Re: Vigotsky, Rogoff, Kelly
Sun, 28 May 1995 21:43:20 +0000

Last Tuesday, responding to my long item on this topic, Mike Mascolo wrote:

>I wonder if
>we should be similarly mindful of maintaining our present models of
>learning in the classroom. What do you think, Devi, of transferring the
>active learning models of organizations to the classroom? Do you think
>college students would profit? Or are the conditions of the adult learner
>not applicable to our present day college students (which would be
>unfortunate indeed)??

Sorry for the belated response: have been away in Poland until tonight.

Um. Thoughtprovoking. I understand authors such as Novak (1990, references
in my original item) to be engaging in just these issues; not so much
transferring organisational models to the classroom, as drawing on a
rationale for active learning common to both classroom and organisation.

The aspect of the model offered by Beckhard to which I drew attention, the
political dimension, doesn't at first glance apply to the classroom since
that aspect of transfer-of-training doesn't apply to learning located
entirely within the classroom. I guess it's more pertinent in those forms
of college student teaching in which a work placement of some form is
involved but, again, only to a degree: the dynamics whereby the teacher
negotiates the support and involvement of a sponsor who acts as a host,
within the placement location, of learners coming in from outside, are
rather different to those in which the "sponsor" is the trainee's own
employer and organisational committment beyond the level of lip service has
to be negotiated.

Though the political issue differs, others may be similar, and both
organisational and classroom settings would seem, _pari passu_, to raise
the following issues:
- ownership: how to involve students in the choice and researching of
personally meaningful issues round which the learning can be structured
- by analogy to Revans' form of action learning, how to put a given student
into a situation which s/he hasn't personally experienced but which
requires him or her to draw on their own personal history and skills in the
new situation; and how to create a support group or learning set.

Actually, I can think of one very well-developed scheme aimed at
schoolkids, rather than college students, which has some of these
characteristics. In the UK and Ireland it's called the "Mini-Company"
scheme, (and to my embarassment I'm not sure I can recall the American name
for it, albeit it was first developed in the USA some 50 years ago: "Young
Enterprise", would it be?)-- in which schoolkids learn enterprise skills by
forming a legal company operating out of the classroom, raise (modest!)
capital, and collaborate in developing a product or service which they then
sell on the open market, all over a semester or two before winding the
company up and repaying creditors.

Clearly, they learn about business principles and practices, but what's
more relevant to the present discussion is not so much the subject-matter
as the mechanisms involved: that the idea of a live task chosen by the
students, the element of ownership (of an idea and its development), the
role of the teacher as facilitator of political issues of access, and the
need for negotiation by the teacher of ways in which the outcomes can be
taken seriously by key people in the environment.

Laurie Thomas has done a lot of work in this sort of action learning both
at all levels, school, college, and organisation; and might have something
to add.

Are you there, Laurie?

Kind regards,

Devi Jankowicz