Instrumental vs Communicative learning

Communicative learning focuses on achieving coherence rather than on exercising more effective control over the cause-effect relationship to improve performance, as in instrumental learning.

The problem-solving process involved in instrumental learning is the ‘hypothetico-deductive’ approach. In communicative learning, the approach is one in which the  learner attempts to understand what is meant by another through speech, writing, drama, art, or dance. It’s no great shock that games and project based learning spawn learning this way – and in so doing appear ‘transformation’ mostly because they interrupt our habitual expectations. I guess for me, Web2.0 did that back in 2005 – but today I think it’s pretty naff to be attempting to keep eating a meal of that – but clearly there is a small army of experts who do.

That’s not how I like to learn – and pretty sure I’m not alone, which is probably why I have almost stopped going to conferences and spending more time exploring things apparently un-related to ‘education’ (assumptions thereof). Communicative  learning is less a matter of testing hypotheses than of searching, often intuitively, for themes and metaphors by which to fit the unfamiliar into a meaning perspective, so that an interpretation in context becomes possible.

This is why multi-player games are more relevant in a classroom than a chair. It’s also why ‘good’ PBL destroys habitual expectations and finds it hard to get a foot-hold in many schools – it is by nature communicative. Look at how Bianca zone’s out her physical classroom for different forms of communications – and uses bugger all ICT.

We don’t expect that what we assume school to be – actually cannot be improved by technology. Sadly we now expect technology and PLNs will transform school. No date being given of course – but it’s certainly transforming a few people’s bank accounts and air-miles points.

Thinking about PBL and GBL – start thinking about rejecting what you’re being told in the information funnel through Twitter. You want Stiff Little Fingers, not Debbie Gibson – and to do that you don’t need any technology. Any and every opportunity where ‘we’ can spend time reassessing the presuppositions on which our beliefs are based puts us in a door-way to reflecting critically. This isn’t what I think 90% of the social-media-educator-experts set out to do, let alone achieve. They have almost universally come to our attention by meeting our habitual expectations using “if then” assertions and instrumental methods (courses, lectures and books).

My argument is that 99% of them won’t reply to you, engage with you, or as Ben Jones said recently – “call to ask how they can help you, once the conference is over”. This means that while the Internet is clearly transformational, we’re yet to see that in the majority of edu-chat.

Putting in place policy-expectations in the classroom in which ‘communicative learning’ is the norm, and in that everyone can expect to participate equally will be a great start.

There are as many prohibitions in the “PLN” as anywhere else these days. The point of blogging remains to me a way to think about past and present pressures, between irrational and rational feelings and to challenge distorting assumptions that float though the metaverse.

Communicative learning isn’t formal or structured, most of the time its serendipity-digital as you collide with some random re-tweet from someone you didn’t know existed. Like this one.


One thought on “Instrumental vs Communicative learning

  1. As far as instrumental learning goes…Did you know that a person learning to play the trombone is a trombonist and not a tromboner? I learned that the other day.

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