Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

18 May 2011

Alternate Pedagogies and Experiences

Clark @ 6:04 AM

In writing about mobile for higher education, other than meeting learner administrative and information needs, I obviously focused more on the formal learning roles mobile devices could facilitate.  And one of the things that has been of interest to me is looking differently at pedagogies.


In the traditional view, we activate the learner’s interest, we present them with the concept, we provide examples, we have them practice (with feedback), and we conclude the learning experience.  I think this makes sense cognitively, but it doesn’t make sense when we start considering the learner’s emotional side.  Unless we open up the learner emotionally, I reckon the rest of the effort won’t stick. We can do this with the intro, but there are other approaches.


For one, we don’t need to stick to the traditional order.  At least with elearning, we can make the order navigable, allowing the learner to choose what they want to see.  We took that approach when we developed a course on speaking to the media (which had some other innovations too) back around 1997.  It was also seen at UNext.  We provided a ‘follow the bouncing ball’ path for uncertain learners, but anecdotally we found half the audiences, presumably confident self-learners, explored in other approaches than the recommended approach.

This approach also provides the necessary structure to support adaptive systems, which can present different objects at different times. We used this approach when developing the Intellectricity™ system that adapted the learning experience based upon learner characteristics.


The approach I typically refer to as the problem-based approach (similar approaches are seen in case-based, project-based, and service learning) essentially puts the problem, an overarching practice, first.  By showing the learner the type of problem this learning experience will help you address, you build in the emotional side.  Now they’re understanding why this is important, and are motivated to go explore the concept, examples, and perhaps do trial practices before it matters. This is the pedagogy that drives the interest in serious games, embedding meaningful practice in a compelling context.

The problem-based approach more closely mimics the motivation learners will feel when faced with real performance contexts, and makes the content more meaningful.  Engaging the learner in meaningful practice provides experience for reflection, and shifts the instructor to be a facilitator and guide instead of a content presenter.

The point, of course, is to think more broadly about the learning experience, tapping into intrinsic motivation, whether for learning or for the problem, and start embedding what we know about the emotional side of learning into the learning experience.


  1. As an eLearning Developer I’m definitely a huge fan of the Navigable / Adaptive pedagogy. I think it provides a better learner experience for novice, as well as advanced learners.

    Comment by Lee Graham — 20 May 2011 @ 8:46 AM

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