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Posts Tagged ‘praxis

A quick definition of praxis might be theory enacted in practice or theory-informed practice.

We need praxis in teaching and instructional design. For this to happen, practitioners would have to be aware of theories that undergird practice, stay up to date with changes, and pursue relevant professional development.

But all these are not enough.

As the image embedded in the tweet above illustrates, knowledge of theory does not guarantee effective practice. Even a good model to follow is not sufficient. A recipe does not a cake make.

So a missing element in my superficial definition of praxis might now include the need to learn quickly and effectively from mistakes. This applies as much to facilitating learning as to cake-making.

Praxis is the combination of theory and practice, but not in the manner illustrated in the tweet below.

The tweet is ha-ha funny and might provide some insights into idiocy in real life, but accepting this as a given can have serious consequences. No one wants a lab for pharmaceuticals, energy storage, or DNA repair to say “nothing works and no one knows why”.

Praxis is about theory informing practice and vice versa. For these to happen, anyone who claims to have expertise must be well-read, and be a reflective and critical practitioner.

Beng well-read means keeping up with the latest theories and research. Being a reflective and critical practitioner is giving back to that pool of knowledge. Doing these avoid the situation where “nothing works and no one knows why”.

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I get worried every time I hear that phrase right before a non-educator goes on to tell others why he or she is right.

I have heard this more often than I like, but two examples stand out.

One was at a conference where a university administrator misappropriated Bloom’s Taxonomy. That person started with “I am not a lecturer or professor, but…” and continued with “I found out about Bloom’s Taxonomy and think that all of them should use it to…”.

What was alarming was not that BT could be used as a scaffold — it is great as a guide — but that it become a procedural and step-like crutch.

Another was at a seminar where a professor started with “I do not have a teaching background nor am I aware of education research, but…” and then tried to convince the audience that the strategy worked.

What was alarming in that case was not whether the strategy was viable. It was not being able to explain why beyond metrics like improved participation.

Even more alarming was the attempt to play to the audience who were mostly from non-education backgrounds. The professor discounted the importance of theory by celebrating the low-hanging fruit of “what works” instead of raising the standards and expectations of teaching faculty.

The problem with “what works” in one context is that it does not necessarily transfer to another. That particular example was extreme because the professor had the expertise to custom-create a specific LMS-like environment around his content and preferences.

Drawing on larger learning theory, be it a form of problem-based learning or flipped learning, builds on or provides questions for that theory. It strengthens practice by providing theory as structure for critical reflection and improvement.

Those of us in the educational arena can learn a lot from those who operate outside it. There might be legitimate statements that follow “I’m not an educator, but…”. However, there are few that have not raised my eyebrows or heckles. After all, would you get medical or legal advice from someone who said, “I’m not a doctor/lawyer, but…”?

I took both these individuals to task as nicely and politely as I could. I did this even though I might come across as being negative. My rationale was simple: If no one was going to be the watchdog, then anyone could walk through the gate. I was not going to sit idly by.

So beware if you show me your “but”. I might just bite it.
 

Later today I will conduct a presentation on educational crowdsourcing.

The praxis of educational crowdsourcing: Learner as content creator and learner as teacher

I was invited by a university to contribute to a seminar where one of the themes was to push the practice of collaboration.

I have opted to focus on how faculty might do this by positioning students as content creators and teachers. It is one of my teaching philosophies that students learn best when they take these roles.

During my presentation, I back up this stance by citing the theory and/or research behind such practice. I also share my own experiences doing these when I was a university academic.

Update: My Google Slides are at http://bit.ly/iits-praxis.

Today I share another of my favourite quotations. I created this visual with Haiku Deck.

This quote has been attributed to Marx. I have no communist leanings and instead see the saying applied to education.

It is a reminder of the importance of praxis (the meeting of theory and practice). A researcher who operates in an ivory tower or who does not practice what he preaches should be treated with caution. A practitioner who cannot justify her methods should be treated with suspicion.

Again Haiku Deck is not very helpful in tracing the original CC-licensed image. Both the app and the web versions only provide a link to the photographer’s page and not the actual photo. I finally found the original image after a bit of trawling.


http://edublogawards.com/files/2012/11/finalistlifetime-1lds82x.png
http://edublogawards.com/2010awards/best-elearning-corporate-education-edublog-2010/

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