Learning – Is it Really about Who is in Control?

This week, it seems like no matter what I read, I kept facing the word control as it relates to learning – teachers in control vs. learners in control. This makes it sound like learning is a game of tug of war. So, who is gaining ground and who is going to end up in the mud? Frankly, neither position sounds like an advantage to me…

To be honest, just thinking about linking those two words – control and learning – ties my stomach up in knots. Is that really what learning is about – who is in control? 

I remember many teachers from back in the day who would have liked to “control” my learning. They tried. I am and I was a bit of a rebel, though, I guess – or maybe I was just difficult. People liked to say that I was bored in the classroom because I wasn’t challenged. Well, they were wrong. I was bored in the classroom because it was boring. Period. End of story.

Fast forward to May 2007, my first college class after a twenty year hiatus. It was speech communications with Mr. Mosley and, right off the bat, he asked us why we were there. I raised my hand and why wouldn’t I? The question wasn’t that tough. We were there because we were expected to be there. Wrong, he said. You have a choice. If you don’t want to be here, there is an alternative.

But, even back in the fourth grade, I knew that I had a choice and that I made the decision, and if I failed, I suffered the consequences.

So, my question is this-

Is there such a thing as control when it comes to learning?

If so, what – exactly – are we trying to control? Are we trying to control the learner and their behavior in the environment? Are we trying to control the content so that a specific message – and only that message – is conveyed and retained by the learner? Are we trying to control the learning process? Do we see learning as a map with a single line between destinations? De we see learners as little identical boxes that are to be stuffed full of uniform information?

Personally, I see learning as more of a relationship of complex interactions – a web, of sorts – but not one that has to exist online or solely online. I think that we can still apply the nodes definition from connectivism, but the web would be much more limited when offline. From my perspective, the role of the teacher – as someone or something with new information – can be occupied by multiple (and even simultaneous) players. If anything, control here is shared, but maybe it doesn’t even exist.

Does control need to exist for the sake of learning?

2 responses to “Learning – Is it Really about Who is in Control?

  1. Beth Cerullo

    I, too, dislike the notion of one group controlling the other when it comes to education. I understand why the term is used, but think that things tend to go much better when teachers keep their focus constantly on what is best for learning and how they can facilitate that learning, rather than how they can control the environment and their students.

  2. Debra, that was an interesting post as a number of my teacher memories surfaced. In high school, I remember when we were able to take electives. I dropped a logic class due to peer pressure and kick myself to this day for that lapse of judgment. Fortunately, I chose a poetry class which turned out to be a wise choice as the discussions were current and reached levels that I had never experienced. The poetry class was my first class where the teacher did not lecture and was committed to challenging students to discuss life. I reflect back to that class often and wonder what became of that teacher. He was let go the following year as he was too progressive for this particular district. The reality was that the school was too conservative and personified the “teacher in control” concept.