One of the fundamental questions about affordances is: affordances for who? And the affordances of 'reflection', 'reflective practice' and 'evaluation', so fashionable in education, are a case in point ...

Reflection and evaluation have, in my work, often been rather uncomfortable requirements in education. In the Affordances for Learning project in 2007-08, the only way we got students to agree to tell us stories about their learning was for us to agree that the story telling would involve NO 'reflection' at all - because, they said, it was formulaic, done-to-death, and irrelevant to their lives as students. (Although 18 months later, they said the 'nested narratives' we used we "a wonderful way to reflect on our learning').

We have spent the past few years developing the Footprints of Emergence as a methodology and a tool for a different kind of 'reflection' and 'evaluation', and my colleague recently commented that they are "not about evaluation as it is commonly understood. Rather they are a tool for surfacing tacit understanding and deep sense making". And that "what is perhaps not commonly recognised in relation to evaluation is the space [for] solitude and contemplation that learners need to be able to engage at this level and opportunities to move into this space".

I couldn't have said it better. My sense is that with the development of the Footprints we are opening up evaluative practice, and providing the methodology and tools for what has always been left out and marginalised – the learner’s own reflection (as in ‘owned’, within their own space (as in solitude and contemplation). In a sense ‘reflection’ in the micro-managed curriculum has become so totally appropriated by the curriculum and the institutions that there is no space left in reflection for the learner’s own development as a social, professional, and cultural, practitioner.

In Foucault’s terms, its perhaps the best example of what he calls the ‘capillaries of power’ – the fine, most peripheral, and most intrusive spaces (and ways) which the power and ‘logic’ of outcomes-based education invades, as it becomes in-corporated into the body politic - or the bodies of learners and gradually the body of knowledge too.

I had not thought about it in precisely these terms before, but it epitomises for me, now, the way Footprints can contest and open up the hegemony of ‘higher education’ which tends more and more towards compliance and prescription, as it moves further and further away from ‘education’. If that is indeed the case, open-MOOCs are actually incompatible with current HEI funding and management models in the UK .

On the positive side, the implications of this argument are not that prescription is always wrong, or that learning and certification are always incompatible, but rather that within the overall (and fascinating?) paradox of the Open/Course there is a valid range from Courses (including XXXCourses and XXXMOOCs) to Open/Courses, to Open Workshops - albeit that Courses should become the exception, and Open/Course should become the rule, with Open Workshops enticingly balanced on the edge of chaos.

(Cross-posted to here ...)