The linear - "there is a right answer" - approach to learning is challenging in a rapidly changing digital ecology. To be effective as a learner (and participant) in this environment, we acquire different skills and attitudes. One of the most critical is tolerance for ambiguity. It's important to be able to hold two apparently contrasting viewpoints in suspense while waiting more information. Accepting the "fuzziness" of the moment can be frustrating.
There is often a "right answer", but that answer is right only to the degree that it adequately represents the underlying information foundation. Once this foundation changes, the answer itself loses some relevance. Being able to recognize that "it's right for today", but not necessarily for tomorrow, is important.
In constructing (by constructing I'm referring to a combination of personal meaning making and connecting various fields of information (i.e. nodes in our personal network)) meaning, we often have a vague sense of "something is missing". When we encounter a network node that illuminates existing understanding, we intuitively recognize its place and value within our existing knowledge structure.
We seem to like "one answer" solutions. This is evidenced by how we attach labels to concepts and ideas, and then from that perspective, attempt to refute or ignore attributes of potentially conflicting notions. Within educational theory, we often assume that constructivism, behaviourism, and cognitivism are competing learning theories trying to solve the same problem. They are not. Each one is a different theory attempting to solve a different problem.
In some circumstances, a cognitivist approach to learning design is valuable. In others, constructivism might be more appropriate. Each theory is valid in certain implementations. The weakness of a theory is noticed when it is applied to a task that the theory was never intended to solve. Similarly, when proponents of a theory use it inappropriately, its effectiveness is diluted.
I'm terrible with setting goals (or more accurately, at staying focused on goals I've set). While I used to view this weakness with great frustration, I've since developed a different view. Most of us have been taught the value of clearly charted paths and goals. We've heard stories of a bankrupt business person who sets lofty goals, refuses to waver, and finally realizes his/her dreams.
Yet this isn't reality. Life and learning do not flow along clearly defined paths. Our needs change, circumstances change, and or skills change. Various common phrases catch the spirit of this learning/life in transition: "When the student is ready, the teacher appears", "Luck is what happens when prepardness meets opportunity". Behind each statement is the notion of personal preparedness in response to the environment in which we exist. Learning, unlike the notion of goal setting, is an intermingling (a dance) with the dynamics of our personal and work environments. Goal setting says, this is what I will achieve. In essence, it says redefine your environment to meet your desires. Life may work that way sometimes. Usually, our learning is in response to the alterartions in our environment.
If goal setting is too restrictive, what is the option? I don't have an ideal metaphor, but the concepts of principles/guidelines/frameworks have some merit. Rather than trying to force our way goals, the focus is on creating a structure that is aware of and responsive to the environment around. When I used to spend time training staff in the hospitality field, I found it very challenging to teach "principle thinking". Staff preferred more rigid barriers. Yet the more specific the training, the less useful it is in other situations. If I teach a staff member steps to handling a guest who is upset with a misplaced reservation, I've provided a prescription to a problem, not a framework transferable to other situations. Similarly, goal setting is a personal learning task that functions best according to principles (instead of prescriptions). Some one who sets a goal and achieves it by sheer focus may overlook many other more valuable opportunities.