The Launch: The high theory “crap-detector” approach (Nov 17.08 )
From Case Studies Wiki
The post is just replicated here to catch all the words for archive purposes, to read the post in its original form and see the links, photos, videos etc., go here: http://good.group.shef.ac.uk/blog/?p=407
Today, student Jez Cope posts about his experience at the Launch. It seems he liked it, but then he compares the teachingcommons to a “crap-detector” which - I think - he means in the best possible way…. Um, thanks :). — A few weeks ago, I had the good fortune to be invited to the launch, where I joined the other participants in discussing “spaces and connections” that support learning. The issues that were raised there have combined with other thoughts that I’ve been having about learning and teaching, and I’d like to share the results of that here. I’ve recently been reading Postman & Weingartner’s 1969 book, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, so I’m currently somewhat preoccupied with spaces that not only support learning, but aid in the development of the tools and skills of learning. The authors suggest that the very best thing we can do for our learners is to equip them with a “foolproof crap-detector” with which to challenge the world they experience. As humans, we are constantly learning. All the time; every hour of every day: we cannot help it. What teachers have struggled to come to terms with throughout history has been the fact that we learn not only from what we are taught but also from how we are taught. The vast majority of our school experience therefore teaches us that there is one right answer, which is possessed by someone in authority; since the teacher/parent/government is graciously presenting us with this right answer, we should not question why it’s right, or whether it is right, or indeed if it’s the answer to the question we actually asked. From my experience of my own education this is, with a few notable exceptions, as true today as it was in the 60s. Now here’s the rub: because today’s teachers (and teachers of teachers) were taught in this fashion in school, it’s the most natural thing in the world for us to continue and teach the way we were taught. But we’re fighting back. teachingcommons@sheffield promises to be a collective “crap-detector” for teaching practice by providing an environment in which we can take the best of the way we teach now and combine it with the best of the new ideas which are emerging with the rise of technology. Together we can break free of the cycle and teach our students how to learn. Following on from this, the spaces and connections from which I feel I learn most are those that call into question my existing beliefs and knowledge, and this was brought home to me once again at the launch event. I can be quite resistant to this type of learning, since it’s uncomfortable to be forced to come to terms with being wrong or deficient, but when I look back I always find I’ve learned something valuable. For example, talking to Barbara, one of teachingcommons’ student team, I discovered that some undergraduate students really are interested in learning - perhaps not entirely unexpected, but in today’s media climate it’s easy to be fooled into thinking that all students want to do is drink. I also found the clothes-peg exercise in the Creative stream interesting: placing my connections along a single strip of paper made me think about the relationships between them in an unusually linear way.
One of the things I learned from my second session, in the Conversation stream, was how deeply entrenched is the belief that assessment is the best (and perhaps only practical) way of engaging students with course material. I personally feel that the only real way to do this is to teach the course in a way that’s relevant to the students involved. This might require spending a whole term helping students to clarify what they want out of their university: the only goal consisent with assessment as a motivator is “I want a piece of paper that says I’ve been to university.” Having students who know both what their goals are and that goals tend to change as we grow would be worth more than a whole stack of first-class degree certificates. ——————————————————————————– On a related note, I’m currently involved with the Student Learning Community 2.0 project, which perhaps parallels the objectives of teachingcommons, but on the student side. We’re aiming to develop a student-led community in which students (and maybe staff too) can share ideas and tools to support their own learning. In particular, we’re focusing on the collaborative possibilities offered by Web 2.0. If you’d like to learn more or are interested in contributing to the project, have a look at my blog and leave a comment or two - I’d love to hear from you. Jez Cope is a PhD student in Computer Science, studying the physical interactions of skin cells in wound healing. He’s also studying for the university’s Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education, enjoys teaching students more than he ever thought he would and has been known to get a little overexcited about the possibility of a world in which everyone is both a learner and a teacher. He thinks that passion is important.