My cat the constructivist

Yesterday Stephifty and I were talking about behaviourism and constructivism as we rode the Skytrain after work. Later that night, I was watching my cat. She sniffed my fingers as I read a book, the space on the couch before lying down, and so on an so forth. (I should rename her Lady Sniff-alot).

She sniffs everything, and I am assuming she gathers lots of interesting information from the smells she finds (she always sniffs my bag when I come home). I can draw very few conclusions, however (she doesn’t like citrus, but likes baked beans) from her reactions to the information she’s processsing. I have no idea what her frame of references is – she absorbs information, but I have no idea where it goes.

This is going somewhere, hold on…

As an Instructional Designer at SFU, I have almost no contact with undergraduate students, though I spend much of my time working with faculty and staff to plan or create effective learning environments. I enable lots of information to be thrown at students, but I’m counting on my faculty or learning theory to tell me if it’s working.

The information that students and faculty are absorbing – where is it going? I prefer contructivist learning theory (that your new knowledge is built on old), but if I don’t know what their frame of reference is, or where it’s going to stick. This is where pre-assessment comes in, and it’s built into the university system as a series of pre-requisites for courses. That only covers content or theory. Working with technology, where’s that pre-assessment?

Stay tuned while I think of an answer.


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