Signature Ideas

The Learning Design and Leadership program prepares participants to tackle challenging questions in the science and practice of learning, and to create more effective, innovative, indeed transformative learning environments.

The program takes an expansive view of the discipline of education—it addresses the foundational question of coming-to-know, not just for children and adults in traditional institutions of education, but also in informal community, civic and workplace settings. We prepare educators with pedagogical repertoire of learning/teaching strategies to support the design and delivery of their subject matter and learning goals.

                                                                                                                               Image: Middlescapes

Although learning is a pervasive phenomenon across many creatures in the natural world, education is a peculiarly human capacity to nurture learning in a conscious way, and to create social contexts that have been specially designed for that purpose: the institutions of education. Everyday learning happens naturally, everywhere, pervasively and all the time. Education – encompassing institutions, curricula and consciously formulated pedagogies – is what we have termed “Learning by Design.” There is a science to education, which adds method and reflexivity to the everyday processes of learning and the intuitive art of teaching. This science asks and attempts to answer fundamental and searching questions. How does learning happen in everyday as well as formal educational contexts? How do we design learning environments so they are most effective?

The program is informed by several key ideas. One key interest is educational media, and in particular the ways in which digital technologies for the representation and communication of knowledge have the potential to transform learning. This arises from a phenomenon in contemporary communications environments that we have called “Multiliteracies.” The program takes a carefully considered approach to the role of technology in learning. While rhetoric pointing to the transformational power of technology in education is widespread, relationships of learning and processes of knowing have often not fundamentally changed. Even when new technologies are introduced, the changes sometimes seem insignificant and the results disappointing. Nevertheless, these technologies do have enormous potentials, even if these are often only partly realized. How do we design and implement technologies in support of learning? And how do we prepare learners for success in a world that is increasingly dominated by digital information flows, and tools for interaction in the workplace, public spaces and personal life? We have explored these ideas in what we have called the “affordances of e-learning ecologies.”

Another key idea is learner diversity across a broad range of dimensions, material (social class, locale and family); corporeal (age, race, sex and sexuality, physical and mental abilities); and symbolic (language, ethnos, communities of commitment and gender). The challenge for education we have called, how to nurture a “productive diversity.” How do we differentiate learning so it addresses to the needs and interests of a diverse community of learners? How does education build up and transform identities?

Education’s agendas are intellectually expansive and practically ambitious. It is learner-transformative, enabling productive workers, participating citizens and fulfilled persons. And it is world-transformative as we interrogate the human nature of learning and its role in imagining and enacting new ways of being human and living socially: shaping our identities, framing our ways of belonging, using technologies, representing meanings in new ways and through new media, building participatory spaces and collaborating to build and rebuild the world.

To stay connected with these ideas, please join our New Learning community in CGScholar, Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis’ blog.