Student resistance to curriculum changes

Image available here

Sometimes, when we talk about learner independence, active learning or agency, we forget that this is not always for granted. Student consensus can not be considered a given. Trying out new things in a course (changing formats, layouts or mediums) produces changes that can be met with resistance and suspicion and it usually takes time until the cohort is convinced that what you are doing is actually working for them.

Student-Centered Learning and Student Buy-In article in Inside Higher Ed shows the results of curriculum change in a Biology course over a period of four years in relation to student satisfaction and acceptance. Pre- and post- course surveys show that student resistance decreased over the years and while grades did not change, the students’ perception of their gains has.

I remember that when we first introduced networked practices in an undergraduate design studio, students were terrified of the idea that their preliminary research and drawings would be published online for everyone to see. When talking about this, some expressed the fear that their ideas would loose their originality or that by the end of the semester everyone would converge to a single design idea/concept. Of course, none of this happened: in fact, it was quite revealing to see how diverse the research approaches and their respective representations actually were from a very early stage in the design process.

But there is also another interesting aspect in this article: the very fact that there was no single teacher but 13 of them. Now, I think this severely enhances the idea of a learning community. It’s not just about changing the format, it is about how you do it. By opening up the curriculum to more researchers and more teachers and by presenting the students with a course that is founded on a collaborative effort you ultimately denounce the idea of the expert and what comes along with that. And it is not by chance that grades have nothing to do with this. The very act of learning and being part of a learning community luckily can never fall into the hands of assessment.

Revolutionary Learning

The influence of a non-dialectical reading of Marx under conditions of patriarchy and racism continues to produce substantial errors in scholarship, including: the inability to understand class and labour power as relations and processes; a causal and deterministic articulation of consciousness and praxis as external relations; culturalist and identity-based approaches to ‘difference’ that cannot illuminate inter-constitutive social relations; confusion over the relationality between colonialism, fundamentalisms, imperialism and neoliberalism within capitalism; and the continued marginalization of feminist, anti-racist and anti-colonial scholarship within the academy (…) we also contend that critical education theory cannot commit itself to, nor move forward with, a revolutionary project without profound attention to the social relations of difference – that is, gender, race, ability, sexuality – and the exploration of these as inter-constitutive relations both with and within capitalism and its expansion through colonialism and imperialism

Revolutionary Learning: Introduction: Revolutionary Feminist Praxis, epub edition

I just started reading it and I am already loving it. Thought I’d share this with you.

Existential Intelligence

9-types-of-intelligence-infographic

Existential intelligence is the ability to use intuition, thought and meta-cognition to ask (and answer) deep questions about human existence (…) An element of existential intelligence, is recognizing and understand our interconnectedness with the world around us and the universe at large (…) being able to perceive the bigger picture or in other words, to conceive our lives and every-day actions in the context of the grand cosmic arena (…) It involves acknowledging our place in the cosmos and stepping back and contemplating our purpose in the grand scheme of things (…)

One of the most important components of effective 21st-century teaching, is recognizing the different forms of intelligences and catering to the unique abilities of all students. Howard Gardner, a pioneer of this perspective, differentiates intelligence into distinct ‘modalities’, as opposed to a single general ability. These include: musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic. Based on two decades of brain research, the theory suggests that we all have all these intelligences in varying degrees (…) not many students are empowered to realize that their above-average athletic (bodily-kinesthetic) or social abilities (interpersonal), are an extension of their intelligence. In recent years, Gardner has introduced a ninth, and possibly most significant, form of “smarts” referred to as “existential” intelligence. It is also referred to by others as “cosmic” or “spiritual” intelligence.

when we demonstrate that we can have an influence on the world by observing it, what are the implications of it on our “objective” reality?

 

Full article available here / Image available here

Bruno Latour

portrait_-_bruno_latour

  • His early work had done more than that of any other living thinker to unsettle the traditional understanding of how we acquire knowledge of what’s real
  • In a series of controversial books in the 1970s and 1980s, he argued that scientific facts should instead be seen as a product of scientific inquiry. Facts, Latour said, were “networked”;  they stood or fell not on the strength of their inherent veracity but on the strength of the institutions and practices that produced them and made them intelligible. If this network broke down, the facts would go with them.
  • Founder of the new academic discipline of science and technology studies
  • The mid-1990s were the years of the so-called science wars, a series of heated public debates between “realists,” who held that facts were objective and free-standing, and “social constructionists,” like Latour. If scientific knowledge was socially produced — and thus partial, fallible, contingent — how could that not weaken its claims on reality?  Lately, however, these debates have begun to look more like a prelude to the post-truth era in which society as a whole is presently condemned to live.
  • By showing that scientific facts are the product of all-too-human procedures, these critics charge, Latour — whether he intended to or not — gave license to a pernicious anything-goes relativism that cynical conservatives were only too happy to appropriate for their own ends (…) But Latour believes that if the climate skeptics and other junk scientists have made anything clear, it’s that the traditional image of facts was never sustainable to begin with.
  • With the rise of alternative facts, it has become clear that whether or not a statement is believed depends far less on its veracity than on the conditions of its “construction” — that is, who is making it, to whom it’s being addressed and from which institutions it emerges and is made visible. 
  • In Abidjan, Latour began to wonder what it would look like to study scientific knowledge not as a cognitive process but as an embodied cultural practice enabled by instruments, machinery and specific historical conditions.
  • Day-to-day research — what he termed science in the making — appeared not so much as a stepwise progression toward rational truth as a disorderly mass of stray observations, inconclusive results and fledgling explanations (…) During the process of arguing over uncertain data, scientists foregrounded the reality that they were, in some essential sense, always speaking for the facts; and yet, as soon as their propositions were turned into indisputable statements and peer-reviewed papers — what Latour called ready-made science — they claimed that such facts had always spoken for themselves.
  • In the 1980s, Latour helped to develop and advocate for a new approach to sociological research called Actor-Network Theory (…) Latour had seen how an apparently weak and isolated item — a scientific instrument, a scrap of paper, a photograph, a bacterial culture — could acquire enormous power because of the complicated network of other items, known as actors, that were mobilized around it. The more socially “networked” a fact was (the more people and things involved in its production), the more effectively it could refute its less-plausible alternatives.
  • Latour believes that if scientists were transparent about how science really functions — as a process in which people, politics, institutions, peer review and so forth all play their parts — they would be in a stronger position to convince people of their claims
  • Whether they are conscious of this epistemological shift, it is becoming increasingly common to hear scientists characterize their discipline as a “social enterprise” and to point to the strength of their scientific track record, their labors of consensus building and the credible reputations of their researchers.

Excerpts from: Bruno Latour, the Post-Truth Philosopher, Mounts a Defense of Science, By Ava Kofman published in New York Times, full article available here

Image available here

Critical Pedagogy, new book by Sean Michael Morris & Jesse Stommel

URGENCY OF TEACHERS

Critical Pedagogy is an approach to teaching and learning predicated on fostering agency and empowering learners (implicitly and explicitly critiquing oppressive power structures). The word “critical” in Critical Pedagogy functions in several registers:

  • Critical, as in mission-critical, essential;
  • Critical, as in literary criticism and critique, providing definitions and interpretation;
  • Critical, as in reflective and nuanced thinking about a subject;
  • Critical, as in criticizing institutional, corporate, or societal impediments to learning;
  • Critical Pedagogy, as a disciplinary approach, which inflects (and is inflected by) each of these other meanings.

Our work, the writers say, has wondered at the extent to which Critical Pedagogy translates into digital space.

In short, Critical Digital Pedagogy:

  • centers its practice on community and collaboration;
  • must remain open to diverse, international voices, and thus requires invention to re-imagine the ways that communication and collaboration happen across cultural and political boundaries;
  • will not, cannot, be defined by a single voice but must gather together a cacophony of voices;
  • must have use and application outside traditional institutions of education.

 

Preface by Audrey Watters. Book available for online reading here

Dialogic-Dialectic

BAKHTIN

the skills of listening to others becomes as important as making clear statements/ the good listener has to respond to intent, to suggestion, for the conversation to keep moving forward/ the difference between the two terms is not a matter of either/or. the heart of it all lies in picking up on concrete details, on specifics, to drive a conversation forward. Bad listeners bounce back in generalities when they respond; they are not attending to those small phrases, facial gestures or silences which open up a discussion.

Dialectic: the verbal play of opposites should gradually build up to a synthesis (…) the Aristotelian notion that although we use the same words, we cannot say we are speaking of the same things (..) the aim is to come to a mutual understanding (…) the listener elaborates the assumption by putting it into words (…) in the Socratic notion, the echo is actually a displacement

Dialogic: first coined by Mikhail Bakhtin to name a discussion which does not resolve itself by finding a common ground (…) though no shared agreements may be reached, through the process of exchange people may become more aware of their own views and expand their understanding of one another (..) knitted together but divergent exchange (…) a dialogic conversation can be ruined by too much identification with the other person.

Excerpts from Richard Sennett’s book, Together: The Rituals & Politics of Cooperation, 2012, London: Penguin Books (pages 18-20)

Image available here