WHY do we need Decoding?

The Decoding approach is a guide to identifying bottlenecks in teaching topics and processes that are discipline-specific, cross-disciplinary, complex, and emotionally charged.

The Decoding method focuses on learning bottlenecks in academic disciplines.  This involves changing the focus from learning ABOUT a subject to learning HOW to become more expert in the ways of thinking and practicing, which is necessary for successful teaching and learning. This use of Decoding makes it particularly useful to developing critical and reflective thinking. Our European Decoding project is also applying the method to the social issues of diversity and intercultural understanding.

The Decoding model leads to “intellectual diversity” in thinking in the classroom: to finding different solutions to problems in the field of science, to seeing positions different from those of the author in literature, or, in history, to understanding the values of historical persons without judging them. In short, it teaches the art of critical thinking that is at the root of every European democracy and inter-cultural dialogue at national, regional, and local levels.

The Decoding method responds to a dire need, in the EU educational system, for integrative (inter-disciplinary), formal (lecture-based), and alternative (project-based and experiential) means of education, critical thinking, media and digital literacy, as well as professional and intercultural competences. All of this fosters the values of democracy (fundamental rights, respect, and responsible citizenship), alongside the need for a higher degree of social inclusion in European societies.

HOW does Decoding work?

The Decoding process happens in a cycle of 7 steps, which you can see on the homepage of this open educational resource.

WHERE can Decoding be applied?

It can be used as a practical pedagogical strategy for helping students with difficult material or a basis for research in the scholarship of teaching and learning (or both).

For instance, in the study of immigration history students usually bring an assumption that immigration is a one-directional process similar to an invasion. This assumption can be deconstructed with an example of migration patterns of Monarch butterflies. As soon as students learn that in nature migration is often cyclical, not linear, they become less resistant to learning the history of immigration from a different viewpoint, or that of immigrants.  Similarly, students’ critical reading, which is essential to any academic study, can be improved by helping them understand the difference between description and synthesis of information, or helping them understand how a reasoned argument is structured.  Such approaches can model ways of thinking about a topic or skill that brings new insight and understanding.

The Decoding method avoids the old-fashioned rote learning and does not turn the teacher into “a sage on the stage” who is supposed to know everything about her or his subject matter and is there to impart students with the right answers. Rather, the method takes both the teacher and the student on a journey of exploration as it engages more creative inquiry approaches to teaching and learning. 

Both students and teachers will learn—and often relearn or remember—the steps that lead to diverse types of solutions and answers. Our Google-driven era of study has given us easy access to mounds of information and data. It has not taught us, however, how to sort through them in order to find the most reliable and relevant pieces necessary for an informed opinion or an innovative solution.

Here Decoding comes in handy. It teaches us to analyze and synthesize, or learn in ways that are more diverse, reflective, and critical. And from a broader perspective, those who can think analytically can participate in a democracy more actively, responsibly, and meaningfully.