Teaching and Learning in a Net-Centric World

Three Generations of Pedagogy and Elephants in the Room

The good folks at DERN (Australia) posted a nice summary of Jon Dron and my article from the recent Connectivist special issue of IRRODL.  They write:

“A review of the three dominant learning theories: Cognitive-Behaviourist, Social-Constructivist and Connectivist, and the pedagogies derived from them. The review is very relevant to the use of digital technologies in education using a community of inquiry analysis model beginning with a description of each learning theory and then analyses of the cognitive presence, social presence and teacher presence, and concludes with a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of each. This paper is a must read for educators interested in elearning.

Over a beer and salty tears yesterday, (we were watching the Canucks get hammered by the Bruins), Jon and I were talking about a slide set he was preparing for a presentation to our Nursing Faculty here at Athabasca.  One of the slides shows a fourth integrative pedagogy that it refers to as holist.


We had a bit of discussion if holist isn’t just a term for appropriate use of all three pedagogical generations, which we argue for in the paper, thus making the need for a fourth term redundant – just as modern distance education uses multiple generations of communications technologies (print, video, web etc.)

The slides are quite evocative, and the theme expands on Jon’s  ideas of soft and hard technologies and talks about the “elephant in the room” – that being the impact of the teacher/tutor. Though generally accepted as critical in campus based education, in distance education, there has always been much more a sense of replacement of teachers with better content, self-direction and more recently with peer learning – see my “equivalency theory” for more descriptions about the capacity to substitute one type of interaction for another. Jon argues that the human presence and flexibility of the tutor is useful in ‘softening’ the otherwise hard systems that often are associated with distance education systems – and especially the large mega universities.

Not that I have anything against teachers (after all I am one!), but they are expensive. I still think we can achieve better  and  ‘softer’ implementations using flexible and user defined content, peer groups and other ways besides thinking that there is ALWAYS an elephant that must be in the room somewhere – the teacher.

Anyways, you may enjoy Jon’s slides (I did) at


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  1. June 11, 2011    

    Very useful paper and graphic. Thanks

  2. June 13, 2011    

    Thanks Terry, for the usual great post and the link to the interesting slides. I was wondering, though, whether the ‘hard – soft’ continuum could more accurately be described as a ‘neat – scruffy’ continuum (harking back to old debates in which I was involved). And I’m not sure that Moodle is necessarily ‘hard’ – can’t it be hard or soft (neat or scruffy), just as can occur in a physical classroom? But maybe I just don’t understand …
    Thanks especially, too, for playing the (inordinately inexpensive) elephant in our classroom last month. It was a wonderful way to give ‘life’ to our discussion of the special issue on connectivism. We loved it!
    PS Sorry about the Canuks – my rugby team, the Melbourne Rebels, is languishing near the bottom of the Super Rugby ladder (first season can be tough!).

  3. JPaz JPaz
    July 28, 2011    

    Jesus, a hard metaphor, the teacher as an elephant.

    Just quoted your paper in my phD plan. Tony Bates also elected conectivism as a third elearning pedagogy V. Bates, T. (2011). Understanding Web 2.0 and its Implications for E-Learning. Web 2.0 Based E-learning: Applying Social Informatics for Tertiary Teaching.

    My question: are the CoI preseches you used to characterize the 3 pedagogies appliable to all or aren’t they specific to the constructivist pedagogy for which they were created?

    Best Regards Prof Terry Anderson

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