Fred Garnett has been active in learning for a long while, with research and teaching posts from US universities through the now-defunct BECTA to his current base at the London Knowledge Lab. He's interested in how learners deal with the unknown and reframe problems in an unpredictable world: how they create context out of ambiguity. He is particularly interested in how learners create the conditions to manage their own learning, and interact with authority and power in learning. The challenge this represents to teacher-led learning can be anathema to traditional models.

In traditional pedagogy, the teacher decides what the learner needs to know, and how the knowledge and skills should be taught. Fred uses new terms to describe alternatives to this: "andragogy", a shift from taught to self-directed education, typical of adult and community learning contexts, where learners are involved in planning their learning activities, facilitated by teachers and centred on experiences and problem-solving; and “heutagogy”, a further development where learners have enough confidence and mastery of their own learning that they can re-frame problems.
Fred suggests that heutagogy can be seen as "the ability to play with form and create new ones". Learners generate their own contexts to help them understand complex situations, and learning comes close to improvisation as a means of dealing with these situations. Fred is interested in "how you deal with the unknown constructively", designing "architectures of participation" (AoP) in learning.

Fred, a Beatles fan, used these ideas to describe the band’s career. In their early years, they were taught the craft of studio recording by producer George Martin - their pedagogic phase. In their andragogic period in the mid 1960s, Martin made a tactical withdrawal, becoming more facilitator than teacher. This shifted to heutagogy as The Beatles mastered the disciplines and techniques until they could play the studio as though it were an instrument itself. In 1967 they made records such as Strawberry Fields Forever and I Am The Walrus that used the studio in ways that cut it free from its function of documenting musical performances.

Using online technologies, Fred believes learners can co-create their learning. In doing so, the AoP requires an examination of the principles in institutional redesign. If Learner Generated Contexts (LGCs) are "a coincidence of motivations leading to agile configurations", then institutions need to be capable of adapting to post web 2.0 multi-context learning. An AoP is about enabling "adaptive institutions" to work across collaborative networks.
There are many practical examples on small scale often where teachers factor in new tech tools and collaboration, treating learning as a holistic process, but most institutions are limited by funding and their need to track their learners to do this only on short-term projects: they don't go on to become fully adaptive. The tools and processes to support this adaptive process are available, but the mindset of IT Service departments in education institutions has yet to embrace them.

Fred describes his own teaching practice as "brokering learning": interpreting what the education system would accredit as learning and enabling students “to do stuff they were interested in. Brokering is about taking learners’ interests and mapping them to formal learning outcomes”, he says. In the USA, “you write the syllabus of every course you teach”, enabling teachers to rebuild the syllabus for learning.

“Brokering is using your knowledge of the educational system to negotiate with learners about what they want to do, a form of andragogy. Brokering is the craft skill of teaching, and takes time to develop. The key aspect in making brokering work are the assessments, and what is assessed. If you can let the learner select syllabus areas that interest them, or negotiate the form or the timing of exams, you can motivate them a lot.

“Teachers need to be confident to move from delivery to negotiation and brokering, instead of hiding behind knowledge or learning materials. Learners come to understand the education process and how learning is assessed. They become capable of seeing how their work will be marked and can develop their own assessment criteria.”

Currently learners do not have the enterprise and know-how to generate their own learning contexts: we need assessment to prove that learning has occurred, a barrier to learners developing the confidence to take control. “It isn’t possible to allow learners to generate their own contexts without pedagogic, institutional and assessment redesign”, says Fred. “The current system requires learners to adapt to pedagogically-driven assessment as it has the power to allocate the rewards to that model. The existing power structures for education are loaded against learner enterprise.”
Fred and his team developed an E-maturity Framework for Further Education (EMFFE) with fifteen colleges which appreciated its developmental qualities. “In the EMFFE and the AoP we use quality improvement indicators and inspection processes and design them into the everyday processes used by teachers. Staff record activities which create dynamic systems which are also inspection reports and the basis of future planning reviews.”

Fred has two underpinning principles. “Everyone wants to learn, which is not the basis of our designed-to-fail education system. Secondly, post-Web-2.0 tools enable participatory learning processes to be supported by technology. The opportunity to support LGCs is what is new. Plato's original Academy did not set up the Academic model that we think of. The Academia was the building where Socrates sat and debated subjects, a nearby orchard allowed learner discussions and a gymnasium provided physical exercise. Learning was seen as instruction, conversation and activity in formal, informal and non-formal contexts, but we only retain the formal part, call it Academic and ascribe it to Plato to validate it. Even our notion of "Academic" is misunderstood and used to support a false position of power, whereas LGCs were designed as complementary processes into the original model. In a way, LGCs have always been around.”

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