Learning for doing

Learning for doing is an approach to curriculum organisation which has emerged from discussions of Wikiversity learning models. On this page, we will explore what learning for doing means.

What is learning for doing?


Career-orientated curriculum construction


Reading: Every curriculum tells a story - Roger C. Schank

The story relates, in an amusing and memorable fashion, the methods of curriculum construction commonly used in universities through the world today. In particular, it highlights the political or supply-related criteria by which curricula are constructed - criteria which lead to a failure of the curriculum to be practical or meet the demands of the market. When creating degree courses, professors commonly look at (i) their research interests, (ii) what kind of courses their staff can contribute with their existing skills and interests. In addition, when constructing cross-disciplinary degree courses, faculty members will look at the position and profile of their institute in relation to its "competitors" within the university. Practical or goal-orientated criteria may be de-prioritised.

The story nevertheless unintentionally contains an optimism about curriculum construction which reflects its Anglo-American origins. There are national university cultures which are more extreme than this in their rejection of practical or career-orientated considerations. Practical considerations are rejected with the strongly reasoned argument that university is the time of a person's life when their mind should be unfettered by the demands of life, when the mind should be free to explore pure knowledge. The university is seen as a place which should encourage this freedom of knowledge exploration by purposely avoiding all practical or career-orientated criteria in curriculum construction. Centuries ago, the real world placed much more dangerous restrictions on the freedom of knowledge than did intellectual property claims - perhaps what was radical and forward-thinking in those days seems a burden now.

But what should be in the curriculum? "Every curriculum tells a story" tells it better, but reduced to its minimum: one segments the career into its constituent skills and activities, and then trains these separately or in the form of integrated simulations - hence "learning by doing".

Learning by doing


Reading: Learning by doing - mainly by User:Cormaggio, User:JWSchmidt.

Probable influences behind the learning by doing concept:

  • the difficulty of interpreting and implementing the Wikimedia Foundation mission for Wikiversity during its formative days;
  • action research - a research interest of one of the authors, which contains an idea about educational resource development involving feedback loops from participants - feeding results back into the creative process would be a more practical way of curriculum development;
  • a general desire for pragmatism in curriculum construction.

Problems with the learning by doing concept:

  • The concept learning by doing became a buzz-word at Wikiversity without the concept ever really being clearly explained or understood.
  • Wikiversity has never attempted to construct curricula, except during the very earliest days of its existence when there was still a hope or belief of its becoming some kind of accredited institution or a reflection of a real university.
  • The phrase itself is problematic, because the original article is ambiguous about whether it related to the purposes of learning (why we learn) or the methods of learning (how we learn). Is it learning for... or learning by...? "Learning by doing" is good if you are also "learning for doing", but what if you are not?
  • The language in which pages relating to learning by doing generally described it as the way of doing things at Wikiversity, which seems at odds with Wikiversity's open and experimental culture, and was even more at odds with the actual and remarkably conventional usage of Wikiversity (see Help:resource types which describes the kind of resources which emerged at Wikiversity).

Positive things about the learning by doing concept:

  • Experience shows that the most popular learning goals for visitors to Wikiversity are vocationally-orientated learning resources of a widely applicable nature - e.g. basic natural languages skills (French, Spanish) and basic computing skills.

Learning for doing


Learning for doing is a suggested accompaniment for the "learning by doing" concept, where the original sense of the Roger Shank story is recovered in a non-prescriptive, non-universalising sense, reminding us that "learning by doing" is great for "learning for doing".

Learning for doing simply means this: Wikiversity offers its users the opportunity to orientate their learning along pragmatic, career-orientated lines if they wish, and escape the rather confusing and unrealistic curricula that can be found at some real world universities.

Beyond doing: ?



See also