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Old 02-17-2010   #1
MikeF
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Default What is Education?- A thread on learning and teaching, the creative process, practice

As we continue to rediscover small wars, as we peel apart the lessons learned from the past history of warfare, as we are nine years removed from 9/11 and still engaged in two protracted insurgencies with many smaller proxy wars below the surface, we are forced to confront gaps in our educational and training institutions. What should be taught? When should it be taught? To whom should we teach? How do we learn? How do we capture lessons learned and compare and contrast them with past experiences? How do we overcome our own conceptual blocks to find better, creative solutions to intractable problems? These questions are mere secondary questions to the larger question,

What is Education?

General Martin Dempsey is working through this problem at the TRADOC level attempting to transform the Army's learning environment. Before him, General David Patraeus provided us with a temporary solution- FM 3-24. Adam Elkus and Captain Crispen Burke wrestle with problem definition as they work to frame and define the scope of Wicked Problems. Major Rob Thorton sorts through these issues.as he attempts to write the doctrine for Security Force Assistance. The boys at CNAS are striving to adjust our Intelligence apparatus. Schmedlap is on a one man crusade to abolish the archaic "task, conditions, and standards," and countless others on this board work to affect change on the tactical level.

Most of us are products of an educational system developed in the early 1900's as a National Security concern to prepare young men for the Industrial Age and military service in a large, conscripted army. This process and structure is severely out of date and needs serious reform. Some politicians have recogonized this need, and we've had some failed measures of reform to include "No child left behind."

So, this thread is dedicated to discussing how we learn. What are the benefits of our current means and ways, and where should we go? What has worked best for you? Who is on the cutting edge of this process, and how can we learn from them? In some ways, this issue is one of National Security.

Looking forward to the discussion.

v/r

Mike

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Old 02-17-2010   #2
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Default Alternative approaches

I'll start this out with something simple that us meatheads can understand.

Kettlebells, Combatives, Yoga, and Surfing

Ten years ago, if you had asked me about physical fitness, I would have swelled my chest, open my closet full of ripped fuel and creatine, and laughed at you while throwing more and more weight on the bar for my squats and benchpress. Some of my more intense friends (that later went on to the ranger regiment and SF (haha, you know who you are)) would try to convince you to wear muscle shirts and shave your legs..

Ten years ago, that worked, and I kicked butt. Now, after spending years patrolling with body armor, cramped inside the back of a tank, HMMWV, or Chinook, or just living in undesirable conditions, my body hurts. I can't just make it feel better by lifting more weights.

Ergo, we had to try some new ideas. Yoga and Kettlebells work the joints and tendons not just the muscles. Surfing is good for the soul, and combatives and boxing helped my younger soldiers learn to face violence outside of playing some video game on a Sony Playstation.

We learned to adapt like discovering rugby after years of playing football. This analogy holds to the realm of learning as well.

v/r

Mike
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Old 02-17-2010   #3
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Mike,

Bravo for tackling a question most of us have been sidestepping - at least here .

I want to start by making a couple of observations. While a lot of my educational experiences derive from that Industrial Age model you mention (pioneered by Dewey, BTW), three of them weren't; and they have heavily influenced by thinking.

First, I grew up in a family where dinner conversation was quite wide ranging and, often, very "debate" oriented. My best friend once defined our dinner conversations as "feeding time at the shark pool". This meant that there was an incredible pressure to always be able to either back up what I was saying or to learn 9really quickly!) how to qualify it.

Second, and it's another family thing, both my parents (and a number of other relatives) were quite active in political causes of various and sundry types, so I grew up in an atmosphere where organizing on the ground politics was "normal", and a lot of discussions were surrounding the best way to analyze and communicate politically charged situations / messages.

Both of these were not what is normally called "education" but, as almost all studies will show, family "culture" is at least as important for outcomes as is the formal education system.

The final difference was that i went to a private school for three years in Toronto; part of what is called the Headmaster's League (Royal St. George's College). Years after I left, I was back on the campus getting a tour from the then Head Master, and I asked if the school was still the same. He looked at me and, with a collegial smile, said "Oh yes, we are still teaching the boys to rule". That experience still haunts me, because that was exactly what they were doing; none of the workers and conscripts, this was officers and CEOs. Scary stuff in many ways, but I certainly internalized a lot of what they taught, even if not in the manner they expected .

When I compare these three educational experiences with my formal, Industrial Age ones (high school, most of university), I find that what I learned in the latter is, maybe, 25% of what I learned from the former.

So, why the freakin' biographical stuff? Put simply, without knowing that background, most of what I say about education doesn't make much sense without it .

So, on to education and PME in particular.

First, as an ethical positioning, each and every officer and NCO who serves has chosen to serve (now at least) and, by that service, execute one of the core requirements of a society; the assurance of collective security. That, to my mind, implies a reciprocal contract on the part of society, which is to require that these people, in turn, have access to the best possible education (NOT training) for them to be citizens both after and during service.

Second, by education in this instance, I am referring to any formalized activities that encourage the learning by individuals of a) how to think in a critical manner, b) how to know the value limits of their thinking, c) learn as much about themselves as possible (which is a value limit we don't often recognize), and d) engage in "civilized discourse" and social action (i.e. don't go on a shooting spree when told you can't become a CEO right out of getting your MBA at 25....).

Third, and in this I am very Socratic, always "ask the man who knows". But, in the asking, make sure that you know enough to ask the right questions which, in my usual tangential manner, brings me back to Mike's point about "what to teach" and "when".

The first thing that always needs to be taught is the language of the discussion or, to be more accurate, enough of the grammar and vocabulary that you can order a beer and find a washroom (metaphorically.....). the other "first thing" that needs to be taught is the relevant "stories". Did you guys know that for most of it's existence, the Roman Empire's PME was based on stories? I'm not joking about this (if you're masochistic, read this paper) and it happened for several excellent reasons.

First, reading is a pain (thus speaks the guy who reads 1-2 books / articles a day ). In terms of internalizing a piece of knowledge, hearing it in a story with emotions attached is much more memorable (anywhere between 50% and 800% [yes, that's not a typo - eight hundred] according to Bateson). This, BTW, is one of the reasons why "fairy tales", at least in their original forms, tended to be so gruesome - they were designed to tie an emotion into an action sequence.

Second (sort of), learning the "language" is an iterative process. You can get it from either formal instruction or stories or immersion, just to name the major sources. Regardless of where you get it, you need it in order to make sense of what is being discussed, so it is a crucial component of an education. Think about it for a sec; if I started talking about "Like, you know, those dudes who, like, walk around with guns" instead of "infantry", how would you react to me? When I talk about "translating", this is a lot of what I am talking about.

Outside of the language and stories that underlie the discussion in the area of knowledge, "what" and "when" are, pretty much, irrelevant since any formalization of them will, automatically, be out of date by the time they are formalized and communicated. Think about "They are always fighting the last war" as an example. The what and when, in this instance, are an example of a poorly developed area of knowledge in the sense of there are wrong answers, but no right ones except, possibly, general principles.

Now, having said that, I am going to completely contradict myself with one absolutely glaring exception: what and when will be set by the organization and will act as gatekeepers for survival and promotion within the organization. This has absolutely nothing to do with the stated purpose of the organization but, rather, is solely dependent on internally constructed environment of that organization. Think about "The Japanese are our opponent, the Navy is our enemy" for an example. All too often, people who excel at fulfilling the function of an organization run afoul of the internally constructed environment of that organization (cf Mary Douglas, How Institutions Think).

This problem is a paradox that is apparent in pretty much every culture I've looked at, so I'm assuming it is a human constant. Or, in other words, and education needs to reinforce the meme of "do what you have to in order to do what needs to be done". And this paradox is crucial to what GEN Dempsey is now dealing with in, for example, the work on leader development.
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Old 02-17-2010   #4
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We learned to adapt like discovering rugby after years of playing football. This analogy holds to the realm of learning as well.

v/r

Mike
See what you can find out about Combat Football which was started in the 82nd around late 1974 if I remember
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Old 02-17-2010   #5
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I'll start this out with something simple that us meatheads can understand.
Translations, amn, it's all in the translations !

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Ergo, we had to try some new ideas. Yoga and Kettlebells work the joints and tendons not just the muscles. Surfing is good for the soul, and combatives and boxing helped my younger soldiers learn to face violence outside of playing some video game on a Sony Playstation.
Yoga and surfing are also great ways to get to know yourself. Of course, surfing is out for me (Ontario just is atrocious for it!), but I use some yoga techniques, as well as adaptations of samurai training exercise.

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We learned to adapt like discovering rugby after years of playing football. This analogy holds to the realm of learning as well.
LOL - glad your learning about a real sport ! I played rugby for three years (and got all my major injuries in the final year). Wonderful game that teaches people how to be both violent and civilized at the same time. My last game, after about 10 minutes I had one of my fingers turned into a good example of bone chips, and the guy who did it helped me off the field and drove me to the hospital while play continued (bought me beers all evening, too ).
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Old 02-17-2010   #6
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See what you can find out about Combat Football which was started in the 82nd around late 1974 if I remember
Slap,

Don't even get me started. Now, due to the political correctness of some command sergeant majors in the name of good order and discipline, a unit is not allowed to raise a guidon and talk smack while your boys pass another unit on Ardennes Street. It might hurt someone's feelings. God forbid we do something physical outside of ultimate frisbee or flag football.

We did most of our company PT back in the woods in Area J- combat focused on obstacle courses, long runs, ruck runs, getting muddy, and jumping over fences and structures.
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Old 02-17-2010   #7
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Something I just wanted to throw out as a point of conversation. There does need to be some clarity in terminology at some point. "Education" is probably expected to be some form of holistic type of intellectual improvement.

I would like to propose one delineation within the terminology, and that is the difference between "training" and "learning".

"Learning" would be new skill acquisition: I don't know how to knit, and therefore would need to learn how to knit. It's a new skill. Similarly, although I know a bit about statistics, there are still many things to learn, and although I know something about structural equation models, there's still more I could learn.

"Training" would be skill rehearsal: I'm am practicing something I already know. I've fired a lot of M16s/M4s. Going to the range isn't learning for me, it's training.

Now it's possible to train one thing while learning another - training squad patrolling while learning about cultural sensitivity or IED reaction drills.

I just wanted to throw out an idea to try and keep the vocabulary cleaned up a bit, rather than argue over how people are using certain synonyms for similar, but distinct, concepts.

Thoughts?
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Old 02-17-2010   #8
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LOL - glad your learning about a real sport ! I played rugby for three years (and got all my major injuries in the final year). Wonderful game that teaches people how to be both violent and civilized at the same time.
Naw, I started playing rugby back in 1997 when I decided not to wrestle or play football in college. Like my spring break trips to Guatemala, it just took me a while to fully understand the lessons that I learned.

Oh BTW, in my three years of rugby, we were 3-0 against the Royal Military College (RMC) although we could never beat Sandhurst, USNA, or Berkeley. However, in my time in Canada, I learned the distinction between American Molson and your Molson XXX .
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Old 02-17-2010   #9
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Something I just wanted to throw out as a point of conversation. There does need to be some clarity in terminology at some point. "Education" is probably expected to be some form of holistic type of intellectual improvement.

I would like to propose one delineation within the terminology, and that is the difference between "training" and "learning".

"Learning" would be new skill acquisition: I don't know how to knit, and therefore would need to learn how to knit. It's a new skill. Similarly, although I know a bit about statistics, there are still many things to learn, and although I know something about structural equation models, there's still more I could learn.

"Training" would be skill rehearsal: I'm am practicing something I already know. I've fired a lot of M16s/M4s. Going to the range isn't learning for me, it's training.

Now it's possible to train one thing while learning another - training squad patrolling while learning about cultural sensitivity or IED reaction drills.

I just wanted to throw out an idea to try and keep the vocabulary cleaned up a bit, rather than argue over how people are using certain synonyms for similar, but distinct, concepts.

Thoughts?
Good thoughts brandt. This distinction is very important. It also drives to a question of "what is teaching?"...I'll sit back for a bit and see what others have to say.

Mike
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Old 02-17-2010   #10
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Hi BB,

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Originally Posted by BayonetBrant View Post
Something I just wanted to throw out as a point of conversation. There does need to be some clarity in terminology at some point. "Education" is probably expected to be some form of holistic type of intellectual improvement.
Totally agree on getting a common language . "Intellectual" improvement? Hmm, personally, I wouldn't limit it to to intellectual.

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I would like to propose one delineation within the terminology, and that is the difference between "training" and "learning".

"Learning" would be new skill acquisition: I don't know how to knit, and therefore would need to learn how to knit. It's a new skill. Similarly, although I know a bit about statistics, there are still many things to learn, and although I know something about structural equation models, there's still more I could learn.

"Training" would be skill rehearsal: I'm am practicing something I already know. I've fired a lot of M16s/M4s. Going to the range isn't learning for me, it's training.
Hmm, much as I appreciate the way you've laid it out, I still would have to disagree with you.

First off, "training" and "learning" (despite PPT influence neologisms) are actually from different stances. "Learning" if from the stance of the receiver / interpreter, while "training" is from the "instructor's" stance. Having tried to learn how to knit, I know that what I need to do is rehearse; I just put knitting pretty far down the line of what I "need" to know.

Basically, what I'm saying is that "training" and "education" are both from the instructor stance, while "learning" is from the receiver stance. I can "learn" from either type of situation but, just because I am learning, doesn't mean that I am being either "educated" or "trained".

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Now it's possible to train one thing while learning another - training squad patrolling while learning about cultural sensitivity or IED reaction drills.
Totally agree. It's possible to train in any subject while the student learns how to sleep with their eyes open as well .

Dropping the sillyness (yes, Wilf, it's one of THOSE days for me), we, as in any group of people, can decide what someone should be trained in. These are often called "learning objectives", which is all fine and dandy. However, baring certain fairly specific types of skills (e.g. repetitive tasks operating in a high predictive validity area of knowledge), we really can't exercise that much control over what our students actually learn.

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I just wanted to throw out an idea to try and keep the vocabulary cleaned up a bit, rather than argue over how people are using certain synonyms for similar, but distinct, concepts.

Thoughts?
Totally appreciate it . While we play with terms, we are actually clarifying a common, group understanding of what we, as a group, mean by them at the conceptual level. One other point I just want to toss out is that I really doubt how distinct, at least in the either/or sense that is often associated with that word, many of these concepts are.

For example, I have taught (another word we might want to add into the mix), students to perform mechanical analytic sequences which they have been able to do perfectly in a variety of settings without being able to interpret what the implications of their results are. Now, I would call what they received (learned if you will) "training" even though my intention was "education" (in this instance, being able to extrapolate from the mechanical manipulations performed).

Cheers,

Marc
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Old 02-18-2010   #11
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Default I like Marc's approach to addressing terms:

Learning is from the student's/receiver's perspective while training and education are from the instructor's perspective - agree. However, in my mind, training addresses skills while education addresses concepts. I can train a student to speak Spanish, English, or statistics. But I cannot train a student to comprehend a foreign culture - I can only educate him about that culture. By now, however, you are probably saying B___ S___! Higher level Spanish involves reading Quixote; English, Shakespeare, and stats analyzing multple regressions of political attitudes or something. So, of course, all education includes training components but it jumps to higher levels. An absolutely rotten tool (that nevertheless has its uses) is Blooms Taxonomy where the lower levels tend to refer to training while the higher orders tend to refer to education.

Cheers

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Old 02-18-2010   #12
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Mike:

Like you, I have been immersed elsewhere for a few weeks.

We start with the basic MIB problem: A person is smart; people are stupid.

So the first issue is whether we are discussing trying to educate an organization, or a person, or, more likely in the TRADOC application, persons who can contribute to the organizational knowledge & wisdom.

Reading the TRADOC pub gives a good picture of some conceptual frameworks far afield from my days as a TC---takes this tank, blow stuff up or hold this ground.

Problem is that if we use what we see today as a template for tomorrow, what we seem to be profoundly lacking in as a basic framework and understanding of societies, and societal systems, and the effective roles that military organizations can play in shaping and influencing them.

Tomorrow, in DC, is a conference on Post Conflict stuff (CSIS). Mark Weber from UNAMA is going to be there with others. UNAMA is drawing a very big distinction between the role of government and population servicing and reinforcement, and the role of the military. It does so at a time when the military is being forced (as a last resort tool) to try to effect and resolve substantial civilian deficiencies as part of its ever-broadening Mission.

If education is a structured process for conveying knowledge, wisdom, skills or capabilities, and the purpose is to fill some open gaps needed for the future, where do we find and how do we define those gaps in order to create a structured process to fill them?

With a baseline understanding that there is a big gap in US foreign engagements between what political leadership wants to accomplish, and what can be accomplished, the military is increasingly the service of choice, but is it the right service, and are these the right choices?

Off the top of my head, I can think of at least five courses I would love to give to the right folks just to explain the civilian frameworks and systems that underpin their supposed, and sometimes ill-defined mission objectives, but I couldn't begin to guess who, how, where (or why).

There is a general assumption that the volunteer military (and especially the reserves and guard units) come with a built-in civilian know-how, and to a great extent, that is true. But what I continually experienced is that many of those civilian cross-over experiences were like me as a Tank Commander trying to cross-over my ground-level tactical skills to a strategic theatre level (a bad fit)---lots of little decisions and actions that, in sum, amount to nothing productive.

What I believe (for my humble little slice of this pie) is that the right folks in the right places would do well to have, is the right higher order understanding of what and how to synthesize the many small decisions around strategic framework that has a greater opportunity for 1+1 equalling something at or greater than two.

But, in a military that has enough trouble finding time for on-going career and professional training (due to deployments), where and how does that pie-in-the-sky happen?

My version of educating to the gaps is, perhaps, a lot more self-learning, go and see, absorb and know, rather than teach/learn.

But, before I fall back into two more weeks of re-immersion into the primordial ooze, that's my two cents.

Steve
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Old 02-18-2010   #13
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There is training and there is education. To understand the difference do you want your teenage daughter to receive sex training or sex education? This is how my first educational philosophy course as a doctoral student began.

I hate to link farm but I've written a lot about this topic.

Some highlights

The Socratic compass: Giving students directions not answers
Guiding students to the questions that they can answer.

How do we get there from here? (by my better half who is also a professor)
How does education define our society?

Education paradigm: How you get there may not be where you are going
This article in many ways describes the issues as talked about above.

The dark ages: Modern anti-intellectualism and failure of the thinking man
More on society and the anti-intellectualism that is fairly rampant.

What does the military want from the education system?
This one should be of substantial interest.

When the TRADOC RFI was posted here I didn't have much nice to say about it and after writing five pages trashing it. Well I decided if I didn't have anything nice to say I shouldn't say anything. So I self censored. All of the elements being discussed in this thread (with the mild prod by marct) are fairly well known in the education field. I guess I think it is funny that a bunch of soldiers who complain about the malfeasance and arrogance of civilians mucking about in military affairs have no issues tromping about redefining higher education.

As marct alluded to a lot of what we know now as higher education was began by John Dewey (1907ish). His books are available free online and are guiding principles on how we teach and educate. Bloom a 1950s era educator is how most of our outcome based education programs began. There is also Gagne and a few others. If we really want to start talking about philosophical differences we will have open up the constructivist versus behaviorist approach to education. Basically constructivists believe that you can educate from principles to knowledge (grossly simplified), and behaviorist believe that factual iteration (memorization) is the way to knowledge.

I imagine the discussion will be lively.
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Old 02-18-2010   #14
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Sam:

Same issues on my end.

I had a small grad program in Planning and Policy. The program director loved to,once a month, find the public figure in the deepest trouble at the moment, invite them over to the Hopkins Club, get them drunk (back when people still did that stuff), and get all the dirt and intrigues behind the crisis of the moment.

Local politics is often dirty, nasty, and very personal, even when, as in Illinois, that local politics is carried onto a state or regional level. It's hard, complicated, challenging and dangerous work, and a highly specialized sphere in its own unique right.

My wife is an educator, and media specialist for a huge regional high school, so I know enough about your little professional education world to be dangerous, and more than I should about Dewey and his decimals.

I served on a lot of panels and committees on alternative school structures in the early-mid 2000s---urban school restructurings, charter school fights, alternative k-12 systems and strategies (magnets, alternate grade spans, decentralized schools, KIPPs, etc...). Nothing as bracing and "real" as going into a local community, or board of ed meeting, to delve into these kinds of issues with them. Yes, I've done those kinds of meetings where the walls of a gym are lined with police...(But I just do facility planning/organizational/finance stuff, not actual eduction (where the real politics of love and death reside).

It certainly would be fun to take some of our US diplomats into a few intense community meetings to make them realize what a safe and clean job they have (no heavy lifting).

Hard to get across to the uninititiated that, fighting aside, COIN is about that nasty local public community stuff, and conflicts are inherent in them---all by themselves,and especially at home.

Want to know about education? Call an educator.

Steve
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Old 02-18-2010   #15
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"Intellectual" improvement? Hmm, personally, I wouldn't limit it to to intellectual.
That's why I wasn't trying to define "education"


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Hmm, much as I appreciate the way you've laid it out, I still would have to disagree with you.
That's what discussions are for!

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First off, "training" and "learning" (despite PPT influence neologisms) are actually from different stances. "Learning" if from the stance of the receiver / interpreter, while "training" is from the "instructor's" stance. Having tried to learn how to knit, I know that what I need to do is rehearse; I just put knitting pretty far down the line of what I "need" to know.

Basically, what I'm saying is that "training" and "education" are both from the instructor stance, while "learning" is from the receiver stance. I can "learn" from either type of situation but, just because I am learning, doesn't mean that I am being either "educated" or "trained".
I'm going to re-iterate my stance with some different wording then, because I don't think training/learning has anything to do with which direction you are in the teacher-student relationship.
I am still standing by "learning" being "new skill acquisition" but will adjust training to being "skill rehearsal and refinement".
Hard lesson learned at NTC: don't put all the tank ammo on the same HEMMT in the emergency resupply at the CTCP. I know how to plan for tactical resupply and I know how to pre-plan ammo packages that meet weight/cube standards for trucks - I wasn't "learning" how to plan tactical resupply; I was training it. Part of that training was refining the skill to the point that you don't put all the tank ammo on one HEMMT, even if it fits.
Now, colloquially, in the field, we call this a "lesson learned" and that's fine for a discussion point out there. But if you want to finely slice the differences in how education works, you have to distinguish them somehow, just as Operation Terms and Graphics distinguishes "seize" and "secure".



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Dropping the sillyness (yes, Wilf, it's one of THOSE days for me), we, as in any group of people, can decide what someone should be trained in. These are often called "learning objectives", which is all fine and dandy. However, baring certain fairly specific types of skills (e.g. repetitive tasks operating in a high predictive validity area of knowledge), we really can't exercise that much control over what our students actually learn.
We can, once you change the colloquial definition of "learn" to something more exact. Might we need to put a term in play to cover secondary/unintentional wisdom gained through the learning/training process? Probably. But over-expanding the definitions of existing terms will inevitably lead repetitive caveats of "and by x-term I mean as used in this fashion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by marct View Post
For example, I have taught (another word we might want to add into the mix), students to perform mechanical analytic sequences which they have been able to do perfectly in a variety of settings without being able to interpret what the implications of their results are. Now, I would call what they received (learned if you will) "training" even though my intention was "education" (in this instance, being able to extrapolate from the mechanical manipulations performed).
I think we could characterize that as a case of "learning" (how to extrapolate) while "training" (the rote manipulations). No?
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Old 02-18-2010   #16
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Originally Posted by selil View Post
There is training and there is education. To understand the difference do you want your teenage daughter to receive sex training or sex education?
Given that my daughter isn't projected to arrive until 2AUG10, this was probably an analogy I could do without!


However, I am going to delve into the terminology in the spirit of "let no indefensible position go undefended!"

The differences between
sex training
sex education
sex learning

have nothing to do with "training sex"... the emotional pull of that statement comes from the word "sex" - instantly assumed to have carnal overtones.

I want her to "learn" about what sex is, but I want her to learn "healthy behaviors around sexuality" (which is really what "sex education" should be and is just the shorthand term for it). Once that's done, I want her to have the opportunity to "train" those behaviors in an appropriate (ie, classroom) setting, especially when those behaviors involve things "how to say 'no' to peer pressure" or how to properly care for herself.

"Sex education" is not about "how to have sex" and the extrapolation from "sex ed" to "sex training" is a cute semantic twist of words, but crosses several conceptual lines.


One of my MMC professors at South Carolina once said of "higher education" -
As an undergrad we tell you what to think
As a master's student we teach you how to think
It's not until the PhD level that was ask "so, what do you think?" *

My training/learning difference has developed mainly in my studies/research of using games/sims for training/learning and there's an article about it that I wrote for a wargaming magazine that should be appearing soon, if anyone cares enough to check it out. ( http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX?14@....1dd388f5/1822 )




* caveat: my experience with Ohio State these past 6 years has led me to believe that they are unable to get beyond step 2 in the process, and they reach that step only occasionally and almost always by accident.
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Old 02-18-2010   #17
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I guess I think it is funny that a bunch of soldiers who complain about the malfeasance and arrogance of civilians mucking about in military affairs have no issues tromping about redefining higher education.
Interesting observation, Sam. I see this in ROTC a fair amount, and it's always interesting.

Back to Marc's point, I can relate mostly from the student perspective (most of the stuff I teach here is really along the lines of moderating and facilitating map exercises and developing those exercises, so it's more of an interplay with students as opposed to structured "sit there and learn" stuff). The best professors I have had didn't tell you what to think...they were more interested in helping you discover what you thought about the material and why you might think that way. And some of the more interesting discussions revolved around methods...and how thought about history and historical events have shifted over the years. The worst courses were "learn what I want you to learn" driven and had an agenda that would have made Stalin proud (not necessarily in terms of ideology - although it was close - but more in terms of method).

John makes some interesting points as well.

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Originally Posted by BayonetBrant View Post
One of my MMC professors at South Carolina once said of "higher education" -
As an undergrad we tell you what to think
As a master's student we teach you how to think
It's not until the PhD level that was ask "so, what do you think?" *


* caveat: my experience with Ohio State these past 6 years has led me to believe that they are unable to get beyond step 2 in the process, and they reach that step only occasionally and almost always by accident.
And that to me is one of the lingering and most malign influences of the 1960s on higher education. And I have heard professors of that same mindset bemoaning the fact that their masters students can't write coherent papers or essays. They always got defensive when I pointed out that they had some of those same students as undergraduates and obviously failed to prepare them for the demands of a masters program.

Simply because the system currently functions that way doesn't mean that it's ideal or that it accurately reflects what education *should* be, both for the teacher and the student.
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Old 02-18-2010   #18
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Hi guys,

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Originally Posted by selil View Post
There is training and there is education. To understand the difference do you want your teenage daughter to receive sex training or sex education?
Yes, I always keep that one in mind even though my daughter isn't a teenager any longer .

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Originally Posted by selil View Post
I hate to link farm but I've written a lot about this topic.

Some highlights

The Socratic compass: Giving students directions not answers
Guiding students to the questions that they can answer.
I always liked this one, Sam. Then again, I like Socrates, so it's not surprising.....

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Originally Posted by selil View Post
As marct alluded to a lot of what we know now as higher education was began by John Dewey (1907ish). His books are available free online and are guiding principles on how we teach and educate. Bloom a 1950s era educator is how most of our outcome based education programs began. There is also Gagne and a few others. If we really want to start talking about philosophical differences we will have open up the constructivist versus behaviorist approach to education. Basically constructivists believe that you can educate from principles to knowledge (grossly simplified), and behaviorist believe that factual iteration (memorization) is the way to knowledge.
[rant]
The constructivist - behaviourist debate, at least from what I have seen of it, is as chimerical as most of the other dualisms pervading our modern academic debates; Nature - Culture, Mind - Body, etc. Personally, I find most of these debates to be no more than an excuse for excessive logorrhea. They are situated within a cultural matrix that demands oppositional dualisms as a means to avoid examining what is really going on.
[/rant]

Now that I'm got that out .....

Most of the way we conceptualize the "debate" is predicated on an incorrect acceptance of mind-body dualism (check out Bateson's Angel's Fear). If we drop the dualism, as I think we should, then what we have is a variable membership function (actually, a fuzzy set membership value). Let me put this in the context of training vs education (another false dualism mind you ).

"Training", as most of us currently conceive it, is "physical" or, at least, primarily physical while "education" is generally perceived of as being "mental" or "intellectual". Really? If you look at most of the current neuro-psychological research on, say, learning music, one of the things you will find is that there are physical changes in the neural structures (specifically the creation of new neronal pathways and the myelinization of some of them). Education isn't separate from the physical, it just takes place in the neurons rather than in the muscles (which is the dominant sight for a lot of training).

One of the reasons why I think the constructivist - behavioiuralist debate is silly, is that they are both techniques for changing neuronal pathways. Furthermore, the way the debate is structured assumes (requires in fact) a standardized "student" which, to anyone who has taught, is somewhat laughable (i.e. there is a range of neuronal structuring amongst our students - we call this "learning styles"). Both stances may work, depending on the students.

One way to parse out what we are doing is to ask ourselves how much "freedom" do we wish our students to have in the exercise of their learned skills? If the answer is "not much", then we should aim at a more behaviouralist approach, and if it is "a lot" then at a more constructivist approach. And the initial decision, BTW, will depend on the area of knowledge, the "skill set" as it were.

Let me get back to this idea of "learning" for a minute. One of the things I realized quite early on, and it's one of the reasons I mentioned all that biographical data, was that learning takes place all the time, and that individual learning crosses all formal disciplinary boundaries based on internal analogs. It's the old "that reminds me of..." syndrome, and it operates because of the way our brains are organized. For example, I was trained in fencing when I was young, and I brought that with me when I was later trained in dancing and both of those feed into my singing which, in turn, feeds into my understandings of COIN.

When I wrote earlier that we can't control what people learn, this is the phenomenon I was referring to: association by analog. This very phenomenon is also critical in understanding how we construct our institutions, although that's probably the subject for another post .
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Old 02-18-2010   #19
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Default There are two kinds of people:

those who divide things into two categories and those who lie about it.

Consider a couple of things from the ancient Greeks;
techne (art/craft) is contrasted with episteme (knowledge/science) by Plato
sophia (wisdom) is contrasted with phronesis (practical wisdom/prudence) by Aristotle
Each of these early heavy hitters suggests that the path to the collections that fall under each term is not the same.

We could also compare/contrast theoria with praxis as ways of “knowing” God or sitting zazen with solving koans as ways of achieving enlightenment.

In English, I think it is worth noting that one learns “about” something but one trains “on” something. We also can note that English grammar and diction tell us that learning involves a relationship between a person and an object—“Larry learns logic.” while training involves a relationship between two persons—“Tom trains Toby.”

We may, with Rene Descartes among others, happen to accept the idea that we are born with innate ideas. We may, instead, agree with John Locke’s refutation of that position and believe our minds are blank slates. We can even take the Kantian line that our "understandings"are “hard-wired” in certain ways that allow (or force) us to make sense of the data presented to us. The beauty of this last position is that it is something of a synthesis: we are still blank slates in terms of content but have something like a syntax ( perhaps a Chomsky “deep structure”) or a file format (FAT32 or NTFS e.g.) to organize the content/lexicon/vocabulary that we acquire along the way.

BLAB (Bottom line at bottom)
Each of these metaphysical positions or presuppositions predisposes one to a certain solution set for the problem of how one figures out how to get along in the world. But, whatever way one comes down on the question of primacy of place, I trust we can all recognize that at least two different activities are involved and a complete solution requires the successful application of both.
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Old 02-18-2010   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BayonetBrant View Post
One of my MMC professors at South Carolina once said of "higher education" -
As an undergrad we tell you what to think
As a master's student we teach you how to think
It's not until the PhD level that was ask "so, what do you think?" *

* caveat: my experience with Ohio State these past 6 years has led me to believe that they are unable to get beyond step 2 in the process, and they reach that step only occasionally and almost always by accident.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
And that to me is one of the lingering and most malign influences of the 1960s on higher education. And I have heard professors of that same mindset bemoaning the fact that their masters students can't write coherent papers or essays. They always got defensive when I pointed out that they had some of those same students as undergraduates and obviously failed to prepare them for the demands of a masters program.
What I find fascinating about BB's quote is that it is really a fairly recent introduction to the academy showing up (variably) in the 1950's-60's. It is tied into a couple of important social changes that happened post-WW II: increasing credentialization, loosening of overt class boundaries, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
Simply because the system currently functions that way doesn't mean that it's ideal or that it accurately reflects what education *should* be, both for the teacher and the student.
Yup. Of course, Steve, that "should" is predicated on an idealization of the pre-WW II (more likely WW I) values of "education" .

This "should" idea is worth expanding on significantly since it relates to a whole slew of issues. Let me first expand it by analogy: we talk a lot about "ends" and "means". What is the desired end state of an education / training course / program / career? All of the discussions around pedagogical tactics and strategies rely on implicit ends, including "shoulds", but what are they?

For one thing, the choices made will inevitably impact the class structure of the society in question. Go back to Dewey and the Industrial Age education system he was pushing, and you will see that it lays the formal basis for a society where class is based on a combination of economic status and social positioning based on educational credentials (the infamous socio-economic status). Implicit, and by the 1960's it was explicit, this system is predicated on some variant of the Fordist production system where wealth is generated through the transformation of raw materials into consumer products. Does that sound like the type of society we have today? If it does, not only do you fail SOC 101, I also have some great waterfront acreage in Florida for sale .

Okay, let's shift it to who we are fighting. Would you train people in Napoleonic tactics? Unless you're a Napoleonic recreationist, I would hope not . How about other Industrial Age tactical systems - what we (inappropriately) call "Conventional Warfare" (it's inappropriate because it is a recent convention stemming from the Netherlands at the end of the 16th century). Um, yeah simply because other groups still use it, just not the ones we are currently fighting. Of course, the people we are currently fighting don't use it; they are using a totally different conceptualization of warfare, so we have to educate (and train) for that as well.

So, if we take as an operating assumption that both training and education have to be focused on both "conventional" and "non-conventional" forms of conflict, one of the first things we should be doing is analyzing exactly where the overlaps and disjunctures are, i.e. mapping out the total area of knowledge. The ACC and ALDS did this to a very limited degree, at least at the broad (pseudo)concept level, with details promised "later".
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