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.


Why did I choose to show and not tell?

Before Alex questioned why my posts did not appear to follow the instructions, I had realized that I had taken a detour and had gone down a road too far. Originally, I was using my blog to “show” my learning (showing what I have come to know or my reflections/reactions to the readings) and not “tell” about my learning. In my own interpretation, I saw this as fulfilling the assignment. However, as I read my classes blogs, I rethought my actions (ahhh, there must have been some reflections there). I then asked myself, why did I chose to take the detour in the first place?  Was it because this is a public place, too public to share my reflective thoughts? I decided this was not the reason, because in knowing myself, I know I have no problem being an open-book.

As I pondered and pondered this question, my actions actually demonstrated the answer. The way I reflect is through an internal dialogue. I continue this discourse until I arrive to an “ah-ha” moment. Then I write my thoughts, the end product of my reflections. It is not that I don’t take the steps of reflective thinking; I just don’t process it on paper. (I know the thinking about writing to learn/think). I will now be more reflective in this forum.

critical-thinking-self-reflectionIdentify and examine your own thoughts:

  • 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.
  • I need to take time to reflect. I choose topics that have an internal response within me.
  • I am the master of my own learning. I need intellectual freedom.
  • Therefore, I resist being told how to learn.
  • I chose to be the best teacher I can be for my students.
  • I know what I need to improve to reach this goal.
  • I chose to take  this course. I waited impatiently for this course since last Fall. I knew that this course would help me be a better online teacher.
  • Grading (not assessment) sometimes interferes with my learning.
  • It should not be F2F vs. online; but how each genre of teaching can inform the other.

Clarify the important connections between what you already know and what you are learning.

  • In Creating a quality online learning environment, the author states that the student needs to feel safe and supported(I do!), and “where the individual needs and uniqueness is honored.” This is where I struggle. I can easily post my first  db in 72 hours. The breathe of the readings makes that easy. However, then I hit a roadblock.  I think long and hard. I mull it over while driving. I think about it enough to keep me awake. Then I come to an “understanding;” however these understandings may flood in during the last few days. My mind finally has made connections, leaps of understanding – I am finally “owning” the content. It is now behind my eyes! The db expectations feel to me that we are not respected as intentional learners as we are “directed” to produce evidence of ongoing learning. (However, I realize the need also to have posts available for class dialogue.)
  • How grading gets in my way. Many times, when reading a post, I want to respond as if we are sitting in a room and having a discussion. However, the db rubric tells me that to respond I need to do a multitude of things. What I would like is to have the option of posting and assessing it as NG (no grade). When I have an enjoyable conversation and have leaps of learning, it is about responding in the moment by jumping off each other’s thoughts.
  • I am an intentional learner. Nicole post states:  “Being an “intentional learner” means “developing self-awareness about the reason for study, the learning process itself, and how education is used…take the initiative to diagnose their learning needs, formulate learning goals, identify resources for learning, select an implement learning strategies, and evaluate learning outcomes.” As an intentional learner, some of the questions and posts do not apply to me at the moment; however, it is about “me” – my needs &  goals. Therefore, when I discover through my classmates discussion an idea or thought I want to “learn” in depth, then I begin working on my discussion. As I prepare and write I first data mine the internet to increase my understanding, then I create a document that exhibits what I am coming to know.  I check the rubric to make sure I “did my job.” Finally, I carefully considers there are no place where Alex might say “can you tell me more” – meaning I covered the post considering all possible questions. This takes time and includes a large word count (the latter not considered in a rubric). I am now considering doing a part 1 part 2 discussion, so to get credit for the 12 posts that are needed. I know the number makes “grading” easier, but I think depth and breathe should be considered also.

Now I see the whole picture:

The purpose for this blog, a cultural artifact,  in this forum is for each individual to share personal beliefs and develop a personal understanding in a public statement. Since our blogs are shared work-spaces, we are suppose to engage in collaborative reflective discourses,  creating a shared understanding, leading to collaborative knowledge. These are wonderful, pedagogical purposes.  However, amidst personal problems (which are not relevant in this course), personal responsibilities (again not relevant), and technological frustrations  (like diigo never letting me get a link to post here) the kind of engagement that is required has caused me to stay more focuses on my 12 posts and 2 blogs, then really interacting with my classmates. This has limited the potential of my learning.

So I will summarize this week’s blog with a thought: think-tank-sized

“Tuition [or this course]  is not about access to information, it’s about access to other thinkers, led by an expert thinker” W. Gardner Campbell SUNY-CIT2008

Thank you Alex for your expertise. I will try to interact with the other thinkers in this class more. However, I think sometimes I am going to put in NG for a post.


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