Monday, July 16, 2012

Instructional design and Tacit learning

These are terms which hover around the borderland between education and training.  Instructional design came originally from a military need to train lots of people quickly to a uniform standard in the Second World War, and a desire to take educational theory and use it to produce a effective framework for people trained to a specific set of competences. Gagne is a key name here. Within that context, Tacit knowledge is the collection of nonverbal learning that SME’s (Subject matter experts) gain from experience which can be difficult to encode into a formal description of the specified learning outcomes of a course.
Once we step out of that context it becomes more difficult. I see education proceeding from very well defined learning goals, such the ability to tie a shoe lace, or to add decimal numbers up two places of decimals at primary level, through less concrete goals at secondary level such as “Students will understand the causes of the civil war”.  As education proceeds through third level, we encounter the sort of concepts embodied in the idea of a liberal education, or Newman’s idea of a university. Here packing what is being learnt into a Specified Learning Objectives framework becomes less appropriate.
I am referring by analogy to this type of learning also as Tacit learning, and in particular I am  thinking of the kind of skills which we develop as a professional, which are open ended, and don’t have set limits.  Good teachers, I think, don’t stop learning when they are qualified, and learn from a diverse set of sources including their students, and their practice.
This is an area of learning for which I can find few instructional design models, and which I am interested in exploring further.