Learning Quotient and the Design Process
What has LQ and designing got in common? Essentially they are both problem solving activities and therefore they share common strategies. If as a learner you are faced with a learning environment which does not meet your needs you have two options. The first is not to learn, to disengage possibly thinking I cannot learn, and the second is to solve the problem of the environmental limitations and learn.
I consider having a design approach and skills an important element in the development of LQ and list it as the second of the twelve attributes I mentioned earlier. Although I used the term “problem based learning” I am aware that this has different interpretations in relation to teaching and learning. It is seen by some as a form of project based learning or self-directed learning; however both these approaches require the learner to exercise their LQ in order to be successful and therefore within the process there are two activities taking place simultaneously and which are interdependent on the same skill set. These are using a problem solving approach to acquire knowledge and understanding (often by recreating or simulating the context of the learning need) and using a problem based approach to meet personal learning needs (applying LQ).
The design approach is universal in that it can be used by the teacher to create the learning environment and by the learner to solve the problems created by the learning environment. Thus it is a powerful tool within the learning process. Although we may consider designing an intuitive process there is a certain logic that can be applied to it, in doing so we can both assist the process and improve the outcome. Designing is not a linear activity, it has many starting and dropping off points and can even be “cut short” or involve loops both back and forward. Let us start by exploring a simple design cycle. The diagram shows a simplified six stage design process of developing a solution to a problem.
A description of each stage
• Problem – identification/recognition/adoption/accepting
• Questioning – analysis/exploring in order to refine the problem/recognising needs
• Ideas – the generation of possible solutions or part solutions to the problem based on satisfying the need
• Solution – synthesis of a solution meeting the needs as far as is possible. Enough detail to enable the solution (learning) to be achieved independent of the designer (teacher)
• Realisation – action to produce solution to the problem
• Evaluation – asking questions/comparison of the outcome to the need/testing/reporting
As a Teacher
This approach to creating the learning environment requires an objective review of learning employing a “mindful”[i] approach. It moves beyond subject based learning and uses elements of constructivism. Simply presenting the information to be learnt is not enough, you need to look at the problems associated with learning (barriers) be it present knowledge or understanding, context, resources or the environment, engagement or motivation etc. Next, questions need to be asked about the barriers and ideas generated as to how they can be overcome. There is planning involved in achieving a solution and delivering it (realisation). Finally there is the evaluation of the resources, process, outcomes and of the solution used to achieve the learning. This should inform the development of future solutions and add to the teacher’s professional development.
For the Learner
This process encourages the learner not only to see the subject as a learning activity but how they learn. Finding ways to make learning easier, better and quicker is a sensible use of LQ. It also requires finding ways to support their own learning and this has the advantage of broadening and deepening their understanding as well as encouraging independent learning.
There is also another important point about the design process approach and LQ and that is there is no one right or a single solution to problem of meeting learning needs. Further it encourages seeing learning as a problem in its own right independent of the subject content. This “revelation” can be very empowering and break many self-beliefs about what can or cannot be learnt. Discovering that the learning environment has a significant impact of not being able to learn is the first step in rebuilding the learning map. Discovering that through LQ you can do something about that learning environment is an important realisation for both the teacher and learner.
[i] For more information about mindful learning see Ellen Langer. You can also contact me if you want a summary and examples from the Teaching Ideas series at firstname.lastname@example.org