Friday, September 11, 2015

Overcoming Functional Fixedness

"Most people have a cognitive bias called functional fixedness that causes them to see objects in their normal context." Bernard Roth

"Heutagogy, a form of self-determined learning with practices and principles rooted in andragogy, has recently resurfaced as a learning approach after a decade of limited attention. Learners are highly autonomous and self-determined and emphasis is placed on development of learner capacity and capability with the goal of producing learners who are well-prepared for the complexities of today’s workplace. The approach has been proposed as a theory for applying to emerging technologies in distance education and for guiding distance education practice and the ways in which distance educators develop and deliver instruction using newer technologies such as social media." (Blaschke,2012).


When I think of young children learners, I envision: wonder and curiosity. They constantly question everything with why, and do not understand what it means to fail. If a kindergartener through third grader attempts to complete a challenge, and isn't successful, they simply start again, whereas middle level learners to adult learners may give up. Children learners embrace the very meanings of wonder and curiosity each day as they are seeking answers with their growth mindsets, where as an adult learner may no longer have these characteristics. Too often, adults are set in there ways with traditional mindsets and refuse to be open minded. Also, an adult learner may lack wonder, curiosity and/or imagination because traditional school settings have removed these traits throughout the years.

Yet, my question is, when and how does this change? When/how can educational leaders remove themselves from their own functional fixedness to move their schools forward? 


Blaschke mentioned that emerging technologies are taking learning to new levels, while developing more autonomous people. I agree, as I absolutely utilize Twitter on a constant basis.  However, take a moment, step back, and think of our current school settings.  Why are schools still refusing to go to BYOD or 1 to 1 programs? How long can schools at all levels, employ lecturers that still see PowerPoint as visionary technology? Even with the advancements of technology and new desires to incorporate and research Heutagogy, how can we create a new generation of autonomous, self-directed learners if they are still receiving the same type of education as children have for the past 50 years?  So many educators are still teaching from a textbook that's several years outdated, and think that the book is the curriculum. Don't forget to add, wasted hallway spaces, lectured faculty meetings, and "Its always been done this way" or "no, that just won't work here."  The same goes for "teaching to the test" as teachers are restricted by administration, fear or not knowing anything else to try because of how they were trained in school. Heck, I bet the majority of these classrooms still have a cemetery look with desks in perfect rows.  Boring, traditional educational settings breed the opposite of what so many school mission statements say they want to achieve. 

Stakeholders amongst their school communities need to revisit what they truly want their students to be. Are they ready to remove their mission statements and develop authentic manifestos?  When will we stop "factory preparing" and transform schools into empathetic, design thinking learning centers, so that all students are "life ready" for whatever life throws at them? 

"Make the familiar into the unfamiliar, and the result can be amazing and delightful, as opposed to dull, nonfunctional, and ordinary." Bernard Roth


Blaschke, L. M. (2012). Heutagogy and lifelong learning: A review of heutagogical practice and self-determined learning. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 13(1), 56-71.

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