2001 Conference (May 27-29)

Vancouver, B.C. Canada

Lee Gass

The Value of Cybernetic Models of Teaching and Learning




Although scientists and other investigators study whatever they study, it is important to realize that they also study ideas about what they study. Detectives investigate not only facts, but models of how those facts interact, and the most successful of them articulate and compare competing plausible models of those same facts. Theoreticians often claim that the first benefit of models is that they identify and clarify assumptions; particularly assumptions about functional relations among components. In general, managers of any kind of complex system, such as professors managing classrooms, manage better from clear than from vague ideas of their systems, particularly ideas about assumptions.

"Student-centred", "student-directed", "inquiry", and "problem-based" approaches to learning rest on different assumptions about students, about instructors, and about learning environments, than traditional approaches. In particular, they assume that students are self-regulating learners. I will use a combination of stories and simple cybernetic models of students, groups of students, and teaching-learning interactions, to prime a discussion of how simple cybernetic models can empower events that occur in and out of classrooms, and empower learning.


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