Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Discussion on 'New Learning'

Yesterday Tumult Debat organised a debate on the latest debatable Dutch hype in Dutch education: the so-called 'Nieuwe Leren' which could be translated as the 'New Learning', which has been the subject of a lot of debate lately in the Dutch media.

Last Saturday the Volkskrant ran an article on the 'New Learning' and one thing which became quite apparent is that it encompasses a collection of different theories and principles.... Robert Jan Simons gave a clear description. This point came up regularly during the debate.

In the debate Paul Kirschner and Monique Boekaerts gave their views on a number of principles of instruction and learning design which where clear and not very debatable. The listeners however where often from schools and clearly had ideas rooted in practice. Some were clear advocates whereas others clearly preffered a traditional style of teaching. If there was one thing that could be learnt from the debate it is that:
  1. New learning is really New teaching
  2. Learning theory is not a direct instruction on how to teach
  3. There is not one clear instruction how you should teach a bunch of students as they differ (where have I heard that before).
  4. The underlying principles may be brilliant, but if you don't do it well (invest money) it will not work as well as promised.
Perhaps the most charming view was the historic view offered by Maarten van Rossem in his closing speech. The interest in new learning can be viewed from the trend in society towards individualisation since the end 19th century. This has sprouted a number of learning theories which started back in the early 1900s with the Montessori tradition. 'Nieuwe Leren' as a principle in which students are given more responsibility for their own learning is just another of these learning theories.

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