Sunday, June 13, 2010

PL 25/10: Second-order learning

Filed under: LATINA — plinius @ 10:28 pm

The third LATINA Summer course starts in two weeks.

The aim of LATINA, I wrote yesterday, is to promote change. We invite people to explore and take part in a web-oriented course environment. Then they can decide for themselves whether this way of learning and teaching can be useful in their own work or their own institutions.

But they must try it out first. Walk the walk – and talk afterwards.

The same applies to LATINA itself. The first course in 2008 was an experiment. But now we have gained more experience. During the last two years we have conducted a total of five courses based on “the LATINA approach”. This makes it easier to describe what we are doing. First we walk and then we talk.

LATINA courses are designed and conducted by a small group of people working at Oslo University College. The collective learning process is anchored in the LATINA Lab,which is headed by Helge Høivik, with Lars Egeland as deputy leader. I have been on the teaching team – in slightly different roles – of all the courses.

Collective learning

Our collective learning can be described as a circular process:

  1. We design the course
  2. We conduct the course
  3. We evaluate the results
  4. We revise the design
  5. We adapt the revised design to the next course
  6. We conduct …

Grammar of schooling

It may be useful to distinguish between two types of revision. We may revise surface aspects of the course – or change the design principles.

In a traditional lecture-based course we may change

  • the order of presentation
  • the amount of time devoted to each topic
  • the topics themselves

But the established teaching and learning formats – for instance lectures + brief class discussions + papers for grading every other week + a final written exam – remain the same. The grammar of schooling is unchanged. Only the surface differs.


Second-order learning

But we can also construct the course on different principles, replacing lectures, papers and exams by – say:

  • demonstrations
  • practical instructions
  • individual and group exercises
  • individual and group projects
  • project presentations
  • web-based discussions

and other interactive formats.

When we use our experiences to change the details of a course, we engage in first-order learning. When first-order learning fails, we may have to revise the principles instead. Then we engage in second-order learning.

Learning organizations

At LATINA, we believe that teaching institutions – including libraries – must be learning organizations. They must respond to important changes

  • in their professional fields
  • in their operating environments

We also take for granted that the changes caused by the web are so deep that they call for second-order rather than first-order learning.




  • LATINA Summer 2008.
    • Three consecutive weeks
  • LATINA Spring 2009.
    • Three separate weeks combined with project work
  • LATINA Summer 2009
    • Three consecutive weeks
  • Autumn 2009: Digitalisation and digital dissemination in museums (Digitalisering og digital formidling i museer).
    • Three separate weeks combined with project work
  • June 2010:  Transformation from Digital Library to Digital Learning
    • One intensive week, in Finland

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