Look, No Supervision!

workplaceTo have a teacher teaching you is of great advantage. We often do not realize its full merit. What if one is not available or present at the moment you are in need of learning help? Can you cope, or will you drop your learning endeavor altogether. No teach, no gain. Often we get trapped in situations in which we have to ‘learn’, acquire new knowledge while sheer ignorance is the basic line. Imagine opening your just delivered package with an all-purpose kitchen cooking blender, or a self-assembly wardrobe from a famous, brand notorious for its detailed instructions. After the first panic you start rebalancing your emotions and will conquer your feelings of despair to look for helpful scaffolds – strong clues on how ‘on earth’ to understand what to do next and grasp the meaning of things (1). It would be nice if such clues were lying around from the start of your discovery journey. It would safe time, it would avoid redoing everything after noticing you see a construction piece still in front of you, it would save a lot of sweat and tears.

A study on learning at the workplace gauged how learning may be supported in the absence of supervision and found that newly recruited workers did remarkably well without direct supervision provided enough scaffolds where existent. The learning help arounds were experienced other workers, peers, guiding instructions, organized set ups of the work environments. When engaging in such a learning design they gradually reduced their felt need of learning support.

Environments can teach, rich environments that is. No, not rich, since that could lead to a learner “buried in thought” about the many options offered, but instead what you could call a ‘powerful’ learning environment; one that provides the right kind of scaffolds without arranging your trails as a training camp. The key point here is that it is not so much about having supervision or not , or sufficient teachers around but carefully adjusting, if you will reducing, the kind of (teaching persons or environmentally designed) help so that learners can decide on and are encouraged to interact with what puzzles them. Teachers stand on others’ threshold of discovery, after that it is up to the learner.


Palesy, D. Learning in the Absence of Direct Supervision: Person-Dependent Scaffolding. In: Vocations and Learning (2017). doi:10.1007/s12186-017-9176-9



  1. http://changingminds.org/explanations/learning/ignorance_trap.htm
  2. https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/chapter/5-2-what-is-a-learning-environment/



A Joy Forever

untitled-1Strange, a lot of adults don’t like to read, a lot of kids too, while reading is said to be ‘a joy forever’ (1). Books left untouched, stories not revealed, it seems a waste. Like most things of beauty (Keats again) they must be discovered.  And with most explorative journeys it is best to have a guide or mentor nearby. By implication you could say ‘not reading’ is to blame on lack of proper guidance (teaching if you like).  To become a joy you need to have the skill first, the fluency and flow in reading a story, not muddling through the words in a text. This requires practice, and of course, lots of it. Again, it is handy to have a guide or teacher nearby: to stimulate practice, to provide corrective feedback from time to time, to assess progress and praise mastery. As with most practice, better start early. At home, for instance; no, at best. Here lies the crucial strain – it is done far too less (2). Despite the numerous studies and tips that inform parents about reading at home and the joy that comes from it both for parent and kid. Where lies the wretchedness?

It is Time. A study on reading at home using a parent apprenticeship program showed the willingness of parents but also indicated as main trouble in keeping up the reading schedule a lack of time. There were also signs of inadequacy of pedagogy (children who became stressed by overly corrective guidance) but the main concern was having not sufficient opportunity to read together.

Who is to blame? A blog like this is hardly a punitive spot to regulate parental behavior but the excuse of lack of time is just a way of setting priorities erroneously; as if you are saying: reading at home comes down on my list. At such a moment the ‘joy forever’ argument comes in – it really pays off to engage in reading together (3). Once in place reading together may ignite all kinds of great pedagogies between parent and child: making flipbooks, story imaging, and making fantasy scripts. And so on.


Nancy Flanagan Knapp (2016) Reading Together: A Summer Family Reading Apprenticeship Program for Delayed and Novice Readers, Literacy Research and Instruction, 55:1, 48-66, To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19388071.2015.1099767



  1. http://www.online-literature.com/keats/463/
  2. http://www.k12reader.com/reading-at-home-simple-strategies-for-creating-strong-readers/
  3. http://www.allstudentscanshine.com/


Lost Space

knikkersWe live in different worlds. Well, this is not to state that mankind has some communication problems in understanding one another’s perspective. It is to address that you and I, each of us, operate in different spaces as part of our lives. An eminent philosopher, Popper (1), posited three worlds in which we live. First, the world of the material things on which we operate and that we manipulate. It consists of tangible objects we can move or alter with our hands, mechanically almost. Then there is the world of beliefs, opinions, and perspectives we can discuss and talk about to interpret and give meaning to what we do. But overarching both is a third world of constructed artifacts, designed models, and created plans that, once produced, govern our doing and talking, which exist more or less independently from us. Think of social media, think of Facebook, for example.  Mankind 2.0 cannot do without third world artefacts. Let alone learn and educate. Therefore, we have Facebook in the classroom as well (2).

A study explored the use of SNS (Social Network Sites) by pupils and found some noteworthy results. (Of course) students communicate about class, and teaching, and assignments through SNS all the time (!). But strikingly may be to some: teachers were not involved in this space; talk remained mainly social oriented, not educational or learning focused. On top of it, the education system did not seem to be equipped to help or relate to ongoing student discussions. Most talks dealt with practical matters and upcoming social events anyway.

Do we live in disparate worlds, i.e, “ ships that pass in the night”; as if matters we deal with in one world are not ‘existent’, relevant in the other worlds? That would really cause a desperate situation in the long run. Third world artefacts call for a merging of designed infrastructure with the personal space of doing (world 1) and talking (world 2). Not integrating SNS, for example, into education systems eventually would lose, according to the study, enormous educational potential. Granted: creating space requires connectivity in order to effectively change our life and way of living.(3) or else it will remain empty.


Janus Aaen & Christian Dalsgaard (2016) Student Facebook groups as a third space: between social life and schoolwork, Learning, Media and Technology, 41:1,160-186,

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2015.1111241Source



  1. http://www.libertarian.co.uk/lapubs/philn/philn065.htm
  2. https://elearningindustry.com/facebook-at-schools-professional-teachers-use-facebook


Over A Cup Of Coffee


It starts early and extends till late in professional life: being supported. Teaching no longer can be performed in isolation; it is surrounded by guiding learning materials, demanding course regulations, supervising school inspection, peeping parents and so forth. Teaching is fully embedded in the Age of Transparency (1) . So, let us forget about teaching as ability residing in the individual; it is distributed, shared among those creating the instructional environment at a school site. The teacher as an individual professional is long gone. We are comfortably accustomed to provisions, support, and care up to a level of dependency. This is not to criticize current state of affairs, certainly not. Teaching is not to be a one-man-show; it requires attention. Initiatives to get teachers to help each other should then receive a warm welcome. And indeed, there have been numerous attempts to share and distribute trade knowledge among teachers. Classroom consultation, clinical supervision, Plc’s, team coaching, inter-vision, peer mentoring; there are really a lot of initiatives (2). Given this, it is good to keep on asking: does it contribute (i.e., in keeping teacher ability high)?
An interesting initiative was set up by a group of Danish developers who started a counseling trajectory to support mathematics teachers. They trained a group of teachers in counseling skills to help their fellow teachers at the school site to deal with students having math problems. The program provided a solid framework. Of interest here is the outcome: For the counselor-teachers it turned out that they had great difficulty with the discursive shift, i.e., not to teach their fellow teachers but to mentor them. The counseling talks were mainly of a kind: “let me tell you how I…”. An interesting side result was that teachers were aversive to reading the literature, and preferred talking. As a positive outcome it was noted that the program contributed to more attention to student math problems.

Teaching is not mentoring, and mentoring is not teaching. It requires special skills to mentor. Although teaching nowadays becomes more and more like mentoring; that is, helping another person to master an unexperienced task, teachers are largely ill-prepared in their role as mentors. Being sensitive to the other’s concerns and needs for help requires not “telling”, or talking over a cup of coffee; but a) reviewing where the other currently is, b) pointing out where to go, c) and selecting the right learning path to get there.

Uffe Thomas Jankvist & Mogens Niss (2015) A framework for designing a research-based “maths counsellor” teacher programme . In: Educational Studies in Mathematics (2015) 90:259–284
Published online: 29 August 2015; Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015.
DOI 10.1007/s10649-015-9629-8

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1. https://hbr.org/2012/07/trust-in-the-age-of-transparency

2. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/02/teachers.aspx

The Good And The Bad

good guy

‘Opposites attract’ may sound as a plausible advice used in dating site commercials but would be a questionable approach in education. As a deeply moral enterprise education values sensitivity in teaching and instruction to be adaptive to the learner. This must be since we proclaim that the learner is at the center of the whole enterprise. A crude “pass or fail’; “attained or not”; “true or false” is unlike and in contrast with (good) teaching and (deep) learning (1). “There will always be another approach to reach a good solution” might be the typical reaction by a teacher when a pupil gets stuck in a difficult assignment. Indeed, trying in (a) different way(s) may contribute to consolidation of a learning result. `That is at least what Herbart in his teaching pedagogy advocated (2). There is no good or bad in learning; only multiple ways in which a learning process unfolds to reach acceptable outcomes (3). If this is true than there is no case to be made for teaching aimed at avoiding mistakes. It may be even be a good strategy to create mishaps, perhaps.
So, what to think of a research study in case based learning that offered a course in writing in which both good and bad examples of texts were presented? The assumption was that by contrasting exemplars learners would focus on the essential elements of a good writing piece. It turned out that this contrasting approach was successful in creating good stories by the learners. Students were better able to identify the weak parts in their own writing.

It certainly could be the case that analyzing good and bad exemplars elicits an active comparison and processing. The idea is being advocated quite strongly currently (1). And it may be true that in this way students develop a concrete and fuller understanding of what key criteria are in the assessment of their work. But why then did students learn most about the weak parts of their writing? Is focusing on the “good and the bad” a good strategy? Or is it more that capturing similarities and differences, looking for generalizations, and synthesizing key elements describe the learning process more adequately? It may be not so much the meeting of good and bad but the get-together of multiple perspectives which laid open insights that prospered students.

Contrasting case instruction can improve self-assessment of writing, by Xiaodong Lin Siegler, David Shaenfield, & Anastasia D. Elder. In: Education Tech Research Dev (2015) 63:517–537.
Published online: 20 June 2015, Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2015
Link: DOI 10.1007/s11423-015-9390-9


1. http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/110126/chapters/Introduction.aspx
2. http://www.enotes.com/research-starters/herbart-apperception
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Educated_Mind

Served On A Silver Plate


“When something is too hard to do, it is not worth trying” is a cunning advice by Homer Simpson. But learning is trying (to understand…, to master…), so should learning be made easy to do? It probably would, in Springfield. A learning task can be hard to do for some, and easy for others, depending on prerequisite skill available and prior knowledge in place. Nothing new here. But would a little help to make achieving more easily really help? Say by making the learning task more: organized, schematized, contextualized, visualized..? Cognitive Load Theory (1) says it will. Its main hunch is that learners cannot capture too much in their heads. Full is full. New information will simply not be processed when too many items are to be addressed at the same time. Therefore a learning task should be presented in an orderly fashion. By default this Theory places heavy stress on the proper introduction, presentation and arrangement of instructional materials. Learners can lean back, one might think, because the burden of learning is in the materials. Blame it on the materials – Homer would have liked this (“Better them then me”).
Is it working? A study looked into this following Cognitive Load Theory by presenting a self instructional learning module on mastering spreadsheet software. Special attention was given to the design of materials to reduce work memory load by visualizing and organizing the content to be learned. It turned out that the effects on retention of what was to be learned were nil.

Of course there is nothing wrong with an emphasis on the art of design of instructional materials, on the contrary. This is excellently demonstrated in many of the modern foreign language teaching methods which make use of a whole range of design tools to introduce sturdy content (2). Learners are engaged in a multiplicity of activities; be it: rehearsing, looking up, listening, practicing, exploring. In order to grasp knowledge and attain skill activity of a learner is required. Actually a lot of it when we look at most content to be taught. It does not come easy as the adage expertise research tells us: Practice, practice, practice is what it takes (3). “Come again” would be an apt motto in a Springfield learning center. It is not only what is on the plate but how it is consumed, that makes the dish.


Chiek Pin Ong & Zaidatun Tasir (2015). Self-instructional module based on cognitive load theory: a study on information retention among trainee teachers In: Education Tech Research Dev (2015) 63:499–515
DOI 10.1007/s11423-015-9383-8
Published online: 8 May 2015, Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2015.

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1. http://elearningindustry.com/cognitive-load-theory-and-instructional-design
2. http://www.cervantes.es/default.htm
3. http://www.cambridge.org/co/academic/subjects/psychology/experimental-psychology/toward-general-theory-expertise-prospects-and-limits