On the evening of October 29, 2020, the HZNU-CIPSH Chair Collaboration Office invited Professor Tsai Chin-chung, Dean of the School of Learning Informatics of Taiwan Normal University and Director of the Institute for Research Excellence in Learning Sciences, as a keynote speaker for the lecture of "The Role of Conceptions of Learning in Technology-Enhanced Learning Environments." This lecture is the first lecture of a series of lectures on childhood studies organized by the office. The lecture was presided over by Associate Professor Xu Jianmei, the School of Education Associate Dean. Professor Yang Junfeng, the head of the Department of Educational Technology, and Associate Professor Xu Guangtao, the deputy head of the School of Education, were invited as distinguished speakers. Associate Professor Gao Zhenyu, the executive secretary of the office, also participated in the event.
In this lecture, Professor Tsai Chin-chung used eight studies to explain to the audience the concluded thoughts as well as the past and potential future explorations of a series of topics, such as the research classification of learning conceptions, the role of learning conceptions in learning, the part played by learning conceptions in the technology-enhanced environment, the potential impacts of technology on students' learning conceptions, and the changes in students' learning conceptions from childhood to adolescence.
At first, Professor Tsai introduced the learning conceptions of students of different ages in the research. Using drawing assessment, he revealed to the audience the five major categories of early European scholars' views on student learning. He also pointed out that students' learning conceptions are closely related to their own outlooks on the world, life, and values.
Professor Tsai then based the next study on his experience as a secondary school science teacher in Taiwan. He further advanced the research on high school students' views on science learning and obtained seven categories of Taiwan high school students' opinions on learning science. In the study, Phenomenongraphic Analysis is used to process the data to derive the distribution chart of the research subjects' views on scientific disciplines. It is found that most research subjects' learning conceptions are placed in the middle of the belief hierarchy.
Through combing learning conceptions with the learning environment, Professor Tsai then introduced the changes in students' learning conceptions in the technological environment. The research shows that the research subjects' learning conceptions convert from low-level to high-level in the technology assisted environment. Based on this conclusion, he indicated that appropriately incorporating technology in teaching could promote the development and sublimation of students' learning conceptions. This conclusion has been further proved by his later research on college students' context-aware ubiquitous learning. The study confirmed that the ubiquitous learning model has dramatically stimulated students' learning conceptions towards higher levels.
In the later stage of the research and development, Professor Tsai also discussed teachers' learning conceptions in the technological environment. He pointed out that teachers' learning conceptions are intertwined with lesson design and their expectations of learning outcomes and discussed the current effects of education on developing students' learning conceptions. It shows that learning conceptions are negatively related to learning effectiveness and its results. In the end, Professor Tsai proposed possible future research directions and areas of integration for learning conceptions and the technological environment.
During the discussion session, Professor Yang Junfeng stated that most current research on learning focuses on behaviorist S-R stimulus-response theory, cognitivist S-O-R theory, and Connectivism and that the field of students' learning conceptions is relatively new. Also, Professor Tsai's research methods will bring great inspiration to interested teachers and students and promote multi-angle research in related fields in Chinese mainland. Professor Xu Guangtao also expressed that scholars' investigation on this topic in Chinese mainland is still in its infancy. Professor Tsai's sharing will certainly give our school teachers and students enlightenment and promote the examination of students' learning conceptions incorporation with the current educational practices in Chinese mainland.
The audience actively participated in the lecture and communicated their reflections and thoughts in the Q&A session. Due to the limited time, Professor Tsai discussed and answered some of the questions, which are shown below:
Q: Hello, Professor Tsai, thank you very much for your wonderful sharing! Could you please share with us roughly how to do drawing analysis, for example, if you see a picture and want to analyze it further? Can drawing analysis be used in all subjects, or only to be used in subjects containing more abstract information (for example, what is learning)?
A: You can refer to the article Chang, H.-Y., Lin, T.-J., Lee, M.-H., Lee, SW-Y., Lin, T.-C., Tan, A.-L ., & Tsai, C.-C. (2020). A systematic review of trends and findings in research employing drawing assessment in science education. Studies in Science Education, 56, 77-110. There are detailed classification and analysis introduction in the article. When we first did the research, it was very difficult to do this analysis, because there were almost no precedents to refer to. We got all the paintings and used a bottom-up method to sort the data into categories. At present, Florida also has similar articles, which also draws on some of our previous coding methods.
Q: When is it better to start learning conceptions? How to build them?
A: Technology itself is not a panacea. Later we found that adding more inquiry activities, open tasks and questions in the activity design is also helpful to the higher-order development of learning conceptions. Well, to give you a counterexample, if you only ask for a quick and accurate answer in the future, it is usually not helpful. This is why I said before that the belief in learning is related to students’ outlook on knowledge and learning. The contemporary philosophical view believes that truth is not fixed, and everyone has a true understanding from their own perspective. Even if it is scientific knowledge, no one dares to say that a certain scientific knowledge is always right. We believe that a right scientific knowledge faces the possibility of being overthrown in the future. This is a philosophical problem, an epistemological problem, then this is also a learning problem. We often teach children a correct answer, but what they face is not a black and white world, not all questions have only one answer and answer. This is that we should teach them in the process of education. Therefore, our unchanging spirit is to give children more thinking spirit and more opportunities to discuss with others. It is very good to have more opportunities to discuss with people of different views. As far as when you start, I think you can start anytime, and it’s best when a kid is young.
Q: Hello, Professor, could you share some of your insights on the following questions?
1. Is learning belief a cognition that can be deliberately cultivated externally, or is it a deep inner experience of students in the learning process? Or both?
2. Learning belief, in addition to the cognition of "what is learning", does it also include the cognition of "for what to learn"? Or both?
3. The dichotomy of learning conceptions from "low-level" to "high-level" is like the opposition between the theory of substantial education and the theory of formal education. Different learning depths have different so-called "levels." There are many factors that influence this, so there will be many factors that promote this improvement.
A: The first question: Either way is okay. It can be the experience generated during the learning process of the students or the deliberate guidance of the teacher.
The second question: There is a very interesting phenomenon. When you ask students what learning is, some say it is a learning strategy, some say it is a goal, some say it is an idea, but we do not limit it, it is purely based on each individual’s interpretation.
The third question: We did not want to promote any dichotomy, all our research is to give you a spectrum, so our articles will use the low-order or relatively high-order, none of which is absolutely bad. We have previously done research on medical students, and we found that their learning conceptions range from low-level to high-level. We naively thought that the students with very good grades only had high-level ones, and there were no low-level ones, but that was not the case. Students who perform very well are from low to high, all mixed. We will then try to analyze this phenomenon using cluster analysis.
At the event's closing session, the deputy dean Xu Jianmei expressed her gratitude to Professor Tsai for his academic sharing. Dean Xu pointed out that Professor Tsai brought us inspiring research conclusions in this lecture and demonstrated how to gradually advance a research problem from multiple perspectives with his own research results, thus forming an internationally influential research series. She later announced that the first series of lectures on childhood studies by HZNU-CIPSH Chair Collaboration Office ended successfully.