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What is Gutenberg Method?

assign the students portions of the textbook to study before they come to class.

The students have read the material, they have thought about it, and they have questions to ask about it. You answer these questions, or, better still, try to get them to answer their own questions, or get other students to give the answers. You ask questions. You have a discussion. If they’re slow to come alive, you take up points that you know give students trouble. You lead them through difficult problems. The entire class hour becomes like those few golden moments at the end of an old-fashioned lecture when a few students manage to rise above the system and gather around your desk.

The Gutenberg Method, then, is one that uses a book. But if it is to work, the book must be written with this end in mind, or as though this end was in mind. It should not be a reference book jam-packed with ten times the facts and information that a student can hope to learn. It should not be a short, concise summary written to help the student review. It must be written to be the student’s initial contact with the subject. New ideas must be introduced as though the students were completely ignorant which, at this stage, they are. Explanations must be full enough, complete enough, that the students can understand them. This means using many words and many pages.

What we really want to do is strike a spark in the students’ minds. We want to reveal to them the beauty of ideas and concepts and rationality. The teacher and his personality play the key role in this. But it is not the teacher’s wit and polish and delivery that are important. It is the teacher’s enthusiasm for the subject that is enormously contagious … It is the intense pleasure the students get when they are led, like Socrates’ slave-boy, to use, really use, their own minds.

from this article.

It also have very good quotes:

… laziness. It is always easier to go on doing what you’ve been doing and what everybody else is doing than to do something new.

I think that everyone, at least one part of everyone, wants the security of knowing what is going to happen.

and some other interesting quotes:

Reading makes demands on you. You must work at it. And because of the work you do, reading stretches your mind.

Learning … is not a spectator sport. A student doesn’t learn sitting on the aisle in a lecture room watching a spectacular performance by a star lecturer.

Also read the article below written by Frank L. Lambert:

The essence of the Gutenberg Method that can transform a class lies in the psychological change in professor and student to the roles of coach and student-who-wants-success. The procedures are just the framework. They are trivial, useless, a waste of time without a commitment by instructors to change their attitudes to create a different relationship with students than they themselves suffered as undergraduates under authoritative savants (or marginal human beings with fast-moving chalk and PowerPoint). In my opinion, the instructor must communicate this and the advantages of their changed roles for the student to the students from the first minutes of contact with members of a new class.

Only a psychological change in the instructor, plus extra hours of labor in finding/developing optimal talking points to aid each student, can prove to doubting students how a course is worth their best effort. It is additional labor to speak with them individually, personally. But if they sense the sincerity of such interest in helping them in their future, I predict a major change in enough students to tip the balance in the whole class toward a genuine coach-to-team-member relationship.

What I discovered as “the Gutenberg Method”, via procedures and attitudes described in the preceding paragraphs, is maximally successful only if it is truly, and if it is sensed by the student to be, part of a totally cooperative endeavor to conquer the subject matter: to ‘beat the book’…with coach and student working together.


This blog post tells a good example of my concept of learning. It is the most effective, as people look at the results using their eyes, comparing the results and reflect on the differences. Same input, different interventions, different outcomes. It must be due to the interventions! No cognitive conflict can be stronger than this. By explicitly pointing out this, again and again, people cannot escape but reflect.

If we have two earths (at least two human-hospitable planets), then we can run an experiment – one earth is like now, business as usual; and another earth changes to sustainable course. Wait and see them after Year 2050, we will learn that which one is better choice.

Unfortunately we don’t have another earth to learn. The best we can do is creating virtual earths, or modelling and simulation to test policy interventions. People who don’t like simulation outcome of a model can always complain about its assumptions, since model is never as perfect as the real world. But this is what the best human can do. Study the model as unbiased as possible, learn its usefulness and limitations, examine its assumptions and trace back to understand why the simulation outcome is like that (how the model results that simulation outcome). We can learn a lot even the model is not perfect.

Another way is to learn from history. Of course no history is identical. But similar to modelling and simulation, we can learn its usefulness (insights) and limitations (what may not apply). Understand why the history becomes like that is the most important gain of study history. Generally most of the insights are just repeating. If our civilization is collapsing again, it means we didn’t learn enough history.

learning = (expected == actual) ? reinforce : reflect;

The Australian Research Institute for Environment and Sustainability (ARIES) opinion:

  1. Envisioning a better future
  2. Critical thinking and reflection
  3. Participation
  4. Partnerships for change
  5. Systems thinking

More elaboration here.

Just found a good term “learning science”, which I think better describes the “to be discovered” scientific fundamental of learning, especially human learning.

Instructional design, or pedagogy then apply the discoveries of learning science to achieve the instructional goal. Note that learning science does not have goal but instructional design must contain. Instructional design is the “engineering”. Thus it is clear there is a R&D flow from learning science to instructional design, but note that discoveries during instructional design and teaching can be feedback to learning science too. It is not one way but reinforcing loop that potentially greatly advance our understanding of learning and improve the education we desired.

From Wikipedia:

Dual Inheritance Theory (DIT), also known as Gene-Culture Coevolution, was developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s to explain how human behavior is a product of two different and interacting evolutionary processes: genetic evolution and cultural evolution. DIT is a “middle-ground” between much of social science, which views culture as the primary cause of human behavioral variation, and human sociobiology and evolutionary psychology which view culture as an insignificant by-product of genetic selection.

About its potential,

DIT has been viewed as having great potential for unifying diverse academic fields under one overarching theory. Mesoudi, et al. have identified DIT as the ideal way to build a comprehensive theory of cultural evolution to answer questions about human behavior at different temporal and spacial scales. [67] Along with game theory, Herb Gintis has named DIT one of the two major conceptual theories with potential for unifying the behavioral sciences, including economics, biology, anthropology, sociology, psychology and political science. Because it addresses both the genetic and cultural components of human inheritance, Gintis sees DIT models as providing the best explanations for the ultimate cause of human behavior and the best paradigm for integrating those disciplines with evolutionary theory. [68] In a review of competing evolutionary perspectives on human behavior, Laland and Brown see DIT as the best candidate for uniting the other evolutionary perspectives under one theoretical umbrella.


In a 2006 interview Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson expressed disappointment at the little attention afforded to DIT:

“…for some reason I haven’t fully fathomed, this most promising frontier of scientific research has attracted very few people and very little effort.”[55]

Therefore I would like to call more research on this theory, especially empirical work (experiment). I see more understanding on the brain-learning bridge (e.g. Neuropsychology) is important to advance education.

How to be a human 怎样做人:

  • Moral / Ethics (based on innate Love / Conscience / care about others but with reasoning) – determine goal that good for society
  • Critical thinking / Judge conflicting information to make decision / how to think (use your brain) – determine the right way to reach the goal

  • There was a strong consensus that educating for sustainability should begin very early in life. It is in the early childhood period that children develop their basic values, attitudes, skills, behaviours and habits, which may be long lasting.
  • It was suggested that, instead of talking about the 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic), one should refer to the 7Rs for education for sustainable development (reduce, reuse, recycle, respect, repair, reflect and refuse).
  • Learning about democratic values and practices can and should start in the smallest unit of society – the family – at birth.
  • There is a great deal in the traditions of early childhood pedagogies that align with education for sustainability: e.g. interdisciplinary approach, holism, use of the outdoors for learning, integration of care, development and education, learning through concrete experiences and real life projects, and involvement of parents and communities.
  • non-formal education can be set up – as an integral component of community programmes or otherwise – to provide parents and grandparents with opportunities to discuss what could be done differently in daily life in order to become an effective agent of bringing about sustainable development. Where an early childhood education programme does exist, a parental education can complement what children experience in the programme.
  • It was felt paradoxical that early childhood educators – who have strong infl uence in shaping children’s personality and dispositions – often have very low social and professional status. It is important to improve the status of the early childhood education field and its personnel in the pursuit of realizing a sustainable society… Increasing investment in improving access, quality and equity of early childhood provision and supporting families is an urgent necessity.
  • The work in the early years should not be about teaching how to read and write early and formally. Young children can be encouraged to question over-consumption through discussions about familiar food products, clothes, toys and advertisements. Such discussions could be expanded to incorporate considerations about their counterparts in less materially rich circumstances, and stimulate conversations about solidarity and co-operation.
  • intercultural education … learning to respect and appreciate diversity… developing a sense of themselves as world citizens.
  • the need to collect good practices on education for sustainable development in the early years – found in different countries and cultures – which can inspire and guide the daily work of early childhood educators. Other research ideas suggested were: (a) research on the kinds of knowledge and skills that early childhood educators need in order to provide early education for sustainability; (b) comparative studies of children’s and educators’ attitudes and conceptions about sustainability; (c) collection of life stories from famous people (e.g. Al Gore) about their early childhood experiences and how these might have shaped their values, ideas and actions in favour of sustainable development; and (d) a longitudinal research on the impacts and benefits of education for sustainable development in the early years.
  • From this perspective, should the goals of early childhood education be re-thought and redefined? Should the goal of early childhood education primarily be to promote academic knowledge and competences for successful learning in later stages of education, or should they offer a broader range of knowledge, skills and support, and if so, what are they?

from this report.

There are several good points about Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in this paper:

  • the notion of linking knowledge, values, perspectives, and skills/bahaviour (the head, the heart, the hands)… It [ESD] must connect the head to the heart to the hands [I would rephrase it as “connect the heart (value) to the head (reasoning, knowledge) to the hands (action)”].
  • Ultimately the benefit [effectiveness] of ESD must be measured in terms of change behaviour.
  • Education is not sufficient, but it is certainly necessary… reject the notion that either we educate or we use regulation and economic policy instruments.
  • [Some discussions about funding and political setback. It seems to me that the top-down approach of UN Decade for ESD failed to create sustainable commitment to ESD in individual nation or local level. Some things to do.]
  • It would be serious error to ignore the profound shifts in culture and social structure that are already underway in all parts of the globe. [People tends to overlook culture/paradigm shift because it is invisible / less salient, although the accumulation is ongoing and will create surprise when it is large enough to create visible shift to new state. So actually what we educators do is to keep accumulation, speed up the accumulation.]

His presentation is also inspiring:

ESD must:

  • be experiential, inquiry-based, place based, and action-oriented
  • teach students to think in systems terms
  • explain inter-relationships between ecosystems and social systems (including the economy, culture etc)
  • inspire concern for fellow humans and for the biosphere (which makes all life possible)
  • strengthen capacity to think and act for the future and not only for the present

These should be should familiar to System Dynamics/Systems Thinking educators.

Technologies for sustainability leadership

  • facilitation (leader as facilitator)
  • collaborative decision making
  • vision-based strategic action thinking and planning
  • scenario planning (including computer modeling of future scenarios)

I like the idea leader as facilitator, while facilitation for envisioning, scenario planning and collaborative decision making are basic elements of group modelling building.

Many countries vow to reform their education. They said education is very important to advancement of their countries. I am not doubting it, but rather what kind of education is desired?

In the past, what we most concern is language (read, write), arithmetic (count), ethics (moral), history (unfortunately often used as nation building, not genuine understanding of the construction of history discourses) and basic sciences. These are still fundamental, especially for less developed countries, where literacy rate is still low and high gender inequality to receive education. The importance of education to these countries cannot be more overstated.

But for the more advanced countries, the focus is no longer quantity (literacy rate), but quality. What kind of education best prepare young generation for their future? Beyond the basic literacy, now there are many ‘adjectival’ educations – peace education, gender education, inclusive education, multicultural education, human rights education, HIV and AIDS education, global education, consumer education, holistic education, citizenship education, health education and development education (get to know them from this review paper). The essence of these education, in my opinion, can be grouped into three main themes plus their specialized knowledge:

  1. Ethics – care about other! Seeing connections and interdependencies is important part of its shaping.
  2. Critical thinking – improve quality of individual reasoning ability, how to evaluate the arguments. Learning to better understand complexity is part of it.
  3. Learning in participatory decision-making processes – envisioning shared future, group model building to create a shared understanding of problem and potential solutions and reach consensus on policy change, debate.

The success of education reform requires commitment of teachers, government (provide the resources, not just lip service), support of the parents and society. All these stakeholders need to participate in creating shared vision, understanding the problem and how to reform. Otherwise no commitment in implementation and nothing will change.

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