April Pre-Session Reading Task – Ron Barnett’s 2007 book ‘A Will to Learn’, Chapter 8

On the second page (p102), pause to consider the following questions:

1. How do you recognise Barnett’s ‘qualities’ in the context of a course you work with? Think of a couple of examples.

Important QualitiesNot Important Qualities
Courage – definitely. It is incredibly hard to move away from home and enter into a new non-compulsory environment with few rules and regulations and suddenly take responsibility for the organisation and future proofing of your life. Very important to my course as this is often a new subject to students and their understanding is limited.Integrity – I don’t really understand why this is important, integrity is about the ability to know oneself and form the best opinions and make the ‘right’ decisions, this is an unacceptable expectation to have from 18 yr olds who are lacking in life experience. As usual this philosophical point of view seems to be written by someone who has ‘forgotten’ what it was like to be a teenager indeed if they ever were.
Definition:
the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles
the state of being whole and undivided
Resilience – This is a good one. Studying is not just the education, it’s the whole self-management and survival in a new world. Definitely, students are hear by choice so self-motivation is key and dealing with outside pressures and trying to stop these interfering with studies is very difficult. Carefulness – this would simply not be a word I would ever consider in relation to studying. Not relevant to my course.
Self-discipline – some of this is needed but also some free expression. Compulsory education is very inflexible, offering students little opportunity to explore outside the curriculum. A good BA course should encourage this.Restraint – what? No idea what this is about. Why and for what purpose would you want students to restrain themselves? Not relevant to my course.
Respect for others – very important. Although this will be ‘their’ degree, often obtaining this qualification relies on the co-operation and input from others. I am a firm believer that students learn as much peer to peer as they do from tutors. Learning in an international, multi-cultural environment enriches education and the learning opportunities and should be considered as invaluable.Openness – maybe. I’m not sure this is a top 10 quality. This is about a lack of secrecy and honesty. This is important but not necessarily paramount. I don’t really see this as important on my course.

2. To what extent do you recognise Barnett’s ‘dispositions’ in your own approach to learning? Assuming this varies, what influences them?

Dispositions
A will to learn – quite difficult, this is only easy for me when the subject interests me. I have worked in the same industry all my working life (clearly I love it) and anything that informs my teaching is fascinating to me. However, when I am trying to help my daughter with algebra I have no interest in learning how to do this.

A will to engage – I get easily distracted. I am massively time poor and this means unless the subject appeals to my interest I am frustrated that sometimes I ‘have’ to do it when actually I’m not interested.

A preparedness to listen – I’m quite good at this, I learn by listening although my attention span is quite short.

A preparedness to explore – Very much so, I like working with other people from varied backgrounds and enjoy sharing ideas and listening to their points of view.

A willingness to hold oneself open to experiences – I don’t think this is different from the above

A determination to keep going forward – I suppose. I wouldn’t consider myself as a reflective person so I think this is just naturally the way I am.

What influences my disposition: – time, interest, the end result, relatability.

 

Once you’ve finished, take a look at UAL’s Creative Attributes Framework and have a think about the following:

1. Are UAL’s Creative Attributes more like Barnett’s ‘qualities’? Or his ‘dispositions’? Is it just a question of phrasing? Comment on a couple of examples.

UAL CAFDispositionQuality
ProactivitySelf-Disciplined
EnterpriseCourage
AgilityA determination to keep going forwardResilience
CommunicationA preparedness to listen
ConnectivityA will to engage
Storytelling
CuriosityA preparedness to exploreOpenness
Self-EfficacyA willingness to hold oneself open to experience
ResilienceResilience

2. The Creative Attributes are explicitly focused on employability and enterprise, i.e. on preparing students for socially useful occupations. What valuable attributes (‘creative’ or otherwise) can you think of that aren’t employment-focused?

I find this impossible. I just don’t think it’s a valuable argument in today’s society to suggest anyone goes £50k + into debt for any other reason than to gain a better job.

3. How are these attributes taught and/or learned at UAL?

My course is vocationally focussed so this is an impossible question to answer. I think this question is aimed at people who don’t have to consider the financial implications of studying.

4. Barnett’s ‘qualities and dispositions’ are about learning, and the CAF is about creative practice. Are they more or less similar than you would expect, given this difference?

They are more similar than I expected. Creative practice is always going to be more outreaching, ie, less about the individual. Learning is more concerned with the self. Creative practice always has an element of audience participation and engagement.

5. How do these ideas connect with the theory you’ve been encountering on your elective unit (if you are doing one)?

I am not doing one.

 

Session 2 Pre Reading Munday

This piece seemed to start with some political motivation but interestingly questioned whether education should be taught as a solution to problems.  this belief seems to be directly suited to subject contents that has a right or wrong answer; namely maths and some science. I couldn’t think of much else.  I doubt any teachers of creative subjects would share this view.  As I often like to think, there would be no internet without creative thinking.

My takeaways from this reading broadly fell into three categories: The Puzzle of Learning, Obstacles that Prevent Learning, Classroom Management.

The Puzzle of Learning

Learning is like a puzzle (Munday 2012) – I found this to be a great analogy, you have to find the pieces in the right order that works for you.

I think certain techniques to facilitate learning work differently depending on the subject, the group and your own mood on that day.  Describing the classroom as a place of mystery (Marcel 1949). You can never quite anticipate what your students are going to say, do or understand, so the need for different learning techniques becomes imperative.

However, a mystery is not always a problem, some people like to create a mystery because it excites them or drives them. It is there way of stimulating interest and a desire to learn more.

Mystery and problem solving are not always polar opposites. Mystery may not want to be solved.  It seems hard to quantify and maybe an explanation is not always needed. It depends on your perspective; are you scientific and expecting cause and effect or more creative and ‘going with the flow’?

Obstacles that Prevent Learning

Munday included some of his reflections about his own teaching:

“Here are some of the things I was advised to do during my year of teacher education.

1) plan everything to the finest detail – some of us were given a book that
outlined the 50 essential components of lesson planning.

2) Create seating plans for students.

3) present clear learning objectives and outcomes.

4) differentiate materials to accommodate particular needs.

5) give the students rewards (if there were any) for good work/behaviour.

6) produce classroom contracts that students could sign in the first lesson.

This list of techniques seems to me to resonate strongly with Marcel‘s account of the phenomenology of having. It is as though the classroom presents itself as something that I must struggle to contain. What I ―have can always be taken away, my control being the most obvious case in point. Things are always in danger of spilling over and therefore I must make every effort to try and instil a permanency in regards to order.”

In my experience this, initially, is what is needed, however reflecting on some experimental activities I have tried lead me to believe that at undergraduate level students engage better when they feel more connected and more in control of their learning.

This is a link to a teaching session I ran in my previous job where I was trying to get the students to appreciate the opportunity of learning in a multi-cultural classroom.  The students were given a brief set of instructions;

  1. Get into groups of 3 ensuring you are all different nationalities.
  2. Discuss what fashion is like in your home country.
  3. After the time limit report back.

All students managed to ‘learn’ something new about fashion that they didn’t know before and as a consequence began the next project in multi-national groups knowing that the individual backgrounds of the team members would add to project.

Classroom Management

There were several references throughout where control of the classroom environment was discussed.  The first point that occurred to me was at the beginning.  “researchers who like to make analogies between schools and hospitals (see Darling-Hammond and Bransford, 2005) may see the classroom as a ―ward”. However, most teachers are responsible for classes of 20-30 or more pupils/students. A nurse, doctor, or indeed a parent would not be expected to be single-handedly responsible for such numbers.

Munday goes on to say “I stopped treating students (including those diagnosed as problem students) as obstacles to be overcome. Consequently, the classroom itself could become a living breathing organism.”  He follows this up wiyh his own reflection which resonated with my own view,  “It is up to the teacher to manufacture the conditions under which this can happen.2

Do students learn better when they construct their own learnings? This needs some more thought.