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Posts tagged ‘Teaching’

Learning what? Learning how?

So often education is outcome focused. Students are taught to take tests. They are taught to the test.

Rats. What’s the assessment?

In. What do I have to do?

A. Can you show me an example?

Maze. Do you actually have one that you’ve made?

It’s difficult to see a way out; it’s difficult to see a why and even more challenging to figure out how. 

Sometimes it isn’t about the actual tangible outcome- the essay, the script, the thing you make, the most important part is relational, understanding the process. The immediate goal does not encapsulate the longer term benefits of the task. Try explaining this to a student who says – but I need to get a certain grade or I can’t do the next class/task… Just tell me what you want me to do. It’s not just the students who are task oriented. Learning gain is a buzzword, and just after the definition, the section on the .gov website labelled ‘Why does it matter?’ begins with ‘Capturing how students benefit‘. Those two words in close proximity make my neck hairs hackle: capture and benefit. Certainly the concept of learning gain is not at all bad, it is very important, but the wording ‘capture’ makes me think.

Maha’s tweet rings true of how many academics do find themselves learning on the job, but also it is true of teaching in so many other contexts, including for those on the other side of the teacher’s desk. Good performers aren’t necessarily good teachers. Students aren’t born as great learners. Neither ‘teaching’ nor ‘learning’ come from the tap on the head of the fairy’s magic want that suddenly ‘learns you’ something. The learning- acquiring the se skills and understanding the processes- takes place somewhere beyond the textbook. The answers on the exams are not The Answers, they are tools- rungs on a ladder, paving stones in a path you are building, maybe even the trowel used to build.

Why do people miss the how? (especially in formal learning settings)

  • How takes time.
  • How is sticky.
  • How is where the perseverance kicks in.
  • How involves failure.
  • How needs help.

How also takes working with the ‘what’: knowledge, experiences, and a desire and willingness to engage with deeper learning. Even when there are teachers who do understand the how, the students can be hung up on not seeing an immediate why. Sometimes, the development of the how doesn’t produce visible ‘results’ until later, maybe well after that class, publication, event. Those seeds take time to grow, which makes it difficult to quantify in terms of standard metrics.

But I’m not a brick in the wall. I’m a person.

Image CC-BY-SA by Yi-Mei Ho

 

It is a dilemma to be in it for the long haul, the ongoing goal of learning, and to live in a real world where people are driven by demonstrating things, achieving, quantifying, and monetising. Perhaps as educators and co-learners, we can value the learning space and build some of that elasticity into existing classes, jobs, experiences so that those we learn, teach, and interact with can grow with us – for the sake of developing a repository of skills. Then if and when they build a path with their skills to a certain career, they will be prepared.

Pedagogy of Harmony

The title of this post comes from a phrase coined by Stephen Downes in a Mastodon conversation where he said:

“This and the related discussion led me to think of a ‘pedagogy of harmony’ as my own perspective (as opposed to pedagogy of small, say, or pedagogy of slow – buy also, on reflection, as opposed to Friere’s pedagogy of the oppressed (and later pedagogy of hope’)).

What is a ‘pedagogy of harmony’? I’m not exactly sure, but it combines a feeling of well-being and comfort and inclusion.” (source link to the full thread here)

A day or two later, I received an email from Matthias Melcher suggesting perhaps the concept could perhaps be explained by melodic dissonances and maybe with an audible demonstration. This unexpected email sparked a firework of ideas in my mind. I’ll do my best to put a few of them in an understandable order here.

My frame has to do with painting different images of harmony, how we can practically understand it, and what it has to do with people and pedagogy/learning (that ‘p’ word is a good one, but laden with baggage). Humour me with explaining and dancing around a topic that is as big as history itself, well nearly.

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A Mad-lib Burst of Creativity

I love a good story, and hopefully my students will too! Tomorrow we meet for one last session at the end of the term. At this time of year tensions run high. There are huge expectations on people and with exams and concerts looming, we could all use a little light-hearted silliness.

I made my class a little game: A Mad-lib (I made more games too, but thought I’d share this one) Read more

Applied Imagination: I think, therefore I can

Yes you can. That’s a powerful refrain in my life, and it underpins so very very much. I had the privilege of teaching on the ‘Applied Imagination’ module at the University of Warwick yesterday. To contextualise, this class sits within Warwick’s Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL) and the students come from all different departments and schools across the university- trans, inter, cross disciplinary are all big themes of the class, as well as thought, imagination, belief, and accomplishment.

It was such a special morning. I set off pre-dawn with my little care packed full of instruments, as my session would use music, but music as a metaphor. I know that people are not going to learn to be ‘musicians’ in a couple of hours, but music is so wonderful – it moves, it grooves, it makes you feel, and for so many of us it remains untouchable. I love to bring people to something that is perceived as being outside their reach. <— Hold that thought; I’ll return to it in a minute. Read more

Value of Creative Education

@laura_ritchie modelling our own practice as creative educators in different medium @HerefordArtsCol 

—Sarah-Jane (@sarahjfc) 20 September 2017

I felt privileged to be there. Really, it was moving. You reminded us of what we do and sometimes as teachers we forget- Seeing him get it and the look on his face. When he looked at you like that, that is what it’s all about. Witnessing that learning happen was really something. -Holland Otik

What was this all about? I was invited to speak at the Hereford College of Arts 10th Annual HE Symposium to speak on ‘the value of a creative education’.

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Learning on your own

I love learning and I love teaching, and I love to make things fun. My classes started last week and I made a little video with the help of my son to illustrate what happens while ‘learning’. (insert cheshire cat grin here) If you need a good giggle, this one’s for you. Image CC BY-NC by Greg Hirson

See in learning stuff, could be any subject, there is content and then you have to figure out how to actually assimilate it and make it real for you, so that in the big wide world it means something and is useful. Very often we are given a ‘to do’ list and are set free to ‘learn’. The to do list is the what, and seldom includes the how or why. When I showed this video in class, it made my students cry with laughter, not because it is slapstick, but because it’s true. Read more

Community in four words

Sometimes in the midst of the storm there is calm. I felt that today for a brief moment. Oh there are many reasons to feel the storm today. I don’t want to go there – I sat still for a moment and read the very eloquent post by danah boyd (thanks to Bonnie for tweeting it) and thought, mmmm (that’s code for ‘yes’). I admit to skimming the post and then read carefully, backwards- starting at the end – and thought.

(that’s not an unfinished sentiment. It was my action: I thought.)

Community. Trust. Communication. Personal. Stories. Interest. Talking. Inquiry. Curiosity. Care. Friends. Time.

It made me think about how we transmit and value information about one another. Last night I on a video call with America and Australia and Brazil talking about a new archive of ethnomusicology materials, and I was struck by the story that people told through their research – living for decades with distant cultures and stressing the importance of context and having access to all the notes, audio, soundscapes of the places and people. One bit of information in isolation was nothing. To me, as someone who didn’t know, it was at best misleading, and at worst – well I cannot imagine – and that is the nature of ignorance.

When we do not know about something, there is a need to genuinely learn and to teach, and in today’s push-button world, people have sometimes lost the art of explanation, conversation, and (I dare say) an awareness of others. I don’t mean this in any base horrible way, but in simple things.

An everyday example: I was speaking to a lady in her 70’s the other day and she explained how she was using her phone more, but her family didn’t know how to explain to her. Her granddaughter said to just google it, but had not explained the three touches needed to raise the search engine page on the phone, and so it was a mystery without obvious instructions and she was frustrated. I would be too.

There is an art to teaching, and we are all called upon to be teachers, whether in a school or not. Partly that is because we are all learning. Learning, teaching, developing, growing – unless we stop that awareness of ourselves and those around us, and that sort of stopping is different to standing still (because there can be great reflection in that); that is a choice to decay.

News, fake news, community and trust, – from one end of the spectrum to the other. I was struck in danah’s post that she hints at calling upon people from across layers of society to realise and want to make a difference: that people having a choice, but she says “I’m not sure that we have the will, but I think that’s part of the problem.” She is so right. It is like someone who struggles with any addiction, be it food, money, power – it is part of what fuel’s you and it is not easy to choose to live differently than those shouting pretty loud. You can shut your eyes, but closing your ears, now that’s not easy. -but it is possible, and that’s where community comes into it. Each person can make a difference in the world. One kind word, one wave, one song. Whether you reach one or one thousand, what you do has an impact beyond what you can see.

Tomorrow there is a positive thing happening on Twitter. Bonnie Stewart has cast an invitation to share 4 word stories about what community means. It’s all part of the #Antigonish2 movement. I’ll be there. Hope you will join us too.

Featured image CC BY-NC-ND by Phil Norton

Teaching to let go

(3 min read)

“…the delicate relationship between teaching, giving knowledge, and learning knowledge”

This comes from Chapter 4 of We make the road by walking, a book of conversations between the educators Paulo Freire and Myles Horton. Paulo goes on to elaborate this quote, talking about going beyond the knowledge that the people bring to a situation. (p.151) I am struck by this book, how much it resonates with me and I sincerely wish I had been able to meet these people in person. It’s my holiday read, part of a book club, and I suppose this is my post about Chapter 4. It is a short one, not because there is less that inspired me, but because there was one paragraph that leapt out for me. Paulo speaks about this balance between teaching, knowledge, and learning and adds the authority of the teacher.

“The other mistake is to crush freedom and to exacerbate the authority of the teacher. Then you no longer have freedom but now you have authoritarianism, and then the teacher is the one who teaches. The teacher is the one who knows. The teacher is the one who guides. The teacher is the one who does everything. And the students, precisely because the students must be shaped, just expose their bodies and their souls to the hands of the teacher, as if the students were clay for the artist, to be molded.

The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to be­ come themselves. And in doing that, he or she lives the experience of relating democratically as authority with the freedom of the students.” -Paulo, p.181

This is so true, and a difficult one to learn. As a teacher it is a huge apocalyptic epiphany to know, not intellectually, but to really understand that you (or I or anyone) cannot change another. Read more

Picture the sound… #MUS654

One of the elusive topics in music learning and teaching is expression and meaning. How can we work in one medium (sound) and have to explain it in another (words?)? Often the intention of the teacher and the experience of the student can be so far apart, and we may never know it. This week I got creative and a bit silly and set my class loose with the project of picturing the sound. Really – I gave them all sorts of dried pulses, pasta, rice, seeds, nuts, bits of cotton wool, cake decorations, big sheets of paper and asked them to create the picture they heard as people performed to them. This sort of invitation is usually met with two different reactions, often in close succession, excitement followed by a tentativeness and doubt.

Oh WoW!

and then…

but I don’t know what to do?

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I hear what you’re saying…

This morning I woke to a conversation on twitter that caught my eye, perplexed me, and concerned me all at once. It was about how someone was treated rudely on the phone. One person didn’t understand the other, and attributed it to an accent, but this wasn’t very tactful or helpful, and came across as downright rude. Now the thing is, I wasn’t there. I didn’t hear the conversation, but I heard the aftershock. What happened left a mark and caused upset (* see note below). This post is not about the actual conversation, but about the nature of learning and listening. It made me think of the curiosity of communication and teaching. Image CC BY by Double-M

If we only know by shadows, then what truth is there?

The conversation reminded me of the importance of perception, empathy, and a willingness to learn to understand.

In my classes I often talk about communication, as I work with people aiming to perform and teach music in various settings, including 1-to-1. It is a bit heavy going, but I start one class with this quote: Read more