyone to know the truth. </li></ul>
    22. 22. Adult Student as Actor/Agent <ul><li>Student X published his research paper immediately upon completing the course. </li></ul><ul><li>Student Y, a federal agent, submitted his final report on terrorism to his superiors. </li></ul><ul><li>Student Z, the Chief Security Officer of a large US government agency, developed a security plan based on course assignments. </li></ul>
    23. 23. Participation Levels <ul><li>The subject matter being discussed and/or analyzed made for increased participation thereby expanding the learning for all. Having gone through six semesters of online classes, (four at Empire State College) I found myself amazed at the level of participation in this class. </li></ul><ul><li>What I think made this class outstanding was the level of participation, only via participation are people able to express their thoughts and opinions and enhance others' education. We as a class probably come from different socio-economic backgrounds and our ideas are diverse, this diversity is what I believe brought about a great learning environment. </li></ul><ul><li>Once we became engaged in dialog and I started really getting into the text, I found it hard to stop wanting to read more and more and log into the class to see Professor Martinez guidance and comments as well as my classmates. </li></ul>
    24. 24. The Cognitive Challenge <ul><li>This has been one of the most mentally challenging courses I have ever taken. It is a course in which I have learned a great deal in. I realize that can make a change, I just have to work at it. </li></ul><ul><li>To everyone in class, thank you for making this a mentally stimulating semester. I have enjoyed reading all of your posts. You are all hard workers and great thinkers. It made discussions easier to participate in. </li></ul><ul><li>I really like your format with the word requirement minimums of 250 for initial posts and 125 for responses - all too often my past experiences were that I went to the trouble of researching and posting substantial responses in discussion and most students came back with a one or two sentence &quot;I disagree...&quot; with no sources or anything. </li></ul>
    25. 25. Reaching Optimal Performance <ul><li>an adult’s upper limit varies dynamically with contextual support… </li></ul><ul><li>Optimal levels are attained primarily in those infrequent circumstances when environmental conditions provide strong support for complex performance. Such conditions, including clearly defined tasks, familiar materials, practice, and memory priming of the gist of the activity, are not present in most situations. </li></ul><ul><li>For this reason, every person shows a persistent gap between the functional level under typical (low support) conditions and the optimal level afforded by high support. </li></ul><ul><li>(Fischer, K. W., Yan, Z., & Stewart, J. (2003). </li></ul>
    26. 26. Grade Distribution Per Term
    27. 27. Typical Progression of B Student
    28. 28. Evaluation Rubric
    29. 29. Evaluation Criteria
    30. 30. Grading Criteria
    31. 31. Evaluation Rubric
    32. 32. Integration From: Garrison, 2006
    33. 33. References F-K <ul><li>Fischer, K. W., Yan, Z., & Stewart, J. (2003). Adult cognitive development: Dynamics in the </li></ul><ul><li>developmental web. In J. Valsiner & K. Connolly (Eds.), Handbook of developmental </li></ul><ul><li>psychology. Pp. 491-516. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. </li></ul><ul><li>Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text -based environment:Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 1-19 </li></ul><ul><li>Garrison, D. R. Garrison, D. R. (2006). Online Community of Inquiry Update: Social, Cognitive, and Teaching Presence Issues. Unpublished paper. </li></ul><ul><li>Gibbs, G. (1992b). Improving the quality of student learning . Bristol: Technical and Educational Services. </li></ul><ul><li>Gredler, M. E. (1997). Learning and instruction: Theory into practice (3rd ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall. </li></ul><ul><li>Heidegger, m. (1962) Being and Time. New York: Harper. </li></ul><ul><li>Kim, B. (2001). “Social constructivism”. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. </li></ul><ul><li>Knowles, M. S. (1970, 1980) The Modern Practice of Adult Education. Andragogy versus pedagogy , Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall/Cambridge. </li></ul><ul><li>Knowles, M. S., Holton III, Elwood F., Swanson, Richard A. (1998). The Adult Learner. Houston: Gulf. </li></ul>
    34. 34. References L-Z <ul><li>Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Marton, F., Saljo, R. (1976). &quot;On qualitative differences in learning: Outcome and process.&quot; British Journal of Educational Psychology 46: 4-11. </li></ul><ul><li>Mack, A. & Rock, I.(2000). Inattentional Blindness, Mit Press/Bradford Books Series in Cognitive Psychology;. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press </li></ul><ul><li>Modell, A.H. (2006). Imagination and the Meaningful Brain. Cambridge, Mass.: London, </li></ul><ul><li>Ratey, J., & Galaburda, A. (2002). A User's Guide to the Brain : Perception, Attention, and the Four Theaters of the Brain. 1st Vintage Books ed. New York: Vintage Books. </li></ul><ul><li>Schneider, W. X., & Maasen, S. (1998). Mechanisms of Visual Attention : A Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective. East Sussex, UK: Psychology Press </li></ul><ul><li>Shunk, D. H. (2000). Learning theories: An educational perspective (3rd ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall. </li></ul><ul><li>Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in Society . (Trans. M. Cole). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. </li></ul><ul><li>Wlodkowski, R. J. (1993). Enhancing adult motivation to learn: A guide to improving instruction and increasing learner achievement. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. </li></ul><ul><li>Zull, J. E. (2002). The Art of Changing the Brain : Enriching Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning. 1st ed. Sterling, Va.: Stylus Pub. </li></ul>
    35. 35. Contact Information <ul><li>Visit our web site at: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>Nicola Martinez Director of Curriculum and Instructional Design Center for Distance Learning 111 West Avenue, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866 518-587-2100, ext. 2276 [email_address]