Notes on selected chapters in: Henderson, E and Nathenson, M (eds) (1984) Independent Learning in Higher Education.  Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications Inc.

Dave Harris


The intention is to develop a 'theory', [in the main sense used in educational technology  -- a strange mixture of description and managerial proscription].  A lot of psychological material is reviewed about motivation and cognitive organization, including the usual suspects—Maslow, Kohlberg, Piaget and Dewey, and even Pask and Scott on information processing.  Morgan's approach based on the Gothenburg School appears.  This is the Ed Tech Man's catechism of all time greats.  It is relentlessly optimistic, in seeing study systems in terms of humanistic psychology, for example.

There is only really one critical section based on Becker and Miller and Parlett [on student instrumentalism and cue consciousness respectively], and even here, this is seen as an unfortunate tendency for extrinsic motivation to be dominant.

Brown, D.  'Case Study 10: Case Studies on Television', 211--220

Television case studies use the conventions and language of television, including documentary and realist convention, and those that name to produce programmes that are 'concrete and synthetic' [confirmation of these techniques in educational broadcasting is drawn from Bates and Gallagher*.  As examples, interviews are edited to juxtapose views, the documentary format appears in programmes on life in a monastery or conditions in different industries which affect women's work.  Different kinds of conventional narrator appear.  The intention is to be open-ended and to encourage an active response.  Even Bates and Gallagher found little effect on students, however, leading to their proposals to clarify intentions at the expense of content, to list concepts, to offer more guidance ( see Bates here) .  Student perceptions seem to vary: some see television programmes as a source of information rather than as a resource to develop their course skills (213).

One solution is clearly to offer more broadcast notes, even 'media booklets', or to make supplementary TV programmes to show students how to interpret TV.  These might take the form of follow-up cassette material to be studied immediately after a television programme, and could include, say, the comments of the participants.  Case studies could be redesigned more radically, to encourage tune interrogation of the material, for example by freezing the action while students were asked questions, or including action replays.  However, there are dangers here including the 'sad irony [that]…  students are pushed even more firmly into accepting the programme makers view of reality'(215).

An alternative is clearly to expose the basic construction of television programmes, including the way they are encoded and decoded [and explicit reference to Hall] (216).  [Not a great deal is made of Hall, though, only the point that academic TV must offer a selective perception of events which cannot be assumed to correspond with that of students].  It is clear that educational TV can clash with 'good TV' [with a reference to Gallagher]: good TV assumes shared knowledge.  There is some dispute about whether the open university programmes are judged in the same way as ordinary TV, but it is unlikely that academic perspectives are shared.

Reference is made to the piece by Thompson [confirmed by Gallagher again, although she blames students' lack of skills].  Brown is not so keen to blame students, more to see it as a matter of the power of conventions.  He ends by agreeing with Thompson that TV tends to show only one construction of events.  They might be helped to distance themselves if they experienced frequent 'interruptions'.

* Bates, A.  and Gallagher, M.  (1977) 'Improving the effectiveness of OU TV case studies and documentaries', a paper produced by the Audio - Visual Research Group in the OU Institute of Educational Technology.

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