August 12, 2014

Modes of Learning: Hierarchical Collective

Hierarchical CollectiveThe Hierarchical Collective mode of learning is a mode that focuses a lot on communal values that are identified in an Organisational Hierarchical Collective.An example of this is learning in an open discussion or a collaborative classroom.

What is this mode all about?

The Hierarchical Collective mode has one clear goal: shared values and beliefs must be acquired for the overall goal, which is to create successful citizens of the society. This is generally done through the educational institution having put into place proper mechanisms that support shared learning. It is these mechanisms that help the intuition normalise behaviours and dictate what the desired values are.

The responsibility for carrying this out lies with the educational leader; who will make sure there is a positive environment for the desired learning to take place.

How this learning happens?

Collaboration is the key concept here, and the cornerstone for this type of learning. So, the group -as a collective- act as teacher and learner, with the real teacher playing the role of a moderator largely and the role of a teacher partially.

If done correctly, the learner would have gained the necessary lessons to be a successful member of the community. After all, the goal of this mode is to help the learner prepare to participate in a productive and useful manner.

In practice, the Socratic Seminar is an example of this mode (see the wikipedia entry here) or better watch Professor Rob Reich (Stanford School of Education) speak about the Socratic Method here (it's a wonderful speech)

An underappreciated mode


In my opinion, this mode has a great prospect of not only passing by values that are accepted (because they are stemming from the collective) but also teaching critical thinking, collaboration and the appreciation of prospective. Here's what I mean by that: (1) students participating in a Socratic method will have to speak up and express their own points of view allowing other to comment, reflect and criticise, this has the potential of teaching critical thinking, (2) because it is a collective mode, meaning it stems from the collective it advocates the collective wisdom and values explicitly, but implicitly, it teaches that collaboration is a good thing and the fact that whole is larger than the sum of its parts. this is how this mode could teach collaboration and (3) the method could teach learners to appreciate different prospective simply by virtue of giving other space to express their own versions of the truth, again the whole is larger than the sum of its parts. But also, remember the seven blind men feeling an elephant? Each of them concluded that the part he was holding represented the elephant’s true form, but as it turned out the true form of the elephant was the combination of their perceptions. In other words, pluralism holds the truth.

Unfortunately, this mode is not widely practiced. In 20+ years as student, I can't recall more than a hanfull of time where this mode was used, most of these were during my postgraduate study! too late if you ask me.

I want to end with this quote from John Dewey's 1893's essay Self-Realization as the Moral Ideal, wehre he talks about schools to engage children in meaningful learning and democratic participation, an idea very much at the heart of the Hierarchical Collective mode:

If I were asked to name the most needed of all reforms in the spirit of education, I should say: 'Cease conceiving of education as mere preparation for later life, and make of it the full meaning of the present life.' … An activity which does not have worth enough to be carried on for its own sake cannot be very effective as a preparation for something else

~John Dewey

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