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;
- Get into groups of 3 ensuring you are all different nationalities.
- Discuss what fashion is like in your home country.
- 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.
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.