Enforced Independence #rhizo14

Week 2 Challenge from Dave Cormier‘s course, “Rhizomatic Learning — The community is the curriculum.”

Explore a model of enforced independence. How do we create a learning environment where people must be responsible? How do we assure ourselves that learners will self-assess and self-remediate?

I’ve had a smiley smirk on my face since reading week 2’s challenge and listening to Dave’s intro for week 2. I wish I had thought of the idea of enforced independence when writing my thesis about my experiences and my students’ experiences with independent learning within the confines of required credits for high school. I live the week 2 challenge questions pretty much every day.

Currently in year four of an evolving (rhizoming?) learning environment, I ask students to pursue a learning interest for which I will find an appropriate credit. I discovered and embraced the idea of the rhizome in year one, and continue to live it. Student curiousity and interest rather than a course or a set curriculum, lead the learning. For example, one student began pursuing an interest in veterinary medicine and ended up transposing music to create a four-part a capella arrangement.

I have students studying Norwegian, Python programming, C++programming, criminal psychology, “beats,” 3D modelling, Android apps and more. All of which I have little or no knowledge. The students must be independent (and interdependent–thanks to ???’s rhizo blog response). The situation itself enforces that the students take responsibility for their learning. If they are really interested, they will pursue their interests. They learn without being “taught.” I enforce independence, because I cannot directly “teach” them. I can direct them to resources and help them to question and plan and organize and assess, but they must gain the knowledge and understanding through their own efforts.

Ensuring that the learners self-assess and self-remediate is weaker than I’d like. Students share their weekly learning achievements on Fridays with the larger group. This doesn’t have the depth that I’d like, so I’m thankful for the example Dave Cormier’s course outline, which provides some structure for responsibility while maintaining the independence for learners.

Next week, I’m mapping out a new plan for second semester. This course is very timely in helping me to imagine other possibilities. Many thanks to participants for sharing for their ideas.

14 thoughts on “Enforced Independence #rhizo14

  1. dave cormier

    Always fun to meet others who are trying to get the same kind of work done. Looking forward to looking through some other posts to see you describing how you are getting this work done. Any suggestions?

    1. barrydyck Post author

      Actually getting into the messiness of it and trying is the only way that I know right now. The enforcing of deeper learning and personal reflection within the learning community is the goal for second semester.

  2. Pingback: Enforced independence – Week 2 | Cultivating Minds

  3. Debbie Tebovich

    Hi …
    I might be a little lost as it’s quite early in the morning here, but could not find your name. OMG!
    When you say “They learn not being taught”, my feeling is we might be dealing with a question of which words we feel more comfortable with.
    If we think that a good teacher is that one who helps learners organise their learning journey, and I understand from your post this is what you are doing in your class, and I love it as I am on the same path (well, I try to stay), I wonder if they are really learning without being taught? There seems to be a teacher supporting and organising.

    1. Jenny Mackness

      Hi Barry – I had the same thought as Debbie, i.e. when I read – ‘They learn without being “taught.” my immediate thought was – it depends on what you think teaching is.

      Great to hear more about your teaching practice. Thanks for sharing.


    2. barrydyck Post author

      I’m Barry btw. By not being “taught,” I’m thinking in the traditional sense of one who has knowledge to deliver to student-receivers. Students have learned helplessness. “I don’t get that,” they say. I think we’ve taught them that someone must teach them. With the abundance of knowledge today, independence, together with knowing where–not just what and how–should rule.

  4. Terry Elliott

    As I was reading I was inspired to think about the kinds of questions you could ask a student involved in independent learning before and after the course:

    1. What is your project and why are you interested in it?
    2. What will your product be?
    3. How have you been interdependent with your project?
    4. What have you found out along the way?
    5. Have you shared your project to a larger community? Describe that.

    These are the same kinds of questions I invoke with students in my university freshman comp class I-Search project each semester. And more. I am trying to figure out how to do something similar with a junior level research course. I suppose that even having a requirement to produce something in the course is a form of enforced independence. Most of the rest of what I do in class is deliberate practice that I think will help them in some general ways to make it happen.

    I hope to read more and think more on this.

  5. Debbie Tebovich

    Hi Barry,
    My first thought was you were having Sugata Mitra in mind. But I understand your idea and as I said I am on the same path (try to stay!)

    1. barrydyck Post author

      Mitra’s work is interesting and it, together with freeschooling and unschooling, and much else, has informed my thinking.

  6. Simon

    I am working with undegrad/postgrad students on language learning (English) . Working on developing connection between diverse learner spaces/communities/languages. Learner led, reflective, passion/academic/professional based learning/research and dissemination of practices combining Lego/Boxes anything with amplification on net. This year we have over 1000 students involved in UK/France/Spain/Poland/Japan/Sweden and over 20 teachers. Gradually deepening connections thanks to Erasmus and Institutional funding. We are aiming in particular connecting people involved internationally in teacher training programs as this seems like a logical place to start.

    Guided by activist research work of Scollons on Nexus Analysis.

    Early days yet, as we have to work on digital competence development – all action combined with reflection and research dissemination in collaboration with learner/teacher/researcher/professional in #communityofpraxis.

    Looking to find bridging means away from traditional assessment. We are getting there but welcome your experience. Thanks Dave for sharing your course outline and assessment framework.

    Working with team of librarians and teachers in open spaces. This is the reason working on this course. It is all connected… Looking to open up cooperative work in developping learner friendly physical/online learning spaces/information spaces/network spaces/temporal spaces.

    Rapidly mushrooming network/learner/teacher/researcher/professional/anybody else community called #CLAVIER Connected Learning and Virtual (vital) Intercultural Research Network.

    At moment community members in UK/France/Spain/Poland/Sweden/Japan/Cameroon/Finland with various levels of engagement and connection in various spaces, in various configurations, in various time-frames.

    Looking to connect with all caring communities or individuals interested in working with research to build effective critical pedagogy as a counter-balance to testing-testing model.

    The principles which underpin this #rhizo14 course are very much connected to our philosophy and practice.

    We are looking to hold online hangouts to share practices and involve teachers and students in discovering different alternative visions of education.

    Already have ex-student as pioneer (Julien Diot) rhizomatic learner signed up to Google + group. Please say hi to him. He wrote to me at the beginning of the year to tell me he wanted to help me help students as I had got other ex-students to pave a way for him.

    He is currently in New Zealand on a 6 year rhizomatic learning journey around the World. Your caring and recognition for his bravery will be much appreciated.

    Thanks for your time

    1. barrydyck Post author

      None. I lead students in their own learning interests. The curriculum for the most part is created as students create it through their interests. Definitely not arboreal. model.


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