One of the characteristic features of 21st century learning (and yes, this applies to physiotherapy too), is a distrust of authoritative voices that once told us what was true and what was false, who to believe and why. It seems todays generation of learners – saturated with so many competing claims on their attention and perspective – are much less comfortable with authoritative voices that were once happy to be so authoritarian.
So Dave Cormier’s recent post challenging our thoughts about the word ‘content’ and its meaning in education are very much in keeping with this trend.
Cormier raises some really interesting questions directly applicable the learning often offered to health science students and biomedical health professionals like physiotherapists.
So much of our students’ learning is content heavy, with layer upon layer of information that must be assimilated and regurgitated in order to pass the standards set by the school’s curriculum and mandated by the country’s professional body.
As Cormier argues, ‘There are fundamental claims made, I think, when we use the word content. We have decided what someone ‘needs to know.’
This belief that someone needs to know something, and that it is our responsibility to disseminate this knowledge is an educational process that Paulo Freir (1970) called ‘banking’, with the student being seen as an empty vessel to be ‘filled up’ with knowledge.
This approach to learning has been widely discredited, and yet it still represents a common mode of learning in health education curricula around the world.
Compare this ‘banking’ model to the kinds of learning that take place when two people are in conversation. As Cormier argues; ‘A conversation…is the coming together of two or more people’s ideas. What comes out of that conversation is to some degree always going to be a surprise.’
Cormier argues that content is really more about compliance than conversation, and that by extension this does little to nurture mature learners with a yearning for research, experimentation, innovation and creativity.
It does produce learners who are more likely to be docile and compliant though, so perhaps we need to consider which kind of learner we really want for future health professionals.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.