“Becoming over memory”? #change11

Cormier’s “Becoming over memory”

Dave Cormier criticizes a common practice of teaching that focuses too much on repeating and memory, rather than becoming and knowledge. This practice is said to be partly conditioned by the the print culture, where knowledge is packaged in the form of a book for the learners to consume.  Cormier, however, believes that the “real moment of learning” goes beyond simply remembering the facts. He goes on to explain it with the example of parallel parking. (start: 20:15 mins)

Is it a new idea?

However, I’m not sure if the distinction between becoming and memory may just be the distinction between declarative and conceptual knowledge as defined by Gagnes. Presupposing that there is some form of knowledge out there to be learned doesn’t necessarily equate learning with remembering. Learning some principles and applying them to new situations isn’t the same as simply remembering.


9 thoughts on ““Becoming over memory”? #change11

  1. Hi Louise,
    Declarative knowledge (or the procedural knowledge) is the know how – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declarative_knowledge so it is related to known procedures. Conceptual knowledge is related to knowing how the concepts are related to a theory, or an experience, and that also requires certain kinds of memory. Becoming is different, in that it relates what is becoming for a person, with a willingness to continue to learn, and develop oneself to be more knowledgeable or knowledge-able. Just remembering how things are done may prevent making similar mistakes in the future. However, to know what is current, and to know how to learn through navigation in the networks is more important than the mere memorizing of facts. Gagnes steps in instruction is useful for known facts, procedures, and thus some use in formal instruction and training. However, it may be limited when learning in an informal setting, as critical thinking and sensemaking goes far beyond merely following the procedures. What do you think?

  2. I’ve been trying to work through a better story for ‘memory’. Would it make any difference if i said ‘the memory of conventions’. The idea of ‘conventions’ seems to bring forward the idea i’m trying to tease out… it forwards the gatekeeping quality that i’m looking for. I’ll try and get a blog post out in the next day or two to round this out… thanks for your comments.

  3. @davecormier – I always think I’m stuck in a traffic circle when I try to wrap my mind around this idea of becoming. This is especially true when I try to imagine becoming instead of remembering. All the images I try, jazz, parallel parking, knowledge landscapes, all of these seem to be illustrations where becoming follows remembering. After you memorize “two feet away, rear tires even” and practice it endlessly, then you can begin to experience the instinctive feel for putting the car into the parking spot. First you practice chords until small muscle memory is formed, then you improvise. And it’s dang hard to work fractions or quadratic equations if you have to struggle to recall basic multiplication and addition facts. So all these procedural “becomings” seem to be preceeded by a very necessary and prolonged effort at the declarative knowledge stage. However I do agree that, at least in our area of specialization, (and in our passions) we do need to move beyond just knowing and into the more comfortable “becoming”.

  4. Thanks everyone for your responses,

    John, I generally see your point about the importance of continuous learning.

    And it’s true that much of the formal education today tends to focus on “memory of conventions”. Just as it is easier to assess declarative knowledge than to assess conceptual knowledge, it’s also easier to assess learners’ ability to remember conventions than their ability to learn, to recognize learning networks, to navigate through them or to even innovate – all importance skills in a 21st century workplace. It’d be extremely hard to translate these skills to short-term measurable, observable learning outcomes.

    That’s said, the notion of becoming remains a bit obscure, and the example of parallel parking really confuses me a bit more.

    1. @Louise Yes, I see your points – It’d be extremely hard to translate these skills to short-term measurable, observable learning outcomes. The notion of becoming remains a bit obscure. That’s why a different perspective, a shift of lens and frame of reference is often needed, to go beyond the short-term measurable, observable learning outcomes. Sometimes, the learning outcomes could be either too complex, or too simplistic that we don’t even understand how it would help learners in learning. Rote learning, testing may reveal to learners that they are 100% right, and have achieved the learning outcomes. However, what happens when the learning landscape has changed, which is often the case when learners have completed a course, joined the business, and finding that they have to start learning again, as what may be required at work is not “text book” knowledge, or mere declarative knowledge, but “procedural knowledge” and conceptual knowledge, critical thinking, digital literacies (technology, media etc.), and social and emotional intelligence etc. These are all part of the becoming in learning, in the enculturation in the community and organisation, and thus not just learning by atomising the units of competency. This relates back to a reductionist approach to learning, in traditional education, where we believe a breakdown of those skills would help us in learning. We may be able to assess individual units of competency, but what happens if these units of competency are changing so rapidly that they soon become out of date. Are we going to assess continuously, with ever changing units of competency? Who would then be competent? How to design such assessment metrics? In informal learning where emergent learning occurs, this could be challenging for formal institutions.

      @Jim What do you mean by parallel parking?


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