Relational Context of Teaching

Instruction and learning in space and time


Schooling or Education

Wordle: Online learning

According to Dewey (1933/1998), the problem of teachers is what the minds of pupils are doing with the subject matter (p.275).  However, I believe the first problem of teachers is what Dewey suggested almost eighty years ago, which is  to move students away from their concerns to accommodate the teacher to earn a grade and towards focusing on the problem of the content. In other words, their chief intellectual problem should not be to figure out how they will satisfy the teachers, by asking “is this right?” (ibid. p.61).  Instead I want my students to ask themselves “What is it that I want to learn?” and  “How will I learn?” To rephrase the words of  W. Gardner Campbell  (SUNY-CIT2008 )  I see this course  not about access to information or content; rather, it is an environment that provides access to other thinkers” – their classmates.

Twentieth Century schooling was about amassing information and “covering” the content. However, a quote which has been said in multiple ways by Grant Allen (link) infers that one should not let our schooling interfere with our education.  Dewey (1933/1998) compares schooling and education. He  asserts that schooling creates habits of hasty, heedless glancing over the surface (p.89) ; while education entails habits of questioning, looking at matters deliberately , and being  careful  in the conduct of his [her] thinking (p.76). Schooling is about progressing with the group, “learning” the required age-appropriate content. As students enter my courses, they have been socialized to do what is expected and then move on to the next assignment.  Their expectations are that the syllabus pre-sets the course, clearly defining expectations –my expectations, and outlining how they can earn an “A.”

However, like Diana Laurillard  I believe education is about moving minds (p.5), not amassig information. But how do I move my students’ minds to question and have a desire to seek their own answers?  How do I ignite their organic energy that leads [each student] to investigate everything, [with] an eagerness for a larger acquaintance with the world in which he [she] is placed (Dewey, 1933/1998, pp. 36-37)?

In a previous blog I listed several of my beliefs:

  • I believe we all have unique paths to learning, paths that are determined by where we are and what we need.
  • I believe every learner is as unique as a snowflake.
  • Each student is the master of their own learning.

So I wonder how do I respect these beliefs and still fulfill my obligation to facilitate my students learning? In Creating a quality online learning environment, the author states that the student needs to feel safe and supported, and “where the individual needs and uniqueness is honored.” This means that I must be patient as trust is built among this community. With trust established, maybe some will be willing to take risks, and follow their own questions, sharing their process and conclusions with the rest of this class. I follow the ideas of Clark Quinn, who suggests a learning experience is a succession of activities, not a progression of content.  I will try to create  activities where my  students become learners that  question, investigate, ponder, deliberate, and reflects, which will  move their  mind into intelligent action.

I close with a quote from one of my favorite authors, Parker Palmer in The Courage to Teach,  who writes: “To teach is to create a space in which community of truth is practiced” (p. 90). He describes a community of truth is one that is committed to the conversation, our willingness to put forward our observations and interpretations for testing by the community and to return the favor to others. I hope that this class will be a place that you feel able to participate in a community of truth.

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