Remembering Prof. Howard Barrows: Notes on Problem-based Learning and the Schools of the Future

Me: “Howard, can I ask you a more general, philosophical question? Considering all your pioneering work in Problem-based Learning, how would you imagine the school of the future?” Howard Barrows: “To start with, there would be no subjects. There would be no isolated classes for students such as geography, chemistry, accounting, history and so on.” Me: “How can this work? What is the point of abandoning specialised subjects?” Howard Barrows: “It is the designed learning…
Read More


Why it is Time to Retire Bloom’s Taxonomy

Picture above: Exam among Chinese Students (Source: Tomo News) “You cannot teach today the same way you did yesterday to prepare students for tomorrow. ” John Dewey 1. Historical Credit and Positioning Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning has reigned as one of the most influential pedagogical concepts for the design of school curricula until today. Formulated by Benjamin Bloom and colleagues in the mid-50s (Bloom et al., 1956), the taxonomy attempted to break away from behaviorist theories…
Read More


‘I Love Democracy – As Long as You Agree With Me’: Notes on the Social Psychology of Authoritarianism

Nationalist autocrats (Trump, Erdogan, Putin): Different cultural backgrounds, shared cognitive template The Democratic Model: Deliberating Discussions and Open Inquiry Before going into workings of authoritarianism, it is useful to remind ourselves how functional, non-authoritarian systems look like in order to establish a baseline for evaluation. As I noticed during my recent holidays in Germany, politics appeared surprisingly sober and plain, absent of drama and high-stake ideological debates. For example, the Ministry of Environment proposed a…
Read More


Inside the Education Revolution: An Exclusive Interview with University of the People (UoPeople), the World’s First Non-profit, Tuition-free, Accredited Online University

Picture: Shai Reshef, President of The University of the People (Image courtesy of UoPeople). Is low-cost, high-quality education no more than a distant dream? Does quality education have to stay out of reach for the majority of globalized learners? A courageous and innovative online university doesn’t think so. The University of the People (UoPeople) is the brainchild of Shai Reshef, an eLearning entrepreneur who founded UoPeople in 2009. The online university is based in Pasadena,…
Read More


Defining Human Agency: Towards an Interdependent Model of Human Autonomy

Illustration by Jim Tsinganos (IA Illustration Awards, 2015): Which is my authentic Self? PDF Version: Defining Human Autonomy, Kompa, J., 2016 Introduction: Beyond money, what makes us truly happy and free? How could I argue with a Nobel Prize winner? I admire Daniel Kahneman’s work, not only his contributions to behavioural economics but also his recent work on wellbeing and happiness. Kahneman demonstrated that high income improves the evaluation of life, but not necessarily emotional well-being (Kahneman &…
Read More


Why are computers still so dull? Where are the thinking machines we have been promised?

Above: Scene from the movie ‘Chappie’ (2015), directed by Neill Blomkamp One of the most famous artificial intelligence (AI) entities in modern popular culture was arguably the HAL 9000 computer in the modern classic ‘2001- A Space Odyssey’; the insider joke being that when we shift all letters by one to the right in the alphabet, ‘HAL’ reads ‘IBM’. While HAL was creepy and evil, viciously attempting to kill the spaceship’s crew, we have in the meantime…
Read More


Towards a Sustainable Society: Best Student Entries of Fall 2015 (Multimedia & Visual Communication Research)

(from left to right: Maneerat Sartwattanarod, Vicky Nway, Lucasz Saczek) In the course of their undergraduate thesis for the Bachelor of Design at Raffles International College in Bangkok, I have had the pleasure to coach and mentor a particularly gifted group of students. To gain insight into their work for the public I have conducted interviews with Maneerat Sartwattanarod (Thailand), who has developed pharmaceutical packaging design for the visually impaired, Matthew Spaulding (USA), who has explored entomophagy, the innovative and original…
Read More


It is all about inequality, isn’t it? A Critique of Rawls’s Theory of Justice

John Rawls (left) and Immanuel Kant (right) Introduction Inequality appears on the global stage as the evil of our time. There is hardly a single researcher or scholar who does not agree on the correlations between inequality and unjust, deeply dysfunctional societies, such as studies by Richard Wilkinson and Thomas Piketty investigate. For example, inherited wealth is a distributive problem of justice as much as inherited poverty is. Many nations struggle with the fact that the rich get…
Read More


The Google Classroom: How it works, what it is and what it isn’t

Above: The clean GUI of the Google classroom. Besides standard themes, the header can be customized, as shown here. Students can also invite themselves via a Class Code.  Some background The first e-learning platform I ever encountered was the Open Source project ‘Moodle’, which had been used for the University of Oxford’s undergraduate and professional training courses. However, when we tried to install and use Moodle for my college, we found it to be somehow cumbersome…
Read More


Strengths and Limitations of Behaviorism for Human Learning

The Evidence from Research on Behavioral Theories Pavlov’s work on classical conditioning (Pavlov, 1927) and Skinner’s concept of operant conditioning (Skinner, 1953) have provided the blueprints for evidence-based applications in behaviorism. Behaviorism has since proven effective, for example in the diagnosis of patients with mental disorders by operationalizing the acquisition of new behavior (Barrett & Lindsley, 1962), improving item-recall for dementia patients (Dixon et al., 2011) or for conditioning students in military and technical education…
Read More