Behavioural Change and Improved Learning
(This discussion paper is contextual to Australian schools.)
The relationship between behavioral change and improved learning is a deeply rooted process of schooling. As structures go, classrooms contain a largely sized body of people within smallish size rooms, students are legislated to compulsory attend, and are regulated by the powers of a solitary instructor/manager. For an individual child to successfully learn in this controlled space classroom behavior must be acquired. The child learns this behavior in the classroom itself. Classroom behaviour is a learning discipline in itself. It is difficult for a child to learn within a classroom if the child doesn’t subscribe to classroom rules. Schools are ‘disciplinary institutions’.
Australian schooling is similar to the descriptions formed by Foucault. In reference to Foucault this discussion concerns the relationship between power, knowledge and future social positioning. This discussion is not about the rights or wrongs of disciplinary action, rather it is about recognising that certain disciplinary behaviour is required to prepare students to learn in what is an artificially designed learning space. This classroom construct is largely designed to successfully prepare students to participate in the day’s workforce.
Traditionally, schools were successful in preparing a subservient factory workforce, I am questioning as to whether schools are successfully in readying tomorrow’s global digital economy worker. ‘Factory like designed classrooms’ are still the norm, but this structure is no longer the expected norm of the Australian workplace. Australia is restructuring and schools need to prepare our youth for that future environment. Learning to behave in a classroom as an essential basis to learn is the root of this discussion. Does this essential basis have merit in tomorrow’s workplace?
It is important to recognise that schools as ‘disciplinary institutions’ has benefited Australia to become a highly regulated and disciplined society. It is also important to recognise schools as the essential behaviour enablers and the past methods of classroom behaviour may not benefit students as tomorrow’s workers. Essentially, Australian schools need to address their disciplinary behavioural expectations and ensure that activity is not solely intended to output well behaved factory workers.
This discussion largely addresses concepts of behavioral change addressed in Foucault’s Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison (p 195-228), Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon penitentiary and Jim Rohn 10 Great Powers
Learning That Knows You
Does your eLearning systems know you?
Can self surveillance improve behavior of learning?
This is an initial investigation considering the link between behaviour and learning within eLearning (learning with technology) systems. It is reasonable to assume that classroom learning has benefited from teachers surveillance and observation. These activities enable the teacher to get to know student behaviour to enact assessment, and common rewards and punishments. Student led surveillance and observation enables the students to get to know the teacher as a judgemental authority. The classroom teacher is not an anonymous passive observer. Teachers assume many roles in the classroom and whether they are acting as a lecturer, instructor, facilitator, coach, counsellor, mentor and or content expert they continually enact judgmental authority.
Textbooks do not get to know the students, however eLearning systems may. eLearning systems can become an anonymous observer and these observations can be employed to inform regulation. Whilst, eLearning systems may presently accumulate significant levels of student data they do not assumed judgemental authority. However, as artificial intelligence progresses it is worth to consider eLearning as a regulating force. This discussion addresses eLearning systems with the capacity to get to know the student. Relevant questions;
- What are the benefits of data surveillance and data observation and how can they be employed to benefit leadership, decision makers, teachers, and parents as judgemental authoritatives?
- Can students employ data generated by eLearning systems to observe and modify their behavior?
- Can students assume leadership roles of judgemental authority?
This discussion aligns utilitarian principles (read more), awareness of happiness and combining the skills of developing judgmental self-application to self-modify behavior. In other words - can students in the pursuit of feeling happy about learning, actively use surveillance data to improve their learning behaviour?
Schools, Factories and Prisons
Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?
I consider this describing question as a matter of actuality born through the gathering of people into a confined space purposed to modify behaviour. The origins of schooling in penal Australia was based on severe separation and rigorous, physical discipline. Penal schooling in Australia was purposed to remove children from experiencing and learning from their morally deficient and corrupt parent/s. It gave children born of convicts the disciplines of serventry to service wealthy employers. My essay The Challenge of Global Learning overviews how children born of convicts were conditioned for work within our founding schools. The paper also describes how the division of labour and professional pathways emerged through the funding of religious non-government and government schools to meet the employment needs of a fast growing nation. In general, our 20th century schools trained many Australians to work in factories. 20th century Australia required a fast growing and expansive workforce of people either unskilled, semi skilled or trade skilled, but essentially warm and upright capable of following instruction and doing the right thing.
As 20th century schools emerged, the practice of instructional behavior provisioned from physical punishment to non physical punishment. The practice of punitive methods was maintained. My childhood schooling experience was nurtured behind closed classroom doors and enforced through corporal punishment. As a son of a factory worker, I was fully aware that workers had to endure long hours of boring work. I did gain the essential conditioned skills to do what I was told and to learned how to endure. These conditioning practices are difficult to change, and as I observed through my children they have remained an important part of school culture. My children received no corporal punishment, however from my observations the largest percentage of schools still employ punitive behavioral process. It was not surprising that Kevin Donnelly (2014), co-chair of the Australian national curriculum review stated that he supported corporal punishment. Schools have not changed that much.
However, 21st century Australia is restructuring. Australia’s manufacturing base is diminishing at a rapid rate. Manual and semi skilled workers are in less demand. Horizon technologies - the emergence of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence is no-longer fiction and increased productivity means fewer jobs for the task. The essential question schools, society and educational authorities need ask are:
- What are the jobs of tomorrow?
- What behaviors are employers looking for?
- Will students have to invent their jobs?
- What are the behavioral skills students need to learn to successfully participate as a 21st century worker?
In 1995 Foucault’s described the universality of schools resembling factories resembling prisons, which led me to this question:
- Will this similarity continue?
At a time when factories are disappearing I don’t envision schools disappearing. The actual size of Australian schools may grow alongside a bureaucratic drive to make efficiencies. There may be a decrease or an increase in the number of schools depending on population growth. However, it seems that without significant infrastructure spending and a leading mind-set to alter the physicality and operations of classrooms, schools may not substantially change. It is possible that schools will continue to resemble factories and nurture students’ behavior within a similar 20th century scope. Schools may be the lasting artefact of the industrial era. If so, classrooms will remain the place students have to endure as learning behaviour will remain enmeshed within student subservience?
There is no doubt Australian schools service a large percentage of disengaged students. The model of discipline is the hand-brake on schools adjusting to become synonymous with contemporary society. This is a significant problem. This organisational and physical construct of the factory school is deeply rooted to ‘prompt obedience’, establishment of ‘absolute authority’ and administered through ‘good officers and men of substance' (Foucault 1995). Under this model it is possible that schools will create more unhappiness than happiness and our youth will not gain the behavioural skills required to participate in the digital economy. 21st century entrepreneurial skills will emerge by chance.
Employing Foucault description of ‘disciplinary institutions’ within ‘disciplinary society’ I am concerned that in the nearish future schools will no longer resemble society. Infrasture needs to change, learning behaviours need to change and students need to employ self-judgemental authority. Advancements in technology are affording some change, however whilst curriculum, assessment and technology processes are centrally controlled judgmental authority is not distributing to the student. Students have no access to participation data to inform self-judgmental authority and teachers are increasingly scrutinised against standards. The two most common complaints I hear from teachers is that they are faced with an increasing workload and that students have changed. There seems to be an emergence of helplessness in teachers and a disengagement in students.
Panopticon: An Institutional building
Elevation, section and plan of Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon penitentiary, drawn by Willey Reveley, 1791 (Wikipedia)
Foucault discusses the powerful surveillance functions of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon. Bentham proposed that institutions such as schools and factories could enable obedience, authority and efficient administration largely through individual visibility and anonymous surveillance. Whilst Bentham’s Panopticon (an observation anonymous tower and separated visible individuals) was intendedly visualised as a brick and mortar design, today’s data surveillance provides similar obedient outcomes. Foucault evolves the Panopticon concept, individual visibility and anonymous surveillance power, by describing the multiple layers of authoritative bodies who actively observe society. This layering of observers maintains societal disciplinary behaviour. Video speed cameras, face recognition surveillance technologies, and bankcard use tracking geolocation technologies are a few of the many observing technologies that are modifying our behaviour.
Teacher surveillance benefits learning behavior as ‘there is no copying, no noise, no chatter, no waste of time’ (Foucault 1995). This description is basic and describes rudimentary discipline. It may only describe a small percentage of today’s classrooms, but I’m sure many adults would have experienced it. What is exciting is the data generating technologies which are increasingly making their way into schools. It is through data rich technologies classroom activity is becoming more transparent. Anonymous surveillance is influencing curriculum, teacher instruction, school leadership decisions, jurisdictional strategy and parental choice. Classrooms are emerging from the darkness to become a transparent Panopticon where behaviour and performance is accessible for diverse authoritative scrutiny. My excitement is in how parents, teachers and students can employ this data to refocus classroom learning behavior away from ‘prompt obedience’ and ‘absolute authority’ to critical self reflection. Is it possible that students can employ data to self inform behavioural learning rather than it being a mechanism for reward and punishment?
I am not describing surveillance in the form of network connected video cameras (as mentioned above). I am describing participatory rich information gleaned from socioeconomic status data, attendance data, assessment scores and a growing plethora of school located eLearning technologies. My keen interest is;
- What are the learning behaviours that will emerge as dataveillance becomes a dominant agent within schools?
Whilst Foucault refers to this scenario as a ‘Visibility is a trap’ (Foucault 1995) I view it as transformative instrument. Classrooms have to emerge from the dark dungeon where visibility is poor to enable multiple viewpoints, including the student themselves.
As artificial intelligence (AI) technology advances into schools the smallest of details can be synthesised for observation and analysis. The power of continuous and automatic dataveillance reduces the emphasis of punitive instructional methodologies which are based entirely on real time teacher observation. I am concerned that unless teachers revert the classroom to regimented individualised learning behaviours one point real time observation is not sufficient. Advanced learning skills generated through differentiated learning programs, collaborative, connected and project based learning will struggle whilst one point real time observation dominates classrooms. In short dataveillance can increase learning productivity by increasing the transparency of self-reflection and self-awareness by placing critical analysis on learning behaviours. This transitions the concentration of learning from knowledge attainment to building learning behaviour capacity. It builds performance enhancement into the learning equation. Student’s can themselves become authoritative observers of their own learning behaviour.
A level of transparency has begun. My School allows anyone to access ‘up-to-date quality data on the performance and resources available to more than 9,500 Australian schools’ and enable anyone in society to ‘view how each year group in a particular school performed’ (McGaw). In effect society has become active observers of individual schools. In regards to professional and performance standards, society is becoming the authorised supervisors. My School is assisting parents to decide which school their child can attend. Learning programs are adjusting in response to NAPLAN results. ‘The seeing machine was once a sort of dark room into which individuals spied; it has become a transparent building in which the exercise of power may be supervised by society as a whole’ (Foucault 1995). Schools are no-longer the closed buildings focussed primarily on its private business, they are becoming transparent disciplines, and they will increasingly observe and influence the communities observing them.
In my blog Digital Literacy Multimodal Media I refer to Dan Pink’s suggestion that students learn better when rewarded through intrinsic rather than extrinsic means and that schools need to move from if-then learning to a culture where students have control, autonomy and can gain mastery. In the same blog refer to ‘Human Era’ jobs which require the following skills;
- Novel and Adaptive Thinking,
- Computational Thinking,
- New Media Literacy,
- Design Mindset,
- Cognitive Load Management, and
- Virtual Collaboration skills (Wilen-Daugenti).
Whilst 21st century skills are core to this discussion I would like to focus on behavioural self-management skills. These are the skills I believe eLearning technologies need to advance in. It is the place where artificial intelligence can advance learning behaviour. It is the place where students can gain self-judgemental authority. My reference is Jim Rohn 10 Great Powers.
- Purpose - Development of purpose in student learning.
- Self Confidence - Enable students to feeling good about themselves and their learning
- Enthusiasm - Development of a genuine need to learn
- Expertise - Development of skills in language, personality, influencing and organising.
- Preparation - Development of preparation skills - prepare to make yourself ready.
- Self Reliance - Enable the self as the primarily reliance of achievement.
- Self Image - Reflections on how others see you.
- Character - Development of a character that can be counted on.
- Self Discipline - Active analysis on self discipline.
- Extraordinary Performance - Analysis on raising self expectations and demanding the self to attain self expectations.
These elements move the teacher student relationship which encompasses teacher observation and externally enforced disciplined learning behavior to self observation and self identification of intrinsic happiness as the operand of learning behaviour.
Foucault, Michel Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison (NY: Vintage Books 1995) pp. 195-228
McGaw, B., AO. (n.d.). My School Home. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from http://www.myschool.edu.au/
Woolfolk, A., Margetts, K., Frydenberg, E., Lo Bianco, J., Freeman, E., & Munro, J. (2007). Student Wellbeing Action Partnership SWAP. Retrieved July 31, 2014, from http://web.education.unimelb.edu.au/swap/wellbeing/teachers/environment/restorative.html
Knott, M. (2014, July 15). Head of curriculum review Kevin Donnelly says corporal punishment in schools 'was very effective' Retrieved July 31, 2014, from http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/head-of-curriculum-review-kevin-donnelly-says-corporal-punishment-in-schools-was-very-effective-20140715-3bz7p.html
Harris, J., Felix, L., Miners, A., Murray, E., Michie, S., Ferguson, E., ... Edwards, P. (2011). Adaptive E-Learning to Improve Dietary Behaviour: A Systematic Review and Cost-Effectiveness Analysis. Retrieved July 31, 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov%2Fbooks%2FNBK98326%2FMcNeilage, A. (2014, August 3). Skipping school for just one day affects NAPLAN results, study finds Read more: Http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/skipping-school-for-just-one-day-affects-naplan-results-study-finds-20140802-zzjmr.html#ixzz39OAtZZsF. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/skipping-school-for-just-one-day-affects-naplan-results-study-finds-20140802-zzjmr.html