#ocTEL Socrates and Emergent Learning Models

Week One is only half way through, and already my brain is starting to hurt! I’m more of a practical person than a theorist, and easily get lost in articles and debates about theory. It reminds me of when I did my counselling training, and some of the reading material was enough to send me looking for a counsellor! But, in the spirit of working through this #ocTEL MOOC, I’m having a go at the reading this week and trying to make some sense – that is sense that I can understand.

The link to Donal Clark’s impressive set of blog postings about educational and learning theorists was pretty impressive – 50 posts over 50 days on such a heavy topic http://donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=Socrates

As he notes in his blog, I have been one of those lecturers I’m sure who have mentioned the Socratic Method without knowing anything about it.But I am pleased to find out that Scorates was “ among the first to recognise that, in terms of learning, ideas are best generated from the learner in terms of understanding and retention. Education is not a cramming in, but a drawing out.”

This echoes my own thinking and ways of trying to work with the teaching and learning I provide. I see my role like a gardener at times, simply helping the ideas and aspirations within the students to transpire. Today I was running a workshop for other staff new to supervising our students for a masters programme. I was aware that the more experienced I have become as a teacher, the more I try and encourage others to be curious about a particular area or question, rather than to give them answers. Thus a little like the example of the midwife, which Socrates saw as the role of educators. Of course I wasn’t too keen on then finding out that Socrates was apparently a blatant bully and tyrant at times. Maybe some of my students would see me as being like that.

I then tried reading the link and article to Emergent Learning Models and it was here that my brain really started to ache – maybe it is because it is late, but I did find the ideas on the heutagogic blog hard to grasp


I then found what I hope have been a more helpful diagram of emergent learning theory, http://www.slideshare.net/fredgarnett/fg-ouemergenttable

This suggests a difference between education, which is something that takes place in a formal, institutional/education setting, and learning, which takes place outside of such settings, and often arises from the desire of individuals or groups to learn. This reminds me of the quote “you can take a horse to water but you cannot make it drink” – which might happen with education as we can’t force anyone to become ‘educated’, despite how long or what tactics we employ within an education system. Yet, if we are on standy to provide the necessary resources, skills development, information, etc etc to individuals and groups who have their own innate desire to learn about a particular topic or activity, then we can provide the drinking vessel for them to drink the water.

Maybe I’m not expressing these ideas very well, but I sort of have my own sense of what I mean (I think anyhow!).

So what does this mean for technology enhanced learning? some of that will depend on the context/setting that we are talking about. If it is within an educational setting, such as school or college, then we need to try and find ways of meeting students at the level the student is at – in other words, not expecting the student to meet my agenda or restrictions, but to bring the learning aims we seek to be achieved by the student, to the place that the student is at. As part of this, we need to find ways to help students become curious and to stir and wake up their own internal curiousity. Similarly, for informal learning, elearning can really come to life, because it provides access to learning at any point in time and brings the greatest breadth and variety of learning tools, opportunities to students across the world.

I look foward to reading other blog postings on these topics and to finding a more constructive and clear explanation than I have been able to provide tonight.



"a technophobic in recovery" . Hello - I'm a senior lecturer at the University of Manchester, England. My subject area is Public Health. I spend most of my time teaching postgraduate students on a fully online distance learning programme in public health and primary care. I have come from a research background in public health and primary in the UK National Health Service. My main research & public health interests include the evaluation and impact assessment of public health interventions. I have published papers on randomised controlled trials, cross sectional studies and systematic reviews. My teaching and learning interests, more recently pursued, include pedagogy for vocational postgraduate students in an international context; the use of web-based technology for learning; Open Learning and MOOCs and the development of critical thinking skills and research training.

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