Friday, March 16, 2012

An Inconvenient Realisation

So I made a somewhat impulsive decision about six weeks ago: I decided to enrol in a Bachelor of Education course after thirty years. Perhaps it wasn’t impulsive. Perhaps I should have done it thirty years ago.
I have been actively involved with instructing both children and adults over the years, lecturing in various adult courses, private music tuition, running music and drama groups and so on. But I have never been able to get a serious paid job as I have never done the study to receive the academic qualification.
So back to school I went, and have been rapidly reengaging the brain cells with serious study. A bit of a shock to the old system, I have to say.
So have I learned anything in the last four weeks? Actually – yes! And it was probably a light-bulb moment when I suddenly understood something that has been bothering me for probably twelve to fifteen years.
I have not been able to understand why my teenage and now adult children have to question everything. They are not content to settle for the age-old thoughts and ways of doing things. There is always some objection to my set-in-stone doctrine and world view.
But the last couple of weeks, we have been investigating the relatively new way of education called ‘student focussed learning’. Now how is that different to the way I was educated? I’m glad you asked. Back in the 1970’s, we sat in our rows of desks, watched and listened (according to theory) to the teacher as he droned on at the blackboard, scratching things up with chalk, referring to the one and only text book, and then we were asked to repeat the information. We learned by rote and regurgitated the information (or not) at exam time. We would not have dared question the principle or investigate the subject for soundness of theory. And we certainly didn’t talk to the other students for fear of receiving a clout from a blackboard duster that could well come sailing through the air toward our head. Ours was an education of ‘sit down, listen, repeat after me’. Got it? Good! Now don’t forget it!
Apparently things have changed. Somewhere in the 1980’s students were encouraged to research, dialogue with their fellow student’s, question the topic etc. The teacher provides the topics and suggests resources, and may even guide the discussions, but essentially the student is asked to critically analyse the information, to find the flaws, suggest solutions and so on.
So now I understand why there has been so much mental and emotional conflict in the household. As a result of my teacher focussed education, we got some information, we formed a fairly restrictive world-view, set it in stone, and went on our merry way. This generation have found flaws in my world-view, and feel obliged to point out the holes in my research, and, bless their hearts, feel a need to encourage me to investigate further.
Isn’t that annoying? And awkward, especially when you find out new information to hand that sheds light on a dearly-loved-doctrine and shows it to be flimsy at best.
Anyway, at least I now understand why this generational conflict has occurred, and now have only to negotiate the challenge: am I willing to take the lid of my set-in-stone ideas and doctrines, and allow them to be examined and criticised, or would I prefer to keep the blinders on. Frankly, I’d prefer to keep the blinders on, and tell the little treasures to do as they’re told! But I suppose that would just make me ignorant and ridiculous. It’s all very inconvenient.

10 comments:

  1. So I just wrote this blog, and forgot to sign my name at the bottom of it. Sorry. Meredith Resce

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  2. Wow Meredith! That was an excellent blog. Thank you. You made me laugh but also ponder on deeper matters in hand. Education has certainly changed dramatically in the last 20 or 30 years. It must be quite a shock to the (old?) system to be discovering many wierd and wonderful things and also finding out that what seemed to be carved in stone for you has actually just been ground to dust! Good on you for taking the plunge. I have no doubt it will be a very exciting and adventure filled journey. All the best with it and I look forward to hearing more about your many new discoveries! :)
    Anusha

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  3. What a hoot! Good for you, Meredith. Now your 'student focussed learning' will surely be used to good effect. However, I have a sneaking suspicion your 'hands on' experience down the years should give you a real boost. So often academia gives the reason behind what we already know, even so, we should be open to learning new things!

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  4. It is very inconvenient if now downright annoying when we have to concede that the generations behind us might be doing something better than we did! I've found it true not only of my children, but now of my grandchildren, because the changes just keep happening. It seems imperative to me that we have an open mind so we can go on learning, (annoying though it is to find we don't know everything), but just as imperative we help younger ones realise that we actually have some very good wisdom - some that's intuitive and learned and some that's just eternal - because they often think they know everything before they leave primary school! We sure must keep our sense of humour about it all!

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  5. Got it.

    (Do I really have to go and research this now?)

    :)

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  6. Congratulations, Meredith, in taking the plunge to do your B Ed! You will do it, and do it so well. I went back to Uni in my mid thirties to obtain a Dip Ed and then to college in my late forties to obtain a Bachelor of Theology. In both instances, I found that being a 'mature age' student was much more of a help than a hindrance. God bless.

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  7. I think you are very brave to go back to studying - I couldn't do it. But yes, it makes sense now why my children want a reason for everything. :)

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  8. Although I did my initial education 30+ years ago, I'm a huge believer in the student-based approach. I'm in favour of letting everyone question everything (even Christian doctrine!).

    However, as with most things, methinks a balance is needed. For example, I can't imagine an exclusively student-based approach would work for teaching things that your average student has no chance of figuring out for themselves, such as integral calculus. Such things need to be shown to them first (after which they're free to question it).

    I also suspect that the student-based approach works best for smart and self-motivated students, so perhaps I'm lucky that it wasn't prevalent when I went to school. :)

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  9. I learnt a lot about myself when I did some Psychology classes. But I remember doing this class (recently) about active learning and they taught us by lecturing us which I thought defeated the purpose.

    I may not be a teacher (hubby is) but I do know that children learn in different ways. Some needs to be listened, but we also need children to learn to think for themselves just like as Christians we shouldn't just listen to the minister and think he is right, we should measure his message with the Bible.

    MEL

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  10. I think the method sounds like a good idea, so long as it is accompanied by RESPECT. Teenagers may not agree with teachers, but I still think they need to respect them. Otherwise anarchy reigns.

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