Chapter 1

Chapter 1 Education in the Knowledge Economy

One can hardly imagine a traditional university or classroom without books, maps, posters, notebooks and blackboards. The educational establishment has been built and structured on communication that combines the spoken word with printed and handwritten resources.

This world, however, belongs to the age of print, to the “Gutenberg Galaxy” as described by Marshall McLuhan (McLuhan 1962), one that has been markedly changed by digitalization. Understanding this change requires us to accept that the world of organized education is divorced from the natural and spontaneous interaction of daily life. It is separated from the “life world”, a concept developed in philosophy and social science by several authors of modernity including Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) and Jürgen Habermas (1929 – ). The “life world” (from “Lebenswelt” in German) was used by Husserl as his philosophical point of departure and describes that which is self-evident, spontaneous and present at-hand and that can be experienced by a person with their family and friends, in nature and neighbourhoods. Habermas has integrated this concept into his understanding of communicative action, the “life world” designated here as being the shared reference that allows us to talk and to learn to talk meaningfully together. All other forms of communication are based on this foundation.

This “life world” exists beyond the walls of education’s Ivory Towers. Learning and teaching is bounded by and confined within institutionalizations and the specific rationality of a school or university. It is enclosed within genres and concept structures that seem foreign beyond this framework.

We should keep this distinction in mind when looking at the digitalization of education, at e-learning. Perhaps the most important and the most liberating application of this distinction is found in information technologies allowing the very deep and complex structures of academic knowledge representation, creation and dissemination to transcend this institutional confinement and even social and geographical borders. Academic and scholastic knowledge is poised for this movement towards the “outside” and higher education is on the brink of becoming an integral and readily available resource in daily life.

We will not, however, pursue such musings further here.

The potential long-term development of education lies beyond the scope of this book. I instead assume the traditional institutionalized and instrumental logic of knowledge handling for educational purposes to be a given.

Mediated Circles of Discourse

The focus of our approach is therefore on how the processes of learning and teaching can be structured and organized within the formal institutionalized frameworks of education and we look at the important changes that are taking place as education leaves the world of print whilst remaining within the traditional institutional borders. We will use a simple circular model of discourse to establish a conceptual perspective and bridge between print-based and digital education.

The circle contains many areas or loci and activities such as classification, condensing and retrieval.

Abstracting (condensing) implies that an agent summarizes or synthesizes another’s text. Concepts and topics can be outlined or pre-arranged before and through the writing process and manual or automatic ordering and classifications can also be used. These are important in maintaining larger individual, institutional and global collections, examples including the PC “desktop” and folder system and the repositories of the World Wide Web. They are also crucial to the efficient discovery and retrieval of materials from these repositories. The main logic of this is, however, more general and is based on the reciprocal activities of externalizing and internalizing symbolic content. The model gives a simple birds-eye view of academic and scholastic discourse.

Figure 1.1 Circle of Mediated Discourse

We refer to the first main locus in the circle of mediated discourse as externaliization. This is illustrated in Figure 1.1 by writing, but may be equally well represented by drawing, painting, singing, presenting and acting. The second activity, internalization, is represented by reading. This can also be equally well replaced, this time by listening, watching, observing and touching as in Braille reading.

Between these two main loci are found other intermediate steps of pre and post processing. These include outlining and other types of pre-writing that precede and are incorporated into the true act of writing, abstracting and summarizing being examples of meta-writing. Metadata is fed into systems for organizing and retrieving material before being read. What we read is summarized and abstracted before we write our own exposés.

Here it is clear that we consider formal learning, as described above, as being a value-creating process. It consists of the manifold exchanges of symbolic content, of discourse, in which written and otherwise mediated expressions circulate between social agents (Blackmore 1999). Related performances are seen as engagements within these mediated circles of discourse and consist of expressive (constructive) and impressive (adaptive) elements. Participants take turns to appropriate symbolic content produced by others, but also provide their own input. Own input can consist of mere reproduction or imitation. Reproduced text can be rephrased, augmented and extended versions of the original, leading to either simple or extended textual reproduction. Changed wording and composition may, in some cases, also appear to be simplifications and even vulgarizations.

Circles of discourse come into being and are replicated, over and over again, at the individual level and (for all practical purposes) infinitely at the societal level. They in addition have other facets of importance such as their span, their technical and expressive formats, their expressivity and information content, their level of reformation and the velocity or speed of circulation. We will return to some of these dimensions in later chapters.


We can refer to the digitization of the circle of discourse as “remediation”. This concept draws on a formulation by Jay Bolter, remediation being considered to be the act of reworking a text carried and encapsulated by one media type so that it is delivered in accordance with the requirements of another. Digitalization can thus be seen as a remediation of circles of discourse, content and behaviors that relate to an established set of media conventions through these being reworked and reinvented [Bolter 1991], [Bolter and Grusin, 2000], [Bolter 2001]. The form and the content of previous modes are reworked, improved, reinvented and realigned in the technical, the social and linguistic/conceptual sense. They are brought together for purposes other than the original creator intended. Brian Lamb uses the example of a vocal performance of one artist over the guitar riff of another to describe such kinds of remix or repurposing and which he refers to as “mashups”. He suggests that we may think of:

A classroom portal that presents automatically updated syndicated resources from the campus library, news sources, student events, weblogs, and podcasts and that was built quickly using free tools… Each … may be described as a mashup. As the term suggests, mashups involve the reuse, or remixing, of works of art, of content, and/or of data for purposes that usually were not intended or even imagined by the original creators…  (Lamb 2007)

Let us use the concept of books as an example. There is no absolute or transcendental definition of this term. Wikipedia defines a “book” as follows:

A  book  is a set of written, printed, illustrated, or blank sheets, made of   ink ,   paper ,   parchment , or other materials, usually fastened together to hinge at one side. A single sheet within a book is called a   leaf , and each side of a leaf is called a   page .

But the term may also refer to a main division of a literary work (The Book of Genesis), to the Bible (The Book of Books), a factual record (balancing the book), a record of the imagination or a set of regulations (done according to the book). But then again Wikipedia describes the “electronic book”, which obviously is not hinged, as more of a simulacrum and as follows:

A book-length publication in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both, and produced on, published through, and readable on computers or other electronic devices.

Earlier definitions, which relate to the materiality of printed or handwritten volumes, tend to presuppose a static rendition of text. With digitalization, the book as content and the book as container however take on dynamic aspects. The definition itself therefore becomes even more fluid.

This is, however, not limited to the change of books into ebooks and journals into ezines (electronic magazines). There is a true plethora of formats and genres. For example, diaries that turn into weblogs (“blogs”), telegrams and short notices that become micro blogs, letters and the postal system changing into email, shopping malls into online shopping, spreadsheets changing into [digital] spreadsheets and photo albums into slideshows. Radio and television broadcasts are challenged by podcasts, movie theaters find their content presented on Internet “tubes” and scrapbooks have their [digital] scrapbook parallels. Blackboards compete with smart boards and live lectures are confronted with the rise of real time, online screencasts as “educational channels” and as pre-recorded playlists.

The remediation of analogue content into digital formats and the many ways of remixing or mashing up content have a technical correlate in the underlying file format. For example, a picture on a piece of paper is computationally represented by single points (pixels – picture elements) or by vectors. Each represents a family of technical formats. For example, PNG (Portable Network Graphics) and JPG (Joint Photographic Expert Group) are formats for raster or “dotted” picture rendition. Vector graphics use geometrical primitives such as points, lines and Bezier curves  that are described using mathematical expressions, format examples including SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) and DXF (AutoCAD Drawing Exchange Format). Similar format varieties exist for the written word, in free-form or as structured text, audio and video etc.

These basic or simple formats are combined to form composite structures as in PDF (Portable Data Format that was derived from Postscript for printed output) or dynamically integrative formats such as HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and ePUB. Higher up in this ecology we find meta formats that express the characteristics of other formats or their content. To this we can add reformatting mechanisms such as XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations) and exchange formats and mechanisms such as ODBC (Open Database Connectivity). These do not represent static storage. They however modify the practical or hands-on understanding of what a format is and can do. The inner storage mechanism is irrelevant, as long as the output from one digital processing or display tool can be used as valid input to another.

The overall diffusion of ICT for teaching and learning purposes is the outcome of many such adoptions and of teachers and students engaging in new modes of reading, writing and other forms of textual mediation. Added educational value is created as an emerging dialectic between such texts and their specific contexts and by live teachers and live students interacting with each other, with relevant artefacts and with fields of practice. These processes are enhanced or hampered by aspects of social organization and reorganization.

Grammar of Schooling

We refer here to a grammar of schooling as being the patterned slots of time and space to which students and teachers are subjugated by a set of well-defined rules and rites for educational institution entry, behaviour and exit. This social structure developed in relationship to a given knowledge domain and its representational modes and are re-factored and sequenced into delimited taught subjects.

An entrenched grammar of schooling for industrial society is currently challenged by technological and economic disruption. Core elements of this renewal are emergent digital representational modes. These have a number of distinct features and a stronger insistence on body-language. But it is also marked by the rapid commoditization and globalization of symbolic work, a process which also extends to a new web of mediated social relationships.

Participants in this dialectic must master composite levels of literacy relating to the technical means of expression. This includes a rich variety of document structures, formats, standards and conventions, mechanisms and metaphors for use, referral, storage, retrieval and dissemination.

Diana Laurillard and her collaborators in the European Kaleidoscope research project have drawn attention to the challenge by linking it to changes in the medium of discourse and knowledge representation:

As soon as we represent knowledge in some medium, such as a book or a diagram, that process reshapes it and the way it is learned. One challenge for research, therefore, is to decide how to represent the content and process of learning in a digital medium.  (Laurillard et. al. 2007)

Jeff Jarvis remarks that digital media incorporates the advantages of its predecessors:

It’s not that print is bad. It’s that digital is better. It has too many advantages (and there’ll only be more): ubiquity, speed, permanence, searchability, the ability to update, the ability to remix, targeting, interaction, marketing via links, data feedback. Digital transcends the limitations of—and incorporates the best of—individual media.  (Jarvis 2008):

Knowledge Society

Current society is often called a knowledge economy. Definitions of the knowledge economy differ. In our work, the knowledge economy implies the growing and overall importance of circular discourse activities. Value-creation is not a linear augmentation of symbolic content. It is instead a complex development of exformation (the removal of unnecessary or obsolete symbolic content), of modelling, remodelling, structuration and condensation or “folding”. Folding is considered to be the act of summarizing or condensation of symbolic content for overview and navigation purposes, the original content being retained and easily accessed.

We refer to the entirety of this process as “intellectual capital”. At a higher level of abstraction, intellectual capital can be compared with other manifestations of value such as financial and industrial capital. I.e. a process based on human endeavour which is in continuous flux or movement between stages and manifestations. Intellectual capital is therefore the creative engagement with repositories and representations of symbolic and knowledge content in the circle of discourse. This capital is created, maintained and circulated by material and symbolic tools and structures.

We can refer to all this as “media”, i.e. the container, substrate, delivery mechanism and associated creative process for textual content and the static or dynamic renditions of this textual content.

Like other forms of value, intellectual capital is maintained and augmented by contributions from social agencies at the individual and aggregate levels. It is, with individual and collectively encoded experiences, often referred to as “human capital”. Human capital is here defined as being the talent and ability or potential that individuals and social systems possess which can be used to productively interact with, recreate and expand upon content and symbolic interpretation and its delivery. This includes the tools and structures that support this activity. (Atkins et al. 2007).

In large-scale manufacturing, the cost of producing yet one more physical copy falls as volume increases. Marginal cost tends to diminish. This gave rise to the industrial economy, its scientific analysis in Taylorism and huge series of identical products. Printed books were among the very first cases of such industrial output.

Winners take all?

Given a sufficiently stable infrastructure, one more copy of a book, a music recording, a software program or a full-length movie can be produced with virtually no effort or outlay. The marginal cost in core parts of the knowledge economy thus approaches zero. In “The Second Machine Age”, the authors convincingly argue that a consequence of this is a movement towards a “winners-take-all” economy (Brynjolfsson and McAfee 2014). In formal terms, this represents a change from one societal distribution logic to another. Even if this is not always the case, it has been widely assumed that quality in things and people follow the normal distribution, “normality” being the bulge in the middle where most people and most products are most of the time. The extremely good and the extremely weak are outliers to the right and left of this middle-of-the-road reflecting the distributions of natural conditions, resistance and acceptance of change, intelligence, incomes, effort and other expenditure of resources.

Figure 1.2 Normal distribution: A few good or badproducts at the extremes, most in the middle.

In certain domains, however, a “long-tail” distribution seems to fit better with observed data. This is for instance the case of blockbuster movies when a small fraction of films dominate in the theaters and draw huge audiences while most other titles are languishing. This is a case of number-one products or services.


Figure 1.3 Pareto distribution: “Winner Takes All”.

Only gold medals count in this logic. Second and third become just “also-rans” even where there is only a millisecond or a gust of wind differentiating the first from second and third place. This is because of the media fame of the number one spot, which advertising and sponsor money also follow and because media fame is replicated across a million screens at no additional cost to the athlete who won. In a similar vein, a software program or mobile phone need only be marginally better than its competitors to dominate the market.

This principle of “winner takes all” corresponds to the power law distribution, which is also referred to as the Pareto curve. Pareto observed that 20% of the population in agricultural Italy tended to own 80% of assets.

As a consequence, the value that is injected into the production process does not translate into or “rub off” onto the end product, but resides in the intersection between ever new products, renewed production processes, the required and renewed tools for their realization and in the ever more important outputs of innovation, research and development. This has created a new economic and inventive dynamism. It has also positioned teaching and learning at the very core of economic activity.

One possible consequence has been hotly debated since Harvard and MIT launched their Massive Open Online Course initiative in May 2012. Will the top universities take most of the educational market? They can offer superior instruction and world-renowned names and teaching materials to everybody in line with the Pareto distribution. Are we moving away from the current system of a few very good universities and schools, a large number of average and a few bad institutions distributed as described by the normal distribution? Will this be replaced by a handful of globally branded super-universities?

This might well be true for learning materials such as digital textbooks, videos and online courses.


The educational process is however, at its core, one of master-apprentice relationships. In modern parlance we can talk about teachers as being the professionals and students as being their clients. The marginal cost of adding yet one more student is, however, far from negligible, the ratio for efficient learning interactions appearing to be in the region of 20-30 students per teacher.

In our view, this stems mainly from the fact that education is delimited by and enclosed within educational institutions. Students are removed from the practice of daily life, from the “life world” briefly mentioned in the introduction. This makes it harder for them to grasp and memorize concepts and models as they are not immersed in and interact with their signifiers on a day-to-day basis outside of schools. For this reason, students need the intimate inspiration, leadership and control provided by more experienced teachers, which is the main focus of this text.

The development of the knowledge economy is a result of, and has profound feedback consequences upon, teaching and learning. New media, with the Internet as the overarching expression of this, came into existence only around 1990 and into widespread use 10 years later, which is extremely rapid compared to the previous 500 years of steady development. New media provides an intensely different and challenging environment for educators and students alike.

The common denominator of most if not all aspects of product and process development is “design”. In the words of Harvard economists Baldwin and Clark, design is the very means by which knowledge is translated into economic and social goods in the knowledge economy (Baldwin & Clark, 2005). E-learning design or the general digitization of learning may therefore be viewed as being the reworking, reinvention and expansion of established media conventions.

We assume that designs for educational efficacy are based on the assumption that:

  • The power (Pareto) distribution describes the quality distribution of educational materials.
  • The normal distribution describes the quality distribution of teaching institutions, teachers and students (to the extent and as long as higher education is mainly confined to specialized institutions of learning)

This might change in the future if teaching and learning is disseminated and dispersed to the work place and civil society, a change that would mark a return to an earlier master-apprentice and practice-based mode of teaching and learning.

Innovation on a Global Scale

The expanded scope or societal “opening up” of learning is one of the main findings in the Learnativity investigation that a group of researchers conducted on behalf of the E-Learning Initiative of the European Union (Learnovation 2008). The paper presents a two-dimensional analytical schema. The values on each axis in this schemata are continuous, but for brevity we treat them as dichotomous and thus forming a 2×2 grid as shown in Table 1.1.

Table 1.1






1 Local and tradition bound

2 Globalizing, but inert


3 Innovation-in-context

4 Innovative transcendence

We can position, in this classification, an educational institution or an educational practice along one dimension extending from inertia to innovation and its contextual scope along a dimension spanning from “locally bound” to “global convergence”. Typical examples may be described as follows.

  1. Local and tradition-bound: This is typical of schools and universities that cater for the needs of local or regional constituencies in a traditional way, i.e. the dominating feature of contemporary education.
  2. Globalizing, but inert: In this quadrant we find traditional and massified distance education as well as efforts to commercialize degree programs. Digital technology can be used but has little or no consequence for the pedagogical modes and models. A typical example would be talking-head video lectures delivered over the Internet and on-line standardized multiple choice tests.
  3. Innovation-for-context: The third quadrant caters for strongly contextualized and innovative approaches to education using digital technology. In our view, this is the domain of educational programs that transcend the distinction and division between formal education and workplace activities, crash courses and educational updates during a career.
  4. Innovative transcendence: The last and fourth quadrant is both globalizing and innovative. Here we find educational processes that develop new and transcendent modes for people who work and study or who just take some time off to spend on the global scene, the digital nomads . Examples are cross-regional and global joint courses and degrees, children learning with and from each other in global school programs, the loafing life-long learner and the training programs of global companies that consider the whole world as many, but still unified places of learning.

We leave the two first types aside to focus on the innovative dimension and pose the questions:

  • What kinds of designs can support the development of educational innovation? Designs should support local contextualization or transcendent globalization (quadrant 3 and 4 in the table above).
  • Is it possible to devise means that simultaneously support both these scopes?

Our answer to these two questions is affirmative, but tentative and is based on experimentation with digitally supported designs over three decades which we report in subsequent chapters. The results achieved in the last few years are particularly promising. But they are also obviously developmental and exploratory.

Pedagogical Principles

The main purpose of teaching and learning is to gain mastery of a field of knowledge and a field of practice. This mastery can be described in a number of different ways. The following three levels of mastery can, for example, be identified.

  • Conceptual familiarity : To be able to understand what a concept is or what it means, i.e. basic awareness of a concept as opposed to real application. Familiarity means to provide a satisfactory answer to the question “What do you know about this?”
  • Practical usage : To be able to use or apply a concept, model or apprehension in a concrete way. Requires satisfactory answers to the question “What do you know how to do?” and demonstration in practice that this answer is true.
  • Qualified assessment : To be able to consider a concept from multiple viewpoints and/or justify the selection of a particular approach to solve a problem. Not dependent on a book of linear rules to decide, but have the ability to select an appropriate approach from several possible alternatives that are known and understood. A satisfactory answer should be given to the question “Why would you do that?”

A more detailed taxonomy was proposed by Anthony Bloom (1956). He defined a hierarchy of competence domains starting with the internalization of knowledge. Higher levels comprised comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. The first level of (basic) knowledge contained facets such as the knowledge of specifics, associated terminology and facts, knowledge (description) of ways of doing something and the knowledge of universals and abstractions. This is close to the teaching model in which the lecturer and textbook author provide materials for students to remember. Tests and exams are then a measure of their ability to do this. A revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy is based on the ability to remember and on higher levels of understanding, application, analysis, evaluation and creating. The Dreyfus brothers (Dreyfus and Dreyfus, 1980), inspired by operational research and theories of information, developed a similar model of skills acquisition in which they defined the following four main dimensions:

  • recollection  or remembering (non-situational or situational)
  • recognition  where a problem is decomposed or understood holistically
  • decision  based on analysis and intuition
  • awareness  which is to monitor and absorb events and situations

These are combined to describe the typical trajectory of learning, based on the perspective of mastery or skills. This stepwise process starts with the novice, transforming the learner first to an advanced beginner and then, via the levels of ordinary competence, to proficiency and expertise. This represents a progression from rule-based immanence to intuition-based transcendence. The following provides a few descriptors for each stage:

  • A novice  is rule oriented with rigid adherence to taught rules or plans and with little or no discretionary judgment
  • The advanced beginner  has some experience, but limited contextual awareness or “situational perception”. Different aspects of the work string are treated in a similar way with equal importance
  • The competent executioner  can plan and handle task complexity using multiple and concurrent activities and has the ability to survey and absorb information
  • The proficient executioner  takes a more holistic view of the situation based on heuristics (“maxims”) rather than fixed rules, discerns abnormalities and prioritizes activities accordingly
  • The  expert  has internalized both formalisms and experience from a wide range of application areas, can grasp the specifics of each situation based on intuition and tacit understand, can see possibilities beyond the given situation (“transcendence”) and use an analytical approach when the problem-at-hand seems unfamiliar

One may find elements of such models in large-scale learning institutions. These institutions generally have a long history and organize their work based on traditions, their physical structures and institutional identities having developed over a number of centuries.

The debates and experiments with large-scale learning institutions are now, due to new technological and institutional conditions, being renewed. They are becoming more oriented towards the gap between rule and memory based learning and the free flow of creative expertise and flexible problem-solving and there is a growing focus on soft skills such as teamwork, time management and the ability to engage in oral, written and multimodal communication. Other dimensions such as the acceptance of diversity, uncertainty, risk tolerance, patience and social responsibility are also given greater weight.

Learning Architectures

Numerous concerns relating to the development of digital solutions for learning purposes have arisen. The development process started in the 1960’s with the PLATO software (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) that was in operation until 2006. The system spearheaded modern concepts such as online forums, instant message and message boards, chat rooms and multiplayer games. Digitization did not, however, take off until with the spread of the Internet from 1990 onwards. This was partly captured by the American concept of instructional design defined (by Wikipedia) as follows.

The process consists broadly of determining the current state of learner understanding, defining the end goal of instruction, and creating some media-based “intervention” to assist in the transition. Ideally the process is informed by pedagogically tested theories of learning and may take place in student-only, teacher-led or community-based settings.  

This definition puts too much emphasis on information theory models, the ideal of efficient transmission from sender to receiver and on achieving a predetermined goal. Many have criticized this shallow pedagogical understanding, which is far removed from the pedagogical principles described above.

Freire (1992) has been influential with his portrayal of “the banking concept of education”. He maintained that theoretical and practical skills are not transferred from teacher and textbook to the student as one might deposit money in a bank. Predictions of the demise of the educational institution are therefore revived every time a new diffusion or mimeo   graphic technology is invented, the demise being seen to be similar to that experienced by cinematographic film, radio and television broadcasts and duplication and photocopying machines.

A learner is not a consumer of content. As we indicated in Chapter 1, he or she enters a more complex and creative relationship with the content to be learnt, the learning environment and the teachers and guides. We can therefore disregard the new characteristics of digital textual resources and the environments in which they are produced, stored, retrieved and disseminated and use design and architectural concepts, which we also consider to be more productive. Rather than thinking about instructional designers, we can reduce the instructional element and talk about learning designs, learning architects and learning or interpretive environments.

A learning architecture is a collective structure that is the result of input from many agents. There is, however, also room for individual specialization. We imagine a “learning architect” as being a practical and pragmatic educator. He or she knows enough about students’ learning processes in one academic field to generalize and apply this to other educational areas. A learning architect is sufficiently well-versed in digital technologies to create simple or intermediately complex digital environments and solutions via the selection and assembly of facilities, equipment, software and data formats. She or he is also able to communicate with management and technical production environments within and outside the educational institution. A learning architect is also a digital documentalist with intimate knowledge of texts, formats, remediation and all the loci of mediated circles of discourse.

Principles of Good Educational Practice

We can reach back in time to find pedagogical inspiration. Educational research since the 1950’s has, for example, identified several qualitative dimensions for efficient teaching and learning. In 1986, the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) along with the Education Commission of the States and the Johnson Foundation, Inc. initiated the development of a series of inventories for assessing “good practice” in undergraduate education. The study suggested the following “Seven Principles of Good Practice”.

  • encourage contact between students and faculty
  • develop reciprocity and cooperation among students
  • encourage active learning
  • give prompt feedback
  • emphasize time on task
  • communicate high expectations
  • respect diverse talents and ways of learning

The most important factor for student motivation and involvement is frequent contact and interaction with students and faculty members. This is also one of the serious drivers of cost increases in education, a driver which is absent in a very wide range of activities in which automated systems and conveyor-belt handling of clients has become more and more prevalent. Students need to interact and learn from each other. The third component in this triplet of principles emphasizes students’ active engagement in their own learning rather than a passive consumerist approach.

The next triplet relates to the production logic of teaching and learning. Students are required to meet high performance expectations within firm and reasonable time limits and receive feedback on how well they are achieving this.

The final point underlines the need to adjust expectations, feedback and other interactions with a student to his or her background, talent and learning mode.

Similar conclusions were reached 25 years later. Dumont et al. (2010) presented a further set of eight principles in a study published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), to guide the development of learning environments for the 21st century. The report concluded that learning environments should, to be effective in ways confirmed by international research and that can be described as “21st century effectiveness”, provide a combination of all the following factors:

  1. Recognize learners as its core participants, encourage their active engagement, and develop in them an understanding of their own activity as learners (“self-regulation”).
  2. Be founded on the social nature of learning and actively encourage group work and well-organized co-operative learning.
  3. Have learning professionals who are highly attuned to the learners’ motivations and the key role of emotions in achievement.
  4. Be acutely sensitive to the individual differences among learners, including their prior knowledge.
  5. Devise programmes that demand hard work and challenge from all without excessive overload.
  6. Operate with clear expectations and deploy assessment strategies consistent with these expectations. There should be a strong emphasis on formative feedback to support learning.
  7. Strongly promote “horizontal connectedness” across areas of knowledge and subjects and to the community and the wider world.

The final and 8th point covers the promotion of integration (or “horizontal connectedness”) across areas of knowledge and subjects, to the community and the wider world. If we juxtapose and adjust the two lists, we arrive at the strong consensus shown below of what will work in higher education.

Table 1.2

7 principles 1987

21 st  Century Effectiveness 2013

1 encourage contact between students and faculty

3 Have learning professionals who are highly attuned to the learners’ motivations and the key role of emotions in achievement

2 develop reciprocity and cooperation among students

2 Be founded on the social nature of learning and actively encourage group work and well-organized co-operative learning

3 encourage active learning

1 Recognize the learners as its core participants, encourage their active engagement, and develop in them an understanding of their own activity as learners (“self-regulation”)

4 give prompt feedback

7b There should be strong emphasis on formative feedback to support learning

5 emphasize time on task

6 Devise programmes that demand hard work and challenge from all without excessive overload.

6 communicate high expectations

7a operate with clarity of expectations and deploy assessment strategies consistent with these expectations

7 respect diverse talents and ways of learning

4, 5 Be acutely sensitive to the individual differences among the learners in it, including their prior knowledge


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