Scaffolding, babies, and bathwater – #MOOCMOOC

Today began an exploration into critical pedagogy and in particular taking a critical look at Instructional Design. What is interesting here is that I’m just about to start teaching a course on the Foundations of Instructional Design and Learning Technology. This is one of the first courses in an Instructional Design master’s program. It needs to contain the material necessary to set my students up for success in the rest of the program, but also in their potential careers as instructional designers.

Digital Pedagogy Lab’s MOOC MOOC: Instructional design could not be any further from what I’m going to be teaching. My course is based upon the “science of instruction” and it provides what I like to call a “recipe” that anyone can follow. One of the first things I usually tell students is that instructional design is part science and part art. I can teach the mechanics of instructional design. Anyone that can follow the “recipe” can build OK instruction. These tools help ensure that the instructional materials don’t completely suck – but it doesn’t mean they will be good. There is some art involved in being a good instructional designer. To not recognize that is to devalue the talents of great instructional designers. It does a disservices to our profession if we only think of instructional design through the lens of Dick, Carey, & Carey’s “The Systematic Design of Instruction” (I use the acronym, ISD for Instructional Systems Design) – however, we also need to teach our students the foundations of ISD as they are useful tools, especially when you are tasked with the job of designing material that other people need to use for teaching.

This week in MOOCMOOC, Sean challenges us with the term scaffold – saying that “any effort on my part to scaffold (and effort to scaffold learning at all) would be colonial, patriarchal, and disempowering” – In some ways I think it is too easy to just throw around words like colonial, patriarchal, and disempowering without actually unpacking it. Perhaps in the context of MOOCMOOC, which arguably is a connectivist style MOOC (or even perhaps a rhizomatic style MOOC), we can throw the idea of scaffolding out the door, but alas, throwing it away altogether is throwing out the baby with the bathwater – interestingly in one of the listed readings Sean and Jesse recommend involves a recommendation on keeping our babies and the bathwater!

My immediate reaction to Maha Bali’s post about Messing about with instructional design, ADDIE, & Bloom is that I don’t want to throw out these tools. For that matter, I’m actually teaching my Foundation students what those tools are. I do not think they should be the only tools in an instructors tool chest, but I do think they should be there. They are, in some cases, training wheels for instructional designers. They are foundational. They are a starting point.

My visceral reaction to the idea of scaffolding as patriarchal is interesting. Perhaps I think of scaffolding as matriarchal. I think of it as one of the ways I demonstrate caring for my students. I think the way I teach is fundamentally about scaffolding. It is about figuring out where students are. It is about providing a ladder when the wall is too high for them to get over. In some cases it is about lighting a fire under them to help them realize that they can jump over the wall.

I’m not ready to throw out the idea of scaffolding. I do not believe it is patriarchal nor disempowering (I cannot speak to colonial because I do not have a non-colonial context). When students don’t know where to start, giving them a starting place is empowering.

Me thinks I might be failing the course on Critical Instructional Design 😛

2 Comments

  1. Very interesting response to the initial posts of MMID! I’m looking forward to your class and learning some of the foundational tools so I can try to keep up with these ID gurus.
    Greg D

  2. Very good points – if you think about it, to call scaffolding “colonial, patriarchal, and disempowering” would require one to inject personal definitions and feelings into the concept of scaffolding in a way that itself would be colonial, patriarchal, and disempowering. Of course, not surprised to click through and see a white male saying that.

    Just looking through the data from HumanMOOC, someone basically said it was disempowering that we didn’t have scaffolding for them. That has kind of been my concern with what I have read from #moocmooc – a lot of “subversion is good, absurdity is bad.” That would be awesome if everyone didn’t have different definitions of what fits in those categories. Same goes for words like “colonial, patriarchal, and disempowering” – everyone puts different things in those categories. But then we don’t realize that someone else could have an exact opposite view. Questioning things and being subversive is all the rage, but no one thinks to question the subversive questioning itself.

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