When the tantalising Madge (Bette Davis) toys with Marvin’s testosterone in The Cabin in the Cotton (1932) there is a delicious mismatch between correlation and causation captured when Madge claims "I'd love to kiss you, but I just washed my hair..."
I know I cannot talk for the rest of you (and I know Marvin didn’t suspect a thing) but whilst I accept that “the kiss that didn’t happen” and “the just washed hair” are correlated, there is something about the way Madge looks at Marvin (check it out and see if you agree ) that makes it hard for me to accept Madge’s claim for causality.
I just wish that other dubious claims of causality were as easily to reject.
Engagement”, “authenticity” and “belonging” are correlates of learning.
But the widespread notion that enhancing student engagement, authenticity, or a sense of belonging will cause enhanced student learning outcomes is unfortunate. Whilst these attributes may be correlated with enhanced learning they are not causal agents for enhanced learning outcomes.
“Engagement”, “authenticity” and “belonging” may all be important in their own right but they do not cause enhanced student learning outcomes.
Enhancing student “engagement”, “authenticity of task”, and or “belonging” does not cause improved student learning outcomes anymore than “just washed hair“ prevents you kissing someone you desire.
And I suspect that this confusion between correlation and causation is responsible for undermining the credibility of many of our e learning initiatives in school.
I'd prefer to argue that enhanced student learning outcomes are caused by students learning how to learn.
And how can students take control of this learning process and learn how to learn? They could start by reading Stephen Downes on 7. "How to Learn”
When learning to learn students must take control over finding pattern and making connections. This requires students to plan, monitor and evaluate their pattern finding activity. They need to be flexible; and to make choices about what to do next. It is through taking this control that students develop self efficacy.
And this is what I reckon is critical in causing enhanced learning outcomes. When students set specific, proximal and hierarchical goals for themselves, they can select specific strategic methods to enhance their learning outcomes. Then when students self evaluate they can compare their learning outcomes to their set goals, explaining the success or failure in terms of the learning strategies adopted.
If no goals have been set than students have to explain success of failure of their learning outcome through social comparisons with their peers, introducing notions of fixed ability. – “I’m no good at writing essays.” "X is smarter than me."
All of which helps me understand that disturbing research from the UK a few years ago - on the percentage of failing students who will fail next assessment against age - by the time you are 14 there is a 95% chance that a failing student will fail the next assignment compared to the 50% chance that a failing student will fail again when the student is 7 years old.
If we don't make the effort to teach kids to learn how to learn, it seems we risk teaching them to learn how to fail.
Can we use ICTs to enhance the conditions of value when students learn how to learn - when they plan, monitor and evaluate their pattern finding activities across unistructural, multistructural, relational and extended abstract learning outcomes?
We certainly can …and we will do so so much better when we can see past all the "I'd love to kiss you, but I just washed my hair..." claims