Helping to create creators of knowledge

As someone who consistently preaches the gospel of active learning to my students, I aim to overcome Pitfall #4, expect your students to consume knowledge rather than create it, as described in Five Common Pitfalls of Online Course Design (Links to an external site.). In fact, in my current syllabus I have a statement that says, “Knowledge is not something that can be simply given from one person to another. Therefore, simply showing up to class and passively listening is not sufficient to result in learning.” In order to help students in my hybrid course become creators of knowledge rather than just consumers of it, I have identified a few crucial aspects of the course, which I will outline below.

First, the core assignment of my Managing Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility course is the Personal Ethical Action Plan. This assignment is a very personal, action-oriented game plan that students are encouraged to take with them into the world of work. In it, students are tasked with identifying their core values, identifying and analyzing instances where they did and did not act on these values, crafting a professional purpose statement, drafting a self-story that shares the origins of their values, and then analyzing their strengths and weaknesses regarding speaking up when their values are challenged. Thus, the type of knowledge created in this assignment is primarily self-knowledge. Importantly, however, this self-knowledge is focused on changing behaviors such that they are more consistent with the values each student embraces.

Second, I utilize learning journals where students are encouraged to engage in two types of writing. The first type is reflective, unstructured writing that is intended to allow for reflection and assimilation of knowledge. The second type consists of responding to structured prompts that challenge students to go beyond what was provided in the text and/or other online resources in creating a deeper understanding of how the material fits with their pre-existing knowledge base. The combined impact of these writing types is that it allows students to “know what they think by seeing what they write” an adaptation of Karl Weick’s statement “How can I know what I think until I see what I say?”

I am still thinking of additional ways to foster an environment where creating knowledge, in the case of this course primarily self-knowledge, becomes a primary aim rather than simply consuming knowledge. I am interested to hear of ideas that others have with regards to this pitfall.

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One Response to Helping to create creators of knowledge

  1. Kristen says:

    Working with students as engaged, self-directed learners is an ongoing pursuit for me. I believe doing so is a multi-faceted endeavor.
    It requires that students understand what engaged, self-directed learners are and how to develop their capacity in that regard. It requires that they actually take the lead in their own learning and stay with it through the dark and confusing corners.
    It also requires that they have a basis of knowledge about the content. My sage-as-self-image comes to play here, announcing that, ‘I did, after all, spend an enormous amount of resources developing expertise in this subject matter and I do have something to say!’ But, my challenge is to portray the right information in the right way – my success being measured in my student’s ability to absorb the information, and connect it to their store of knowledge/experience…essentially transforming that information into personally-relevant knowledge.
    Now, my challenge is to create activities that engage the student in applying the knowledge, completing analyses and evaluations with the knowledge…all through direct and immediate application of that information to their personal circumstances. If I am successful with this, the students are cementing the new knowledge in their cognitive maps and are now….finally…ready to start creating with that knowledge.
    Is it possible to achieve all these goals in a mere 10-week period…or is it really an ongoing endeavor, across time and courses and experience… We are really talking about Personal Mastery here…not simple ‘repeat back what I said’ learning. Senge refers to it as generative learning.
    I refer to it as the holy grail…:)

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