Re: Self-Determination theory versus SCT and AT

From: George (
Date: Fri Feb 11 2005 - 10:03:03 PST

Dear Jim,

thank you very much for your posting and please accept my apologies for
this late writing. As you may know, I am working on a paper which keeps
me quite busy because the deadline is approaching rapidly .... Hm, once
roughly finished, would you like to have a look at it?

Well, I hope not to distract away from the discussion paper but
somehow, what we have been talking about, does not seem to be that far
off the topic either, hopefully.

On Feb 8, 2005, at 2:42 AM, Jim Rogers wrote:

> 1. It might help to clarify what your specific E-learning situation
> is. You mentioned computers being unable to make decisions which
> might indicate you are working with AI, one of the articles you cited
> referred to Learning objects. These would be very different
> situations (I just wrote 'contexts' but deleted it after my e-mail to
> Lara) than the one I am working in which is based on asynchronous
> discussions. It would certainly be easier for me to discern some of
> the key issues you are wrestling with if you could provide some
> specifics

Yes, thank you, please let me give you a brief background information
about my struggle(s):

On the basis of learning technology systems, we can classify two
categories i.e., descriptive educational systems and prescriptive
educational systems.

Descriptive educational systems are under the umbrella of natural
science. Natural science is descriptive and ignores the normative
aspects: Natural science has found a way to exclude the normative and
to concern itself solely with how things are … Artificial things can be
characterized in terms of functions, goals and adaptation [1].
Descriptive research is a knowledge-producing activity corresponding to
natural or behavioural science [2]. Descriptive educational technology
systems e.g., LMS, e-learning object repositories are much concerned
with the normative nature of learning resources in the sense of data
stores to delivery of knowledge.

Prescriptive educational systems are concerned with how things ought to
be - how they ought to be in order to attain goals, and to function …
With goals and "oughts" we also introduce into the picture the
dichotomy between normative and descriptive [1].

"Design is the central issue when dealing with artifacts, or objects
created by people, as opposed to those occurring naturally. Design is
critical, no matter what is done with the artifact. Specifying an
artifact means you are shaping the design to meet its requirements. If
you build or implement an artifact, the design is your guide. If you
modify an artifact, you must deal with its design at many levels…
Science … refers to a body of knowledge that is intellectually
rigorous, analytical, formalized where appropriate, based on empirical
studies where possible, and, above all, teachable to future generations
of scientists" ([3], p. 20). We may probably say that ITS and AHS are
examples of prescriptive educational systems.

Hence, these two types of systems illustrate an interesting
contradiction. In fact, I would be very interested to know also if any
research in AT has been done with this regard i.e., the discrepancy
between knowledge-using and knowledge-producing activity of learning
technology systems? Research is much needed with this respect, I
believe because on one hand, everybody would like to deal with those
e-Learning objects (accessible, reusable, interoperable, and durable).
With this respect, I believe that we need to identify the didactical,
semantic, heuristic, conceptual, strategic, algorithmic, computational,
and logical activity in the e-Learning object paradigm (as occurring in
LMS and e-Learning objects repositories).

On the other hand, we would like learning technology systems to ensure
that learning processes and outcomes are shaped by previously acquired
scientific concepts and learning means (e.g., actions, strategies, and
tools) while the teaching activity must provide a learner with the
opportunity to incorporate the material to be learnt into existing
knowledge and skill systems [4]. However, what would be the concise
activities to be researched/identified/defined? I tend to think that
they should be learning tasks, actions, goals, motives, feedback,
self-control, algorithm, heuristic, and strategies [5]. However, what
does each one mean and how can be resolved? Because there is not only
one teaching theory. Yet, do generic activities exist that we may know
of? Probably not, but if not, then, we will always remain stuck on the
ITS and AHS path (well, that's probably another issue which I do not
want to look into).

Now, I would like to return the discourse to AT and SSTA, respectively
the subject-subject-object triangle, subject- and object-oriented

Is a learning technology system an internal tool, external tool, or an

Can we consider a prescriptive system an internal tool or an object?
(-> internalisation)

Can we consider a descriptive system an external tool?


[1] H. A. Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial, MIT Press, Cambridge,

[2] C. G. Hempel, Philosophy of Natural Science, Prentice Hall,
Englewood Cliffs, 1966.

[3] P. Freeman and D. Hart, "A Science of Design for Software-Intensive
Systems", Communications of the ACM, 47 (2004) 8, pp. 19-21.

[4] H. Giest and J. Lompscher, "Formation of Learning Activity and
Theoretical Thinking in Science Teaching", in Vyogotsky's Educational
Theory in Cultural Context, Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive, and
Computational Perspectives, A. Kozulin, B. Gindis, V. Ageyev, and S. M.
Miller (Eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp.

[5] G. Bedny and D. Meister, The Russian Theory of Activity: Current
Applications to Design and Learning, Lawrence Erlbaum, Mahwah, 1997.

Best regards and looking forward to hearing from you,

(Hansjoerg von Brevern)


Research in e-Learning Objects, e-Learning meta data standards,
didactical activity, Systemic-Structural Activity Theory, and
Socio-cultural Theory

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