I learned a hard lesson this week: don’t tweet details about conference proposals before they get accepted. People will get excited about seeing the session, and then you might get rejected. Then you have to go back and break the bad news to everyone.

I have been rejected for conferences many, many, many times, but this one was the first one that was very hard for me. I spent more time and late nights on it than I probably should have, crafting a specific proposal to (in my mind) perfectly match the conference goals. One of my co-workers was visibly shocked that it got rejected. I guess both of us were giving the proposal more credit than it deserved :)

However, since some people on Twitter were interested in it, I decided to share this idea and let my ego take the hit it probably deserves when people see what it was actually about (I’m kidding, but would appreciate any feedback whether you like it or hate it). So, here is the title, the abstract, and some thoughts on where the paper would have possibly gone:

Embracing Heutagogical Metamodernist Paradox in Education: Self-Regulated Courses with Customizable Modalities

Abstract: Most formal or informal educational experiences tend to follow a linear pathway through learning content and activities. Whether these experiences are designed as student-centered or instructor-centered modalities that construct or deconstruct knowledge and skills, learners are still required to stick to a singular pathway through content with the instructor in control of the modality at every point of the course (even if several side paths or options are given). However, new instructional design ideas are challenging these single pathway designs in ways that truly transfers power from instructors to learners. Based on the often overlooked theoretical lenses of heutagogy and metamodernism, these new designs create true learner-centered experiences that utilize customizable pathways through self-regulated courses. This conceptual paper will examine the theories of heutagogy (learning how to learn instead of what to learn) and metamodernism (a cultural narrative that paradoxically embraces modernism and postmodernism), as well as how these ideas relate to education. These theoretically lenses will be used to lay out the basics of dual-layer course design that allows for customizable course modalities. The goal of a customizable modality course design is to encourage learners to self-regulate their own learning through various modalities (layers) by choosing one modality, all of the modalities, or a custom combination of different modalities at different points in the course. The challenges, limitations, desired contexts, and possible benefits of these designs will also be examined. The goal of this paper will be to lay the groundwork for current and future research into dual-layer customizable modality course design.

The bigger picture behind this is that when most people talk about change in higher ed, they are thinking of a specific lens, viewpoint, paradigm, etc. These usually range anywhere from “burn the whole thing down” to “we are on the right path, we just have to be patient because change takes time.” These specific lenses are usually presented to people with the same lens, but rarely do people take into account how their lens doesn’t work for those with other lenses. Their lens is presented as the One Lens that will rule all other lenses. Even beyond that, sometimes the narrative is that those other lenses have to be thrown out to accept the One True Lens.

This, of course, does not sit well with those that accept another lens or set of lenses. And this is probably why we often see slow progress on actual change in education – we are looking for one lens or set of lenses to fix everything – but everyone has different needs, perspectives, etc.

The emerging ideas of metamodernism and heutagogy are not necessarily trying to replace older ideas of modernism and post-modernism or pedagogy and andragogy, but are rather a call to expand those ideas to include the others. They are both pragmatic ideas that basically say “the old ideas had good and bad points… but the parts that were good and bad also tend to change depending on context… so let’s learn when to use these various lenses, when to combine them, and when to reject them on a context by context basis.” In other words, the answer lies in accepting that all solid answers are possible answers at different times.

edugeek-journal-avatarI know I sound like an old hippie strung out on some drug we still don’t have a name for, so I get why these ideas are a hard sell in educational circles. Educators want neat, tidy ideas with clear objectives, no chaos, minimized complexity, and for goodness sake – don’t confuse the learners! We have to teach them to think for themselves by removing every possible obstacle that would cause them to think for themselves to overcome. Wait… what?

(image credit: Patrick Moore, obtained from freeimages.com)

6 thoughts on “Psuedo-Buzzword Soup: Metamodernism and Heutagogy

  1. So i love this post as evidenced by my tweets (but then again i am quite in sync w lots of ur thinking so am not ur typical audience)
    Here is what i think is missing from this proposal/blogpost: concrete examples to illustrate what you say. Examples of paradoxes we need to tolerate and accept where context changes our “lens” even. Examples of how something can seem good from one perspective but bad from another, AT THE SAME TIME. We just had this convo on connectedlearning.tv hangout about #techquity

    I assume you can share some learning from #dalmooc – I suspect there are peer-reviewed pieces in the pipeline but if there is some grey literature around plz point me to it. I love grey for its immediacy and accessibility over peer reviewed stuff that takes time to appear, uses more difficult language and occasionally sits behind paywalls (that i am privileged to have access to, but still..)

  2. Thank you – great suggestions. I will need to think through the examples – since education rarely embraces paradox it might be pretty involved to describe some example in depth. Dual-layer MOOCs does come to mind, but those lean towards giving learners control over their context. Probably more of a framework for customizable contexts under the control of the learner? Lots of new combinations of existing terminologies here… need to try out a few and see which one fits. Some of the co-authors on another proposal suggestion dual-modality for a better way to describe dual-layer. That one has some pros and cons.

    Or, come to think of it, maybe it is both ideas? Maybe there is a paradox there? Dual-layer implies one is more important to the other to some people. But sometimes… that is okay. Sometimes you do want to encourage people to get out of the more comfortable payer into the less structured one. In other cases, maybe both layers are equal in importance and so dual-mode would imply a true lack of preference for either layer by the instructors/designers. Not sure. Lots of interesting ideas to mess around with to see what arises.

  3. This does sound an interesting proposal. I would have liked to have heard more about it.
    Wait a minute, how about taking Maha’s suggestion for some concrete examples and moving the next step into an article, after which your next proposal can be something like (“I will share Model XXX that looks at YYY and ZZZ as illustrations for how it can explain phenomena ABC”)?
    I am not entirely familiar with these two theoretical positions, to help prepare me for your article, can you share a reference or two / about them for us newbies?
    Finally, I think you are brave to share this here. Not because the idea is still being developed, but because it is tough to share ideas that have not been “approved” in the setting you mention. Sorry for that, but perhaps this post here can be the start of its finding its next home?

  4. Matt, just some thoughts, incomplete but inspired by your post;
    On conferences – Wish there were more un-conference opportunities. Open source meetups spaces conducted over time, on and offline, where people with similar thoughts support each other to improve their projects. Seems like it might be more functional than chasing the academic golden goose anyway.
    Philosophy, for clarity – I see Anglo-American philosophical history as Pragamtism to analytic and back to pragmatism. Think, CS Pierce and Dewey to Carnap and Skinner to Wittgenstein and Vygotsky. Analytic types (as well as some continental folks, e.g. Gadder, Habermas) keep sounding more and more like pragmatist. Unlike most of the posts – Pragmatists want to take the better parts, discard the prattle and move on.
    In terms of Heutalogical Education; it means accepting accepting that much of schooling is about socializing folks into cultural practices (think Vygotsky, zpd with standardized curricula.) but after all that all people must enter into practices where they must devise new ways of relating and structuring their thoughts and communications into unique one time Heutalogical events (think Bakhtin and Wittgenstein).

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