Assisted Learning

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Assisted Learning

A Workbook

Rolf Arnold

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1. Auflage 2011

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© Bildungstransfer Verlag, Landau 2011

Das Werk einschließlich aller Abbildungen ist urheberrechtlich geschützt. Jede Verwertung außerhalb der Grenzen des Urheberrechtsgesetzes ist ohne Zustimmung des Verlages unzulässig und strafbar. Das gilt insbesondere für Vervielfältigungen, Übersetzungen, Mikroverfilmungen, und die Einspeicherung und Bearbeitung in elektronischen Systemen.

Autor: Rolf Arnold

Verlag: Bildungstransfer Verlag, Landau

Umschlaggestaltung und Layout: Bildungstransfer GmbH, Landau

Herstellung: Books on Demand GmbH, Norderstedt

ISBN: 978-3-941972-02-5


"Assisted Learning" is the first book in the series "Contributions to Adult Education" of the publisher Bildungstransfer. This series aims at making both future-oriented and action-relevant writings from the research on and practice of adult education, available to the interested English-speaking public.

Here Rolf Arnold combines three trends of long years of research activity: his innovative teaching methods based on the principles of self-determination and self-control of the learner, the concept of "pedagogic leadership" and finally the approach of "emotional competence". These three pillars form the fundamental basis for "Assisted Learning" as a future-oriented concept of adult education that places the learner at the centre point.

"Assisted Learning" (enabling didactics) characterizes a teaching-learning process, which shifts the angle of vision away from teaching to learning. In class, as in other learning situations there is no direct and causal production of learning. Learning takes place exclusively through independent acquisition of the learner. As a result what is taught is not what is learnt.

Rather, under this perspective the focus shifts away from the mediation of learning content by the teacher to an active appropriation by the learner. The teacher must prepare the learning content methodically in such a way that the activity of learning is transfered to the learner. This finding is mirrored in the systemic-constructivist thinking of the author.

Thus there is a departure from the so-called "generation or instruction teaching," which assumes that learning and the mediation of certain selected learning content could be feasible, if only the targets are accurately predetermined and the learning process planned with one's own methods and materials. The teacher can only encourage the students to learn, he can accompany them and "arrange" learning processes. Teaching from the viewpoint of "Assisted Learning" means creating learning-stimulating conditions and generating learning spaces.

In accordance with this only very briefly characterized approach, this text is designed as a "workbook". The reader will find almost thirty suggestions for self- reflection as well as numerous mnemonics. In accordance with a systemic- constructivist approach, we have waived the "sample solutions" which only gives the reader the impression of an apparent objectivity.

Landau, Germany February 2011 Uwe Wieckenberg Editor


List of Figures VII
List of Tables VIII
About the Author IX

1. Preface 1
2. The Effects of Education Are Uncertain, but Some Shaping Is Certainly Possible 3
2.1 The Dual Uncertainty of Education Effect 5
2.2 Education As a Moral Communication 12
3. Learning and Learning Theories 19
3.1 Learning Concepts 19
3.2 Overview of Learning Theories 20
3.3 New Learning Requirements and Learning Methods 23
4. Learning Guidance and Leadership in Assisted Learning 31
4.1 Guidance and Counseling 32
4.2 Leadership 35
5. Assisted Learning 41
5.1 From Teaching Culture to Learning Culture 41
5.2 At the Core: Method 45
5.3 Rethinking Learning and Education 54
5.4 E-Learning 58
5.5 Guided Self-study 64
5.6 Assisted Learning As a New Approach 67

6. The Basis: Pedagogic Leadership As Subsidiary Leadership81
6.1 Leadership: Empowerment to Self-Leadership82
6.2 Self-reflection, Role Distance and Functional Change of Managers92
6.3 Trust: The Emotional Glue of Social Interaction96
6.4 Nurturing Stance: Looking for Potential in the Work Force101
7. The Systemics of Emotions10 8
7.1 We Are “Lensing” – All the Time!108
7.2 Certainty Is What One Feels!123
7.3 The Primacy of Emotion135
8. Emotional Competence As Core Competence of School Leadership139
8.1 The “Yes, but...” Syndrome139
8.2 Leadership As the Management of Primary Constructions - Our Own and Those of Others144
8.3 Leadership and Followership in Daily School Life – From a Theory of Emotion Perspective151


List of Figures

3.1 Stages of transformative learning 30
4.1 The emotional manager 38
5.1 Theory U by C.O. Scharmer 56
6.1 Requirement profile of school development through transformation of learning culture 86
6.2 Pedagogic quality cube (Arnold/Faber 2000, p. 107) 88
6.3 “Evaluation roadmap” (cf. Meyer 1997, p. 223) 90
6.4 Checklist “Learning-teaching staff” 105
7.1 Vicious cycle between thought and emotion 111
7.2 The self-validating circularity between emotion and cognition 114
7.3 The observer as wearing spectacles 129
7.4 Self-examination questions on emotional competence 133
8.1 The balance of primary construction on the topic leadership 143

List of Tables

2.1 The dual uncertainty of education’s effect 8
2.2 Fundamental maxims of education 10
4.1 Principles and skills of sustainable consultancy 35
5.1 From the teaching to the learning culture 44
5.2 Differentiation of the concept of method 48
5.3 Ways out of distribution monism… 52
5.4 E-learning as part of an integrated learning culture development 60
5.5 Competency development requires support and monitoring 63
5.6 Factors of assisted learning 71
5.7 From generative to assisted learning 73
7.1 From mental surfing to mental work 117

About the Author

Prof. Dr. Rolf Arnold: Dipl.-Päd. (MA. Ed.), born in 1952, obtained his PhD at the University of Heidelberg (1983), worked thereafter for five years in an International Adult Education Centre, obtained his postdoctoral qualification at the Distance University of Hagen in 1987 and has been working at the Department of Pedagogics (in the fields of Vocational and Adult Education) at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern since 1990. He is also Scientific Director and Chairman of the Board for the Distance and International Studies Centre (DISC) as well as the Speaker of the Virtual Campus Rhineland-Palatinate (VCRP).


• He held teaching posts at the Universities of Heidelberg, Bern, and Klagenfurt.

• In 2002 he rejected an appointment at the University of Tubingen.

• Since 1984 he has undertaken numerous teaching and advisory field trips to developing countries, particularly in Latin America (Topic: Development of Educational Systems).

• He is a member of numerous expert commissions and member of the regional advisory committee for continuing education in the State of Rhineland-Palatinate, chairman of the administrative council of the German Institute of Adult Education (DIE), chairman of the advisory board of the Institute for Further Education and Counsel (IFB) for the State of Rhine- land-Palatinate and a member of the BMBF's innovation initiative for continuing education as well.

• Main research areas: Adult Education, Vocational Training and Continuing Education, Teaching and Learning System Development (e.g. Distance Studies), Systemic Pedagogy and Intercultural Vocational Education.

1. Preface

The first part of this book introduces a new way of thinking about learning and teaching. The concept of “Assisted Learning” (Ermöglichungsdidaktik) is presented in the context of the ongoing professional discussions of terms like education and learning as well as the emerging new learning requirements and educational methods. Assisted learning requires a cultural change in education, a change which gives more weight to the methods owned by the learner. Education and learning are being re-invented in a systemic-constructivist context.

Current thinking about the emotional construction of reality is introduced against the background of this new understanding of the learning function and the idea of emotional competence is the focus of the second part of the book. This idea involves, especially, the development of emotional competence. Educational professionals and administrators learn to assume the role of a reflexive observer, in the sense of self-reflection. Those who know the preferred patterns of their world view may not be immune from returning to them over and over again, but they are able to apply them flexibly. This ability in the end is a prerequisite for managing one’s own destructive emotions in a more constructive manner. This is only acquired through reflexive learning processes, the willingness to critically question our usual patterns of behavior and includes knowledge of the way perceptions function. The aim is to achieve a more conscious or sensitive response and to offer more support to educating and education in the context of Assisted Learning.

2. The Effects of Education Are Uncertain,
but Some Shaping Is Certainly Possible

Educational issues are issues for everyone. Everyone knows all about such things, each person has the experience of their own education and is – usually unsolicited – ready to offer their advice. These nuggets of advice usually originate from a trusted perspective on things, which should not be resented. This advice usually has to do with setting the necessary boundaries. Occasionally, popular wisdom holds that parents and teachers need to act firmly and administer discipline. A closer look at this advice quickly shows that it reflects what those giving the advice have experienced themselves. What educational researchers say and whether and to what extent the recommended measures are truly effective are not usually questioned. The fact is, what makes sense to us – and obviously, the only thing that can make sense to us – is what we can illustrate through our own experience.

This is the reason traditional education styles are so incredibly “tenacious” and we have great difficulty questioning something that has made us into the persons we are. But do we know the long-term effect of violence and humiliation on the maturation processes of independent individuals? Experienced violence scars people just as a violent education does. People sometimes suffer years later from the humiliations they experienced at school or, at home at the hands of their parents. There are moving reports and stories of how a violent education can affect one’s entire life.

In such descriptions, we encounter a fundamental element of education, namely, the imbalance in power – we are referring to parental authority – which clearly regulates the violence. The weaker party must obey the will of the stronger party, although the stronger party never has to prove its legitimacy. In this case, an old anthropological pattern prevails, which is often described as the “need to educate” the next generation of the society. According to this theory, people are “incomplete” at the beginning of their development and require the example, the guiding hand, as well as the experience of the elders – or “parents” – in order to prepare for their future roles in the advance of civilization and to mature into productive adults. But is this reasoning correct and does it justify all that parents do and what harm they may do to their children?

In her essay “What can we learn from street and working children?” the Swedish educationist, Birgitta Qvarsell, provides yet another argument in favor of why the traditional concept about the relationship between young and old should be reconsidered. In our world, “work” is viewed as an economic activity preferably reserved for adults, whereas in many countries around the world, it is a standard activity for children (besides playing and learning). With this in mind, we are obliged to readjust the focus of educational research and, in addition, more closely analyze the various shifts in the relationship between adults and children:

“The situation for children of our time is very clearly marked by what M. Mead used to call co-figurative forms for culture and learning (1979). In a relatively stable society you can count on the so called post-figurative learning form as the normal one. When changes are few and the relations between generations are stable, the younger will learn from the elder, in a post-figurative way. Parents, teachers and the other professionals teach and bring up children and youngster. Our society is to some extent co-figurative, equals learning from each other, peers from peers. To some extent it is also evident that we change into a society with pre-figurative learning conditions. Younger people have to teach the older generation the rules of society in some aspects or the techniques to be used in our modern information systems. Such changes may, of course, be seen as threatening by the adults, who are not used to learn from the younger generation” (Qvarsell 2002, p. 117 f).

There may be a theory of the “need to educate mankind”, which is advanced in the theory of lifelong learning, but if so, only because it promotes an interpretation and legitimizes and ultimately guarantees the continued existence of the educational science of “pedagogics” – a self-critical thought posed with increasing frequency by educational theorists. There is another critical idea, namely the question of the intended and unintended side and long-term effects of educational measures. The future of a society is, after all, affected and often adversely affected by what happens in the child’s room and the expectations placed on the children.

2.1 The Dual Uncertainty of Education’s Effect

Only relatively little can be ascertained about the effects or the effectiveness of education. Nevertheless, the fact cannot ignore that educators, either after careful deliberation or without giving any thought to the matter, employ educational measures that often produce no effect or a different, perhaps including even some unexpected effects. Education is also a systemic process. It is an attempt to intervene in the complex interactions between effects, similar to the attempt to lead an organization or to counsel a family. While such intervention may contribute to success, there is no guarantee that it will. It is always the receiving system that determines whether the advice is accepted or not. The brain researcher Antonio R. Damasio (2003) cited the words of Albert Einstein in this context:

"All knowledge of reality proceeds from experience and ends with it." (Einstein 2005, p. 127).

It is therefore the education which we ourselves experience that defines us and allows us to only see and believe what we know from personal experience. Therefore, the effects of education are mostly automatic, whereas, the intent of education is also often arbitrary. And such early impressions have a long term effect. They constitute the pillars of our identity - with the result that later in life we always encounter similar presumptions of authority or we always re-create these emotionally for ourselves. We are comfortable with what we know. This is why even the worst experience provides us at least with the assurance of being able to make safe predictions. This explains why we sometimes "recognize" threats, humiliation, and enfeeblement even in situations where it is not the "intent".

Education does take effect, but one cannot make it take effect: that may be the concluding summary for the long-term, non-arbitrary, even undesired effects from enduring the experience of authority. This does not readily provide us with any advice unless the social context of growing up already includes the fundamental forms of the “my-place-in-the-world” feeling. Parents, teachers, and other educators must “know” from this that they cannot fail to educate. Education occurs in the contexts of worldly encounters. Depending on whether I experience the world as supportive or oppressive, I will have a tendency to continue this basic experience in the future and, accordingly, view the ever-new requirements and relationships of my life in a strengthened or weakened context. For this reason, the most important task of education is to achieve a supportive context. Unfortunately, many parents and educators fail at this task because they themselves were rarely exposed to such supportive experiences. This explains how "black pedagogy" survives through the generations and keeps the myth of breaking the willful child alive. The essential elements of this black pedagogy are elimination and projection.


There is much to be said for the idea that the only way we will be able to shape education in the context of a supportive, self-identity promoting manner, is to take into consideration the elimination and projection ongoing in the soul of the educator. It is from the inner logic of the educator that the individual educational measures arise. The value placed on emotional expression and self-efficacy experiences depends on whether and to what extent the educator has developed these qualities in his own soul. His educational activities are more often an expression of self than an appeal to others or even a stimulus for others. If we do not succeed in taking these childhood impressions of the educator into consideration, education will continue to remain what it has always been: the transmission of the mental opportunities of one generation to the next - thus, prolonging in the subject the often sub-optimal maturation of the slumbering potential within each human being.

Self-reflection 1: What is needed, so that education can be more than the transmission of our own self-experience?

I did not initially support this view of educational issues. Only gradually did I become aware that educational science basically tends to overestimate the influence of educators and teachers. Such a view is highly questionable from a systems theory perspective. After all, it originates from a machine model of teaching, which per se, is ultimately based on the assumption that good intentions alone will guarantee success. Gradually, it became clear to me that educational interventions tend to be ineffective. The essential question for pedagogy is therefore, under what conditions do the well-intentioned interventions of the actors (e.g. parents, teachers) lead to failure and under what conditions can successful effects be achieved.

Such thought is capable of toppling the traditional pedagogic world view. This is most applicable to the intents, insights, attitudes, or even the content to be transmitted (in terms of communicating) inherent in all pedagogical models. Related to this proposition is the fact that pedagogical thinking often has its de facto reference point in the actors system and not in the target systems. They do not appear at all as "systems", rather in many ways they appear as a systemic context yet to be structured. Systemic thinking uses a quite different approach: it is when all systems come into focus in their own logic and the actor is at best imagined initially as an “external” observer, outside the event and seen only when he so desires to be seen. This view serves one's own purposes and is therefore necessarily blind to the purposes of other subjects. If at all, these aims are viewed as rhetorical conditions and remain external to the self-organization or even self-determination of the individual. This is "OK", because any “self- determination” based on a set of rules, is not really self-determination at all.

Education has a dual uncertainty in its effect: First, the long-term identity effects tend to counteract - as already mentioned - what education measures claim to have as their goal. On the other hand, it can be debated which of the experiences an individual may be exposed to in life are to be categorized as being educational in nature and which are not.

Although no linear cause-effect causalities can be traced and, in some cases, the interrelationships of effects can vary markedly, they still can be described and pragmatically summarized. This opens up opportunities for action which provide the educator with a wealth of options that are more extensive than their "instinctive pedagogy," which, as already mentioned, houses and stores their own educational experiences until called up for playback. Sound theoretical principles are needed to break this devastating cycle. Although theory cannot generally say what is “better” or what is “less suitable,” it can describe scenarios, investigate the complexity of each case for potentially effective factors, and propose differentiated knowledge on problems of education. This differentiated knowledge enables an alternative to the "instinctive pedagogy" and paves the way for creativity and diversity in educational methods.

Table 2.1: The dual uncertainty of education’s effect

The dual uncertainty of education represents not just a problem, but also an opportunity for transformation and change. We cannot guarantee success in education since we cannot control the experiences of an adolescent, but we can broaden it and ensure, to a certain degree, that particular experiences are acquired or made up at a later time. Although education occurs through social interaction (in the family and in daily life), it offers very different options for individual development. In contexts that are inflexible and perhaps dominated by violence and rigidity, the striving for self development of the individual finds less guidance, encouragement, and support than in a context of diverse cultural experience as is available in an open society. It is the social environment that constitutes the realm of possible effects of education. However, the opposite also applies: the development of a society thrives on the self-confidence, courage, solidarity, and determination which can develop among its members.

These interactions require us to take a systemic view of the event. A systemic view is based on the interdependence of numerous factors and, through optimized planning, describes the potential efficacy of training measures, which can hardly be controlled to ensure success. In this case, another mode of intervention becomes apparent, which can perhaps best be characterized as "withinness". On the other hand, a systemic view always accounts for the fact that educators do not observe the situation from the point of view of a rational expert: rather, they view educational situations through the lenses of their own growing up and educating experiences – i.e., education is always a follow-up action, which must have a link back to the education of the pupils as well as to the educational routines of the educators.

The uncertainty of the education’s effect does not suggest an educational “anything-goes” attitude; rather it suggests the importance of including this special feature of pedagogy in the theoretical study. This special feature is evident in the three contexts of education: there is a "promise context" to education (study of unproven hypotheses), an "observation context" (study of typology and evaluation of "what works" or "what does not work"), and an "action context" (study of individual education responsibility). The interrelationships between these different contexts have not been adequately examined. This leads the practice ("action context") to expect guiding principles through research ("observation context"), which can assist in the achievement of what the other party promised or expected - a situation that cannot be seamlessly created in the systemic context of the educator.