Why I am no longer a Critical Theorist

LyotardLeave it to Maha Bali in her Embracing Paradox: Both/And Mentality and Postmodernism to get me thinking about critical theory and how I find myself somehow free of it.

Egads, what did I just say?

Power is all around us, right?

I agree.

Do all people operate with equality and fair use of power?

Certainly not in my experience.

So how can you be beyond critical theory, given that it Continue readingWhy I am no longer a Critical Theorist

Using Google via a German Actor-Network

imageAs a follow-up, or rather continuation, to my last post on a Rhizomatic ANT in Germany, I have been thinking about the role our ideas play in helping (challenging? confronting? supporting?) us move our actions forward. While traveling, I find myself coming back again and again to the single web presence to help me plan for and navigate, my trip: Google.

Who doesn’t use Google, after all?

That may be one of its benefits / strengths . . . or one of its weaknesses.

Whether for drafting Continue readingUsing Google via a German Actor-Network

A Rhizomatic ANT In Germany

imageHere I am in Germany for my first holiday in five years, and while there is a nasty train strike going on across the country, I still somehow find myself on one of the trains that is running thinking about our #rhizo15 time together (and alone), especially as the informally formal part of it is nearing its end.

I posted a question in the #rhizo15 Facebook group about any experiences people had or thought about regarding travel and the rhizome, and I got the most interesting responses that helped push my thinking a bit further. In some ways, I have started to rely on this, my informal network, and can even envision maintaining contact with some of my new colleagues from here. Anyway, I digress.

There I was walking through Munich and I found myself in an antique coin dealer’s shop where a World War II era  coin was of interest and shortly thereafter purchased by one of my travel partners. Never much interested in coins, I did not at first pay attention to it until I noticed its date. Odd that the coin at first seemed Continue readingA Rhizomatic ANT In Germany

How can I “Acknowledge the Opposite” when Preparing to Teach? #fslt12

As I am putting the final tweaks in my preparation for my 3-hour on-campus session of my Pace University course, NURS 840: Teaching and Learning in Advanced Practice Nursing, I am again pausing for a moment to explore and further develop my COWIL model (Consider the Opposite of What I Like) to better meet the needs for my students. Students who like what I like or think similarly as I do are already fine — I will meet their learning needs more easily as we are already approaching learning in a similar manner. The trick is being able to meet the needs of other students who don’t approach teaching and learning as I do. Yes, I can focus on my methods that already seem to work, but is that really taking them where they are and working with them? Is that really respecting some of their own interests?

I cannot consider the opposite unless I am clearer on what I like. While I did enough of that to get me started on this process, I want to turn my reflective attention to considering what I do not like, or to put it more gently, to more clearly articulate what does not resonate as much with me. To do so, I will reach out again to borrow from the work of Stephen Brookfield, this time his work around around the critical thinking process:

  1. Identify assumptions embedded in words & actions (discourses & systems)
  2. Assess grounds – evidence, accuracy & validity
  3. Take alternative perspectives – intersubjective understanding / perspective taking
  4. Take informed action / agency

While I am not seeking to critically think through things at this time, I do want to focus on the assumptions aspect, namely to identify those things I assume — those taken for granted beliefs about the world, and our place within it, that seem so obvious to us as not to need to be stated explicitly (again, from Brookfield).

As I see my COWIL model developing, I intentionally want to identify the things I assume are not the case about the world and my place in it, in this context teaching and learning, and explore if there is some way I can bring those things into my class as UNDOUBTEDLY there will be people who think differently enough that perhaps their needs may be met.

Let’s try a simple example I have in mind. I assume people learn by discussing (constructionist) and also by internally grappling with content based on personal experience. However, this assumption does not readily allow for watching videos and then discussing them (as I personally do not watch a lot of television, videos, movies or the like). However, in Considering the Opposite of What I Like (COWIL), perhaps I should try a video or two (like we try all things in class to see if they work for the learners, content, time, etc.) in the course.

Yes, this is a simple example that may not need a degree in education to see, but what better place to start than with something simple as I am exploring and fleshing out this model? After all, if a video or something more multimedia does not work, what has been lost? If nothing else, it becomes another teachable moment as the experience (consider actor-network theory) may more closely resonate with common learning approaches for some. 

I will let you know what I find, though working through COWIL from the critical thinking frame to flesh out those assumptions can be quite useful.

Using Reflective Practice to Plan for Friday’s Class (via #COWIL and #ANT for #fslt12)

This Friday is the first of my five on-campus sessions for my course at Pace University, NURS 840: Teaching and Learning in Advanced Practice Nursing, so there is no better time than the present to further develop the COWIL (Consider the Opposite of What I Like) model I started to develop in my post yesterday (Reflective Teaching and Learning via COWIL). I really appreciate this consideration opportunity as part of the First Steps into Learning and Teaching in Higher Education mooc.

I have chosen to focus on the Areas of Activity Dimension of the Framework as part of my reflective practice:

  1. A1  Design and plan learning activities and/or programmes of study
  2. A2  Teach and/or support learning
  3. A3  Assess and give feedback to learners
  4. A4  Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance
  5. A5  Engage in continuing professional development in subjects/disciplines and their pedagogy, incorporating research, scholarship and the evaluation of professional practices

When I planned to use actor-network theory (ANT) in this reflective exercise, it was due in part to its focus on treating “everything in the social and natural worlds as a continuously generated effect of the webs of relations within which they are located” (pg. 1). In other words, thinking about my first on-campus session, we will all be there in a network of all our experiences, held in place at that time with all our technologies, artifacts, perspectives, likes and dislikes, etc.

What does that mean for my own preparation, especially in relationship to these Areas of Activity? Choosing only one of them to consider right now, such as “A3 Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance,” I will now apply COWIL, which begins with my thinking about what I like.

Let’s see, in a class of adult learner degree students, I like discussion, open ended questions, answers that are not closed or limited, more questions than answers, and a certain discomfort in pushing new ideas. What don’t I like? Lecture, pretending to give all the answers, and students not reading the texts and preparing for the discussion ahead of time.

Hmm, ANT would also remind me about the other factors that will combine into Friday’s 3-hour class session, such as the food that will be provided, the room set-up, computer and other technologies in the room, unspoken student expectation, biases against the course topical area, questions about my own background, concerns about tuition payments, the air conditioning, etc.

What am I doing here? In considering how I will normally prepare for my class (the content, objectives, clarifications over assignments, and the like), it is easy to assume (or simply not even notice) the effect all these other factors bring to the room and help maintain the interaction of the experience together. How can I consider and give voice and experience to some of these other factors if I am going to focus on the effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance? Perhaps I can use a brief YouTube video or chart for some of the content (neither of which I want to do, but both of them may help learners capture some of the sense of the material and experience I want them to have). Perhaps we can address the food and air conditioning to see if they meet the needs? The room set-up can accommodate changing the tables and seats (as I just learned) if we change the classroom (something else I just learned is possible). While I don’t like lecture, perhaps I can model some of the way my own thinking has developed over my years of study of this content, something that will allow the content to be discussed without lecture (these are all bright DNP students; they can read and do not need lecture on this topic).

These are some of the things I am considering regarding the learning environment and approach to my first on-campus class in this blended course. I hope that  including elements of the opposite of what I want (COWIL), along with some of the non-human elements of the expected learning (ANT) will help all of us in the course have a more engaging and open-ended experience that promotes more personal and critical learning.