History of Uncovering the Act of Learning LO28782

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@postino.up.ac.za)
Date: 07/04/02

Replying to LO28746 --

Dear Organlearners

Terje Tonsberg <tatonsberg@hotmail.com> writes:
(where ID = Instructional Design)

>I would like to propose the following:
>1. Novices benefit from careful ID.
>2. Intermediates benefit somewhat from careful ID.
>3. Advanced learners don't.
>4. People of lower IQ benefit from carful ID.
>5. People of high IQ benefit less from careful ID.
>6. Applying careful ID intelligent students can be
>harmful if it progresses too slowly into the stages
>of novel problem solving.

Greetings dear Terje,

Your proposals are a fair summary of an "information driven" ID. But as
soon as the "information driven" Instructional Design (ID) changes to a
"knowledge driven" Learning Design (LD), the situation changes
drastically. Please notice that i changed the ID to LD since knowledge
cannot be instructed, but can only be learned (and definitely not by rote

>Even in my own learning I follow an ID approach to
>myself. At the novice level I ask myself what are the
>major concepts pertaining to this field? I try then to
>find definitions that make sense to me, and a sufficient
>amount of examples so that I get a clearer understanding.
>I might spend a great deal of time at this stage. Next I
>will look at key principles that tend to underly the entire
>topic. Such as the supply and demand curves in Economic.
>If you understand this principle very well, the rest you need
>to know can almost be derived after being exposed to it
>once or twice. Now, once I have reached such a level, I
>have very little interest or patience with details, such as
>going through a bunch of different theories about footnotes,
>especially if I don't see a practical relevance that interests
>me. At this stage, if I was taking a university course, I
>would enter a suffering phase, a rote phase where I would
>just try to remember things for the exam at a literal level
>(I guess this is what you would call rote?.) Perhaps this is
>what happened to your students?

I wonder if you should still call in your own learning this Design an ID
and not rather a LD. Fortunately, in education the acronym ISD (the S for
System) is generally used so that your ID is not exactly like their ISD
;-) Allow me to explain, but it is still for you to say how far I am off
the mark.

The reason is that your learning is driven by your own knowledge from
within rather by information from outside. For example, when you search
for major concepts in the information sources of a field, you do it
because your inner knowledge tells you that such major concepts should
exist. Further, when you search for sensible definitions, you use your own
experiences (grounding your knowledge) to make sense out of those
definitions (contained within the information).

No, my students did not suffer because I might have expected rote learning
(remembering information for examination) from them. That is the last
thing I will ever expect from them. What I meant is that by using one of
the cognitive based categorisations or taxonomies (Bloom, Ausubel, Gagne,
Merril, Reigeluth or Engelmann) their ability to act creatively with their
knowledge of chemistry was impaired. This impairment did not show up so
much in written tests (in which i never asked them to reproduce
information) as in the laboratory where they had to do chemistry. The
problem with these cognitive based categorisations or taxonomies is that
they are based on the outcome (like cognition or knowledge) of the act of
learning and not the act of learning itself.
>I remember your term digestive learning from earlier
>correspondence. What is it, what does it involve and
>how does it differ from "rote learning"? It would be a
>big favor if you could tell me.
>(Could you please put it in laymans terms? My
>knowledge of physics and chemistry pretty much reduces
>to how to make a cup of coffee and that pushups are
>easier if you don't put your arms very wide.)

Your question "how does [digestive learning] differ from 'rote learning'?"
shows to me that you already have much tacit knowledge on it. They look
superficially the same, but their dynamics are different. In rote learning
information is pushed into the mind just as a sponge which has to soak up
more information without giving attention where it goes into that sponge.
In digestive learning an immature part of knowledge within the mind pulls
information from outside the mind into it so as to nourish that specific
part into maturity.

Think of knowledge as a carcass of bones and flesh. The bifurcative phase
of learning is like making a bone while the digestive phase is like adding
meat to that bone. Since i know from our dialogues in the past that you
have studied the 7Es (seven essentialities of creativity), i will use them
too in the explanation. The essentialities fruitfulness ("connect-beget",
otherness ("quality-variety") and openness ("paradigm-open") play the
major role in bifurcative learning while spareness ("quantity-limit") and
the rest plays the major role in digestive learning.

But the best example is to use the one having been given by yourself. You
wrote above "At the novice level I ask myself what are the major concepts
pertaining to this field? I try then to find definitions that make sense
to me, ...." Here you are seeking for the "bone" of this field which is
the bifurcative phase of learning. You then continue with ".....and a
sufficient mount of examples so that I get a clearer understanding. I
might spend a great deal of time at this stage. Next I will look at key
principles that tend to underly the entire topic." Here you are packing
"meat" onto this "bone" which is the digestive phase of learning.

I think that is why you replied to my

>>Since then it became easy for me to know when to
>>guide the learner into disovery learning. It is when that
>>learner needs a "knowledge kernel" (a noble thought)
>>in a topic to digest all the information available on that
>>topic. It is then when the Rousseau- Pestalozzi insight
>>becomes imperative.
>This looks much like the example I gave of my own
>learning above! It seems at the very least that we have
>reached very similar conclusions. Tell me if you agree.
>I look at the kernel as that event that finally makes one
>grasp fundamental hooks, such as a profound
>understanding of supply and demand in economics. It
>could be an example, it could be a dream, it could be
>a mind game, paying attention to different aspects, a
>better definition of something ---> click! It may be a
>different thing for different learners.

I agree with you. The "click" is exactly when the bifurcation results into
a constructive emergence. It is here where the 7Es play a decisive role.
The role of liveness "becoming-being" is as follows. New external signals
lead to new inner sensations, then experiences and finally tacit knowing.
When that new tacit knowing gets connected with a mature part of knowing
(which thus also must have a formal level), the need for formalising
through any articulation this tacit knowing arises. In other words, the
"becoming" does not end with tacit knowledge, but continues into formal
knowledge and even beyond it.

The "click" in any topic has to come as soon as possible otherwise the
mind will just float erratically around as meanders through the bits of
information. Trying to find that "click" by joining bits of information is
like seeking for a needle in a haystack. A "metal detector" is needed to
probe exactly where in the haystack the needle will be found. It is in
this sense that i have found the ESCs (Elementary Sustainers of
Creativity) to be extremely useful in providing a consistent source of
signals from which to derive sensations, etc. The new tacit knowing
derived from them is this "metal detector".

>Still I wonder if this isn't really what could be called the
>generalization stage of learning. Namely the stage at
>which you have grasped fundamentals so well that you
>are ready for novel problem solving, or adoption, where
>one is able to alter what was learned to suit the
>circumstances. Perhaps it is all a matter of semantics and
>a slighlty different way of looking at the same phenomena?
>(the latter being more empirically oriented) Can you give
>some concrete examples of where you have conluded that
>students have passed the digestor stage? (Again it would
>be great if you could give examples for a layman.) In other
>words: how did you know?

Making generalisations, finding inconsistencies and adapting to new
situations indicate already a turning back from the digestive phase into a
new bifurcative phase so that eventually a new "kernel" of knowledge will
emerge. I like your use of "novel problem solving" very much because in
the sense of Einstein its solution depends on the coming bifurcation
rather than the existing one which made the perception of it possible.

Students "passed" the digestive phase (or as I see it, began to swing back
from the digestive phase) when they began to make daring statements, ask
inquisitive questions and generally lose interest in the topic at hand.
The best concrete example which I can give you at this stage is the one
which you have supplied yourself. It is when "I have very little interest
or patience with details, such as going through a bunch of different
theories about footnotes, especially if I don't see a practical relevance
that interests me."

>So it [learning] is a process and its outcomes include
>knowledge, didactics and education. Of course, the
>process and the outcome are two different things.
>Moreover, the outcome does not lead to the process.

Yes, i agree. But please take care to understand that the outcome at any
stage plays a major role in the next instantiation of the process.
Learning is a cyclic/iterative/pulsating process in which the past acts as
stepping stone to jump from the now into the future. It is like the
Fibbonacci series

past present future
  1 + 1 = 2
  1 + 2 = 3
  2 + 3 = 5
  3 + 5 = 8
  5 + 8 = 13

The ratio of the future to the present (or of the present to the past)
slowly approaches the so called "golden ratio".

>Dealing with learning in itself then is dealing with the
>process, but the outcome is observable. You know
>that learning occured when you see evidence of knowledge
>etc. You can also know some of the inputs, such as
>reading, asking certain questions etc. This leads to an
>attempt to understand the effect of these and arranging
>them under the umbrella of education and didactics.


>The problem is that all humans have a unique stream of
>inputs, a learning stream that goes on throughout their lives
>and never stops, and that is necessarily different simply
>because they occupy different spaces. They also have a
>unique physiological makeup. This makes it difficult to
>make curricula that are ideal for everone. It also means
>that to be a good learner, one needs to do a great deal
>of introspection to be a good teacher for oneself. The
>underlying questions is: How do I get to the kernel?

That is where i make use of a learning plan. It gives an indication of the
topics which will be covered as well as how they develop into increasing

As for getting a "knowledge kernel", i make use of one or more of the five
ESCs (thoughts-exchanging, exemplar-exploring, game-playing,
problem-solving and art-expressing). In this reply to you i used
"exemplar-exploring" where the "exemplar" is what you have told about
yourself in your previous reply. However, when looking at all the exchange
between you and me, they together from the ESC "thoughts-exchanging"

>It surprises me that you say they surpassed them already
>by the time the Prophet Muhammad began to operate.
>The Arabs at that stage were basically illiterate, primitive
>and scattered tribes on the peninsula, frequently at war
>with one another. The exceptions would be those tribes
>that existed as part of the Roman and Persian empires in
>Iraq and Syria.

I am refering exactly to these "exceptions", especially those in Syria. It
is among them that the first novel contributions in mathematics, chemistry
and medicine are found. They began to extend the work of the Greeks which
came to a standstill several centuries earlier and which the Syrians in
general were contend with.

Most interesting were their contributions to medicine, perhaps as a result
of having made contact with Chinese people. They began to develop medicine
as an empirical science which is vastly different to Greek and Roman

>As for a), b) and d) I did not study the history of math,
>medicine, and chemistry, but I am an orientalist and know
>Arabic quite well. You are in this context depending on
>secondary or even tertiary sources. This assertion about
>al-Ghazali is quite incorrect, but it is a widespread and
>modern notion. The source of the rumor are many:

You are right. I always shiver when making use of 2nd or even 3rd hand
sources. I always try to find authentic translations of original sources
(of whatever subject.I begin to explore). Original sources or copies of
them are almost non-existant in South Africa. Even translations of
original sources are very rare. As for the Arabic culture, very little of
it is available here even for Islam. The Islam here (15%) are mainly from
India and Malaysia and thus focus.

As for mathematics, chemistry and medicine, my main sources were
encylopedias and history books in these three subjects. I searched in
their indexes for "Arab" as well as Arab names beginning with "al-",
"ibn-", etc.

At said:
>>Information which exists outside began to replace
>>knowledge which live within. The Golden Era of the
>>Arab culture became a ruthless Islamitic Empire.
>>When the Mongols sacked Baghdad in 1256 the
>>Islamic Empire ended.
>Muslim historians, even those in the period you are
>mentioning (approx 900-1200) would not agree that
>it was Islamitic. To be Islamitic should mean to follow
>its law.

I am sorry and ask for an apology. I intended to put the Islamic in
quotation marks as "Islamic" just as do when I refer to the "Christian"
empire of, for example, Charlemagne. I know too well from history how
ruthless rulers misuse even corrupt priests to make their power absolute.
People say that prostitution is a very ancient job. Well, to corrupt the
priesthood is about just as old. It already began in ancient Mesopotania
(Chaldea) some 6 millennia ago and it still happens today.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@postino.up.ac.za> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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