UC | CBL: FOMO vs FOJI
Stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said that speaking in front of a crowd is people’s number one fear. Number two is death. “This means that when you’re at a funeral, you would rather be in the casket than deliver the eulogy,” Seinfeld said. People, it seems, are driven by fear and the possibility of loss. The psychologists Tversky and Kahneman confirm that with their discovery that losses are twice as important to humans as gains.
One of those fears is known as FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. Missing out on something because you don’t take part in it. TU/e’s decision to go with challenge-based learning (CBL) in its Vision 2030, which effectively makes it the next education vision, also appears to be motivated by FOMO, it seemed to me. The most important universities in the world consider CBL a spearhead, which is why we have to embrace it as well. Last week, I attended a European congress on education where it was confirmed once more: we have to take part in CBL. Why? How do we do that? No idea, but it seems inevitable. A typical case of FOMO.
Perhaps you’re also thinking of EAISI now, our AI institute. But a different fear played a role when that institute was established last July. The counterpart of FOMO is known as FOJI: Fear Of Joining In. The fear or unwillingness to take part in something. I also come across FOJI – both among teachers and students – when it comes to group work: what am I getting myself into? Better to wait and see first.
FOJI plays an important role in CBL as well. Teachers have their academic freedom, it brought them success; education at TU/e has been flourishing for years. Why radically change that? For what purpose? It has already been proven that Challenge/Problem-based learning isn’t more effective when it comes to learning new concepts, but only helps students to develop a deeper knowledge of the subjects they are studying (see Urban myths about learning and education by De Bruykere, Kirshner and Hulshof, published in 2015, for more information on this). And didn’t we already have DBL, Design-Based Learning? Students also find CBL difficult: they're not in need of more inefficient group work.*
Narrative on education
I also see FOJI and FOMO among prospective students: do I go to a university for my training, or do I go to a company and learn the tricks of the trade there? Unless we want every prospective student to opt for the business sector, it may seem like a good idea for TU/e to outline a convincing narrative on education. One that is in line with our ideas, addresses our fears, and offers us solutions that make us realize that those fears are unfounded. Those who attended the inaugural speech of professor Isabelle Reymen, scientific director of TU/e innovation Space, already know that CBL exists and that it can be very successful. Vision 2030 has arrived already. Reymen is the living example of the purpose of CBL. She experimented with it and found out how to make it work within her innoSpace. On a scientific basis.
My appeal: experiment in the field of education! We already did so, the engineering way, under the banner of academic freedom. Now we need to add the scientific basis. That requires knowledge in other areas: educational, design-technical, psychological and social. Research-based education, but for teachers. Like we already used to do scientifically: share your experiences, let others learn, life is too short to make all the mistakes yourself. Learn from others and ask for proof. Be convincing.
Is that unethical towards students? Deciding on an educational approach without substantiation is unethical; blindly following one another in the same direction, motivated by FOMO. If you aren’t sure yet of what will work and what won’t, experimenting seems more ethical to me. Divide students into groups. Explain it to them and lower the FOJI.
How do you do that? I would like to refer to Bernard Roth of the Stanford d.school, but we have some great people here at TU/e as well. Think of the aforementioned Isabelle Reymen, our own Eindhoven School of Education (ESoE) and Daniël Lakens, associate professor at the Human-Technology Interaction group of IE&IS. Lakens launched his second MOOC on the online learning platform Coursera, in which he deals with the questions one should ask in order to successfully set up (educational) experiments.
So, experiment and hold on to what works! I hope that his will become our education’s narrative: research-based education with a large share of educational research.
*Read TU/e professor Yvonne de Kort’s article published by Cursor about the obstacles and difficulties of group work.