Saturday, 7 September 2013

Case 20 review

When Ross writes “With the exception of a couple of students in 503 who are working outside the U.S., my guess is that the elements of the case are sufficiently outside people's realm of experience to allow them to look at it objectively.” I can appreciate why he has chosen this case.
Having taught in England, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and Malaysia, I have come into contact with students, teachers, parents and administrators of many cultural backgrounds and upbringings including North Americans. Attitudes to teaching, learning and even how to speak in public are very different in different countries and in a place like Malaysia that is made up of  Malay, Chinese and Indian populations these attitudes can be evident in the same room!
Interestingly, the Head of Physics in my current post is French and his attitude and approach to teaching is very grounded in his French upbringing and the French educational system; as I read the case I could see him in my mind; I will be as objective as possible!

After reading the case once through I got the impression that the consortium had not done the Analysis phase of the ADDIE model. Why had the French team been permitted to build a prototype design without them considering the expectations of the other consortium member’s expectations and needs? After reading the case again I stepped back and considered that this is exactly what they needed, to do a project together and analyse each other’s styles of working and thinking to better understand each other. Had this analysis been part of their original analysis design plan then that would have been great planning by the consortium. It is clear from the case study that this “getting to know you” phase wasn’t part of the plan and should have been. The delay in the production of design requirements was inevitable as this meeting was more about analysing the various consortium and designer’s ways of working.

The culture of the consortium members i.e. the behaviours and beliefs characteristic of the different groups, are evident in the comments in the case regarding of how the French and US Americans approached meetings and what educational strategies they considered appropriate. Without researching or directly experiencing how another culture does a task there is likely going to be frustration. Since Jim Huggins had this experience from his previous trips the year before, I believe he could have avoided most of the issues that were encountered by Iris had he met with her to consider the French style before she left. Iris could have prepared herself better by seeking advice before the trip; having the humility to ask for help and the awareness to know that one doesn’t know everything is the lesson here!
The different purpose of a meeting between the two groups causes some interesting issues; the French report back on a plan, the US Americans use the meeting for the plan. Due to this lack of awareness Iris feels Jacqueline is taking credit for the discussions they have in private whilst Jacqueline is innocently reporting back what they had decided together. The differences in meeting culture begins to affect the social interactions between the individuals and groups.

Attitudes to what constitutes good education is grounded in each country’s governmental policies and the educational institutions. The case shows that the French designers clearly value content and theory and were likely subjected to a didactic style of teaching in the classroom; “this is what you need to, learn it, do the exam”. The US style of scaffolding and modelling is much more hands on and constructive, focusing on skill acquisition that can be subsequently applied to other situations. It is good that Iris and Jacqueline come to a middle ground and that the prototype developed by the US team incorporates the theory that the French learners expect in their education. The observations made by Dieter on the second meeting day made me consider that the US instructional designers  with their background in educational theories and systems design made them much more prepared as individuals to consider the whole project. The French designers were probably specialists in their fields and were challenged to see the big picture of learning theories combined with attractive and functional design.

Where the technology is concerned I have some sympathy for the French team. An agreement is made by the consortium that the constraints of the development tools available to build what the Americans want would “work themselves out”. Designing strictly in HTML, CSS3 and Javascript may have been a huge challenge for the French team when asked to produce interaction without plugins like Flash and Shockwave. That being said, the French team don’t take any risks whereas the US Americans are happy to design what they want as an end product and work out the technical requirements as they go. This attitude is another example of how the analysis phase did not happen as the French team designed what they were capable of at the time and not what they could build had their been no restraints on the technical side of the project.