Friday, April 25, 2008

waiting on writing

Here's one: Have you ever been so busy writing that you don't have time to stop and write? How about this: Have you ever written so much nothing during the day that you don't feel like writing much of anything at night? Yeah, well that's been me for about two weeks.

My prompt to get to thinking about what I'm writing? Gorton's Ladder of Learning. I saw this model some years ago when I first started looking at technical communication through an instructional design lens. Much of what we do as technical communicators is applied learning theory. This time around, I got to thinking about the ladder in the context of what we're trying to do in online learning environments.

Simply put, Gorton's ladder runs like this from bottom rung to top: Unconscious incompetence, Conscious incompetence, Conscious competence, Unconscious competence. Overlaying these rungs are the situational teaching styles that best suite the capabilities and proficiencies of the learners located at various points on the ladder. For example, a "director" type instructor is appropriate for learners that stand on the Unconscious incompetence and Conscious incompetence rungs. A "coaching" type of instructor is similarly more appropriate for learners that stand on the Conscious incompetence rung and further up on the Conscious competence rung (you get the picture).

In regard to online learning: It seems that learners suited for online instruction stand somewhere on the Conscious incompetence and Conscious competence rungs, taught best by a coaching/supporting type instructor. In regard to mastery of the subject matter, the goal is to move the learner to Unconscious competence with an instructor who can simply facilitate movement through the content.

I know I'm oversimplifying this, but it's kind of a neat way to think about what it is we try to achieve with online learning. If unconscious competence is not an outcome for the course, it's almost always a goal for the instructor.

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