Themes & Findings

What endures about the work from the Visible Knowledge Project are the insights about teaching and learning that bridge from Web 1.0 technologies to Web 2.0. These insights emerged from the work in VKP by looking across practices and beyond the technology itself. These insights include findings that are conceptual and bear on pedagogical designs.


Pedagogies of Adaptive Expertise

Conceptual finding: New media makes visible the intermediate thinking processes intrinsic to the development of expert-like abilities and dispositions in novice learners, and especially for abilities associated with adaptive expertise that allow practitioners (and learners) to make flexible use of knowledge in self-regulated ways. In many different ways, new media environments allow students to recognize and engage with the stages and layers of learning in ways that lead to greater reflection and control over learning processes. New media pedagogies can be used to engage novice learners in certain fundamental aspects of expert thinking that are difficult to engage in other ways. Many of these aspects of expert thinking traditionally have been invisible to higher education as elements of student intellectual development.

Design finding: Our studies together pointed to several important design considerations if a teacher is trying to realize the potential of visible intermediate processes on the development of adaptive expertise. In general, faculty have to make room for uncertainty, openness to multiple paths and approaches, reflection, and productive iteration. Additionally, faculty who design for this kind of development in new media environments have found that they have to create new ways to stimulate and capture artifacts of student learning that reflect expert processes that are different from traditional summative assessments.

Designing for adaptive expertise entails:

  • Recognizing what is “necessarily difficult” about a field.

  • Allotting time for intellectual play and uncertainty

  • Capturing intermediate processes through student work

  • Discovering new ways to read and assess student work


Embodied Learning Pedagogies:

Conceptual finding: In the late 1990’s it was still a familiar critical refrain about digital environments that they were impersonal and distancing. Early on in VKP, however, compelling evidence started to emerge that led us to a very different conclusion: students working in media-rich primary source archives found themselves particularly moved by photographs and film of the civil rights movement; students engaged in online discussion boards about works of literature, suddenly found themselves embroiled in heated exchanges about the legitimacy of their experiences to give them authority in taking a stance on character and plot; students creating multimedia narratives found themselves suddenly empowered by the multi-sensory, multi-track tools at their disposal—music, images, timing, graphics—to convey their own complex combination of emotional and intellectual responses to some moving historical incident they were trying to portray for a public audience.

Design findings: What does it mean to design for embodied pedagogies, to account for the developmental role of affect in learning, and to engage the emotional dimension to activate other highly valued cognitive processes. The challenge here is not only to make room for emotional engagement, but to model how to engage emotion in cognitive and critical thinking. Faculty recognizing the importance of affect in new media pedagogies develop instructional and assessment tools to accommodate these fuller dimensions of learning, rethinking how knowledge construction is connected to self-construction, cognition to affect, and critical thought to creativity.

Designing for embodied learning entails:

  • Scaffolding ways for students to know more than they think they know—through exploration, invention, and reflection

  • Acknowledging the role of affect in the engagement of ideas and helping students to engage their emotions cognitively in digital environments.

  • Expanding criteria for assessment that accommodates multiple learning dimensions.


Socially Situated Learning:

Conceptual finding: New media pedagogies are largely defined by the ways they are able to situate students in meaningful communities of fellow learners or practitioners; many new media pedagogies are socially-defined and communication-intensive, taking students outside of artificial classroom situations into conditions for authentic and high impact learning. New media technologies can be powerful in fostering engagement with others through dialogue, collaboration and exchange. What we saw in these areas goes beyond the positive role of social interaction and discussion teachers have valued in the classroom for a long time.

Design findings: Across the diverse projects in VKP we found that socially situated learning typically requires that multiple elements and values be present and reinforcing if they are to imply much more than merely opportunities for dialogue and communication. Some of the elements that must be present in combination include: an authentic task (drawn from approximations of expert activity), the opportunity for students to develop a sense of voice and authority; the ability to develop a sense of community or audience (inside or outside the classroom); and a meaningful social situation where feedback comes from sources other than the teacher. Socially situated learning at its most effective leads through engagement to commitment, where students, in small and large ways, come to experience what it means to inhabit their knowledge and the values it implies.

Design for socially situated learning entails:

  • Emphasizing the development of student voice and authority.

  • Cultivating intellectual community in and around the classroom.

  • Redefining the classroom as “approximations” of expert activity.

–Randy Bass and Bret Eynon

December 28, 2008