Monday, August 24, 2015

Structuring a learning path...Where to begin?

This is my first blog post; it is not my beginning and I know not where I am to go. I am in search of a path.

The garden path
Paths provide a rich analogy for life and growth. Similar themes exist in the Odyssey-in its many incarnations, the poetry of Robert Frost, educational materials, and structures for learning. Literal paths abound for hiking, biking, driving, and other modes of travel.

I recently encountered the garden-path sentence- a sentence that is, at first, ambiguous and confusing- and reflects my start on this project. The garden-path sentence structure is named such because readers attempt to make sense of a sentence before completely reading it-going down the 'garden path' of assumption. An example: The old dog the footsteps of the young. (from  This also captures the beauty and uncertainty of exploration and discovery. We think we know what to expect and find something more!

I have been considering this first posting all summer; inspiration recurred while on a training run. Following are features I encountered on the paths of the Superior Hiking Trail. These features enhance the journey, analogous to supports and challenges put in place for rich learning. The garden-path example above is somewhat humorous, as many of the pictures below feature my daughter pacing me on the path.

As you read captions, consider learning paths-classroom and professional development. Which features (instructional strategies) do you provide for your learners? Which features do you want in your learning experiences? Are the features you choose in your classroom for your students the same that you choose for your own learning during professional development? Should some paths be more structured than others? Why or why not?

Ambiguity clears as you progress
Lanes marked and clear of obstructions
Smooth with room for lateral movement

Steps add interest and challenge

Defined, not refined

Places to rest provided

Guardrail to prevent dangerous falls

Variety of structures to aid progress
A little added structure on otherwise plain path

Beginning to show wear

Obstructions are passable

Turns are well defined

Picturesque vistas

Tripping hazards woven in along the way

Room for traveling companions

 Paths can be inviting-providing hints of where they will take you. How well-defined is your path?

Deep ruts avoid known hazards

Gentle winding single-track

Anticipating difficulty to meet needs

Support where needed

Multi-modal options
Alternative paths along the way

A place to reflect

Clear destinations and expectations
A guide to lead the way

Structured support-optional

 All paths contain surprises: amazing vistas and unforeseen challenges!

Circumvents pitfalls

The work of others is made visible

Garden path sentences require coming to the end (period) and often rereading to get complete understanding. (The man who hunts ducks out on weekends!) With reflection, familiar parts become a surprising whole.

Consider the paths you use to support learning and reflection. What structures do you use to maximize learners' interaction with knowledge? What are essential points for providing guidance? How do your learners reflect on their learning journey?

Access is an issue on any path. What are other path features that must be considered?

I hope you found this path worth taking :)

Pictures - cite @BarbaraBengtson

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