Instructional Design and Learning LO29186

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 09/17/02

Replying to LO29177 --

Dear Organlearners,

Terje Tonsberg <> writes

>When events take place, time passes. Time exists because
>of change; they are two sides of the same coin.

Greetings dear Terje,

Your two profound sentences which I have quoted above, require deep
thinking, both for science and for education!

In my own education since childhood time was presented to me as something
which exists upon its own and which can be measured by a clock. That
continued up to the end of my university training. I never even once gave
it thought that "time exists because of change".

But soon after I began with research into soil science and irreversible
thermodynamics, my thoughts began to wander frequently to the possible
relationships between time, change and entropy production. Eventually it
striked me that
"entropy production"="positive change in entropy"="irreversibility"
(three ways of articulating one and the same thing) is necessary for
all kinds of time measuring devices to function. In other words, your
"time exists because of change" applies.

In his book "The Direction of Time" Reichenbach discusses the possibility
that time is a purely subjective concept which has no objective basis,
i.e. that time does not exist outside the mind. This may seem to be a
highly philosophical issue. But when, after four years of research I took
up my calling as a teacher, I soon observed among some learners that they
become completely oblivious to the passage of time when learning. It
intrigued me.

These learners were learning differently than the rest who tried to
memorise facts, laws, formulas, etc., as well as applying recipes,
mnemonics and other crutches to advance in their subjects without
understanding. I began to sense the difference between authentic learning
and rote learning. The authentic learner learns creatively, meanwhile
forgetting that time exists! The authentic learner is focussed on making
mental changes rather than looking often at a clock like the rote learner.

I began to realise that designing a lesson and even a whole course has to
be such that the learner will forget that time exists because of focussing
on mental changes. Thus my tacit knowing of liveness ("becoming-being")
began to grow swiftly. I began to think in terms of "change learning
objectives" which i later renamed into "procedural learning objectives".
But it took me another dozen years before i discovered phenomenologically
the seven patterns essential to all creative changes. What a struggle it
had been to formalise (articulate) them as the 7Es (seven essentialities
of creativity).

What is a time measuring device like a clock? It produces entropy in a
linear fashion, thus causing a regular/linear change which we divide
regularly in hours, minutes and seconds. What are we doing in science when
using time as a descriptive parameter? We are actually comparing a
phenomenon with non-linear entropy production with the linear entropy
production of a clock. This leads almost invariably to the Mental Model
(MM) of linear thinking. This MM prevents us to compare two phenomena with
each other, each with a different non-linear entropy production.

We can become stuck with the same MM when designing a lesson or even a
whole course. All the lessons of a course have a fixed duration. But
emergent learning and digestive learning, each driven by non-linear
entropy production, do not have fixed durations. When we compare them with
each other rather than each other with a clock, the emergent learning
(providing the 7Es are not impaired) happens much faster than digestive
learning. Thus we may neglect digestive learning which is crucial to a
fluent performance.

>What I was getting at then is that entropy landscapes
>are subtle attributes of sequences of change.

Yes. Once we get rid of the MM of linear thinking, the ruggedness of such
landscapes gets into focus. It is then when we will begin to perceive how
a deluge of information flattens (erodes) such a landscape. Erosion by
information is deadly to authentic learning.
>I am not sure what you mean by "The unsolved problem
>compared to the solved problem forms an entropic force.
>" What solved problem?

Terje, since my previous explanation did not work, i will gladly do it

There is an important difference between the authentic and the rote
solving of a problem. In the authentic case we do not know that we have a
problem at hand, nor that it can be solved. In an over loaded course it is
difficult for me to present every problem as an authentic one. Thus i have
to try and steer a midway while still conserving the emergent and
digestive phases of learning.

Knowing that a problem has a solution, but not having found that solution,
constitutes the entropic force. Finding that solution by working it out,
step by step, constitutes the entropic flux.

There are two ways in telling a learner that a problem has a solution. The
first way is saying: "Trust me, the problem has a solution. I have worked
it out myself." I try to avoid this way at all costs. I do not like the
trust part since it leads to a blind acceptance. Furthermore, it is then
me rather than the learner who generates the entropic force. The second
way is to demonstrate the solving of a problem of the same kind (genus),
but of a different permutation (species).

It means that i am actually preceding the ESC (Elementary Sustainer of
Creativity) "problem-solving" with the ESC "exemplar-studying"!

Terje, it is impossible to say whether an ESC functions as an entropic
force, flux or force-flux pair. It all depends on the learner. When I
demonstrate the solution of a problem, I make use of all the cycles (the
"W"s) of learning -- the What, the Way, the Why, the When, the Will, etc.
For some learners all these "W"s are just too much fuss. They want a
"cookie cutter" (template). For them the solution is meaningless so that
the problem reduces into an entropic force.

However, for the others these "W"s act as the "context" of the "identity"
of its solution. As they follow the working out of the solution, step by
step, their sureness ("identity-context") grows. They cannot conceal their
excitement in their body language. When I work slow enough, some will
exclaim "I've got it" ("eureka") before I got it to the final step myself.
In other words somewhere during the demonstration they changed the ESC
"exemplar-studying" into the ESC "problem-solving". The demonstration
functioned for them as an entropic force-flux pair, leading through a
bifurcation to an emergence.

Did you notice that for the first group of learners the essentiality
liveness ("becoming-being") was impaired into "being" while in the second
group it functioned as it should? The most striking difference in body
language between these two groups is that the first group has that
blank/glazed/dull ("it is Greek") stare in their eyes. I have made many
experiments by reducing all the "W"s of learning so that only single cycle
learning (the What) remains. The blank/glazed/dull ("it is Greek") stare
in the eyes persisted.

Some of them would come afterwards to my office for personal consultation.
Invariably I would find through questioning that one or more of the 7Es
had been impaired seriously. This impairing usually happened because some
or other MM (Mental Model) preventing its growth.

I do hope that i have also answered your next question.

>As a slight aside: so thought-exchanging, problem-solving,
>game-playing, exemplar-exploring, art-expressing are
>actually examples of force-flux pairs?

Yes, provided they function as they should. I have explained above how
"problem-solving" can reduce into an entropic force. But it is also
possible for it to be reduced in an entropic flux. This happens when the
learner wants to solve the same problem over and over again, with only the
extensive properties (quantities) changed in the problem. The learner
wants skill in the familiar, but do not want to handle the tension in the
unfamiliar. To prevent this, permutations have to be made on its intensive
properties (qualities). This will lead to a performance curve quickly
becoming horizontal.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> 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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