Learning more from how we're treated

For decades, I've been captivated by the possibility that "we learn more from HOW we're treated than WHAT we're taught". This frames instructional design as a strategic intervention. It calls attention to the effects of how learners are set up to learn, be described and learned from. It exposes the impacts on learners of "actions speak louder than words". It works with the premise that we continually send signals from where we're coming from, how we say things and what we didn't see, say or do. It suggests we can seem congruent and credible to learners by doing as we say or we can function hypocritically. 

I've just returned to this possibility with a new frame of reference thanks to Karl Kapp, Tony O'Driscoll and their many contributors. Their book: Learning in 3D reveals the educational uses of virtual immersive environments (VIE') to be an ideal setting for "learning more from how we're treated than what we're taught".
There are several ways that "how we're treated" could be misinterpreted by "content delivery devotees":
  • How many slides we're shown before the break
  • How much of the required reading will be on the exams
  • How much studying it takes to do well on tests
  • How tough it is to get a good grade
  • How many times we can skip before it affects our grade
  • How much class participation counts in the total points accumulated
  • How many times we have to meet with our group to complete the assigned project

I've been exploring very different dimensions of learner experience which are not formally instructed:
  1. Experience of participation while making decisions (tradeoffs, evaluations, priorities, plans, etc) -- getting utilized or given lip service, having significant or negligible impact
  2. Experience of self expression while contributing to others' learning -- getting nurtured or stifled, valued or downplayed
  3. Experience of rights while learning -- being protected or violated, exercised or neglected
  4. Experience of justice during conflicts -- being restored or corrupted, sought through a fair process or denied
Since these dimensions have not been taught, conventional instructors assume those experiences could not have been educational, much less done damage, turned students off or trashed the teacher's credibility. Yet all these experiences can be inherent in one's interactions, roles, explorations and conversations within VIE's. Negative experiences can become memorable lessons and opportunities to take corrective action. Unlike passive students sitting in chairs facing forward, avatars can make moves to see that learners' experiences get turned around, upgraded or resolved through collaborations. Those students would then confirm my premise, that we learn more from how we're treated than what we're taught.

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