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29 March: Loose ends

30 March 2011

Next week: tutorials

To book a tutorial, just enter your name in a blank cell on this listing and save it.

Please come with a draft of your submission proposal.

This week

Two main but linked themes in the initial discussion around loose ends; the first arose from Paul C’s continuing concerns about behavioural theory. For a change we looked at how behavioural perspectives could be used to look at what is going on in a class or any learning situation, regardless of what should be going on. What behaviour is being reinforced, even if unintentionally…

(That of course tied in to Sue Cowley’s session, although she treated rather less formally.) Then the second theme came up mainly from Merielle, looking at motivation, and the failure of some of her learners to complete their assessable homework tasks. As we got further into this we began to consider the basic relationship issues in such classes, and the importance of what the teacher represents to the student, on the basis of the student’s prior experience–their baggage, as Alex expressed it. Merielle’s experience demonstrated that when students feel they can trust and respect the teacher, they may well be motivated simply by that, coming to want to work hard for the sake of the relationship. And we looked at the way that such a process could also work at the institutional level, sometimes getting disaffected learners back into learning on the basis of the messages conveyed by the hidden curriculum, represented by the teachers’ approach, the grown-up atmosphere, and so on (see the presentation below).

In passing I referred to Matthew Crawford’s brilliant book–in the States it’s called “Shopclass as Soulcraft”, but rather more mundanely titled here; see this post on another blog.


The outcomes bang on about  inclusivity and diversity–you asked what the terms and ideas actually mean–and I didn’t give any straight answers, because the principles are so stretched and diluted nowadays that what they mean varies according to whom you are talking to.

We looked at some links on to get an idea of the kind of ways in which the terms are used and Graham found some resources on the Ofsted site. There’s an interesting (no, that’s putting it too strongly!)paper here (Rustemeier, 1999), and the findings and recommendations of the original Tomlinson Report (1996) can be found here.

Note that Tomlinson was primarily about integrating people with learning difficulties and disabilities into education, but fifteen years on the agenda is much wider, and encompasses pretty well anything which may constitute a barrier to learning. “Inclusivity” is the heir to ideas such as “equal opportunities”, “anti-discriminatory practice”, “empowerment” which have been part of the rhetoric of social justice (that’s another one) for the past thirty years…

If that sounds a little sceptical, it’s because I am sceptical about all the talk and how it is sometimes hi-jacked by people who want a quick lift to the moral high ground for their own purposes.

I would go with William Blake:

He who would do good to others, must do it in minute particulars;
General good is the cry of the scoundrel, hypocrite and flatterer.

William Blake (1804) Jerusalem pl.55 1.60

My own take is here.

Preparing your submission

I referred to

And of course to the Kolb cycle. I’m ambivalent about it as a description of how learning occurs, but a model of how to set it up, it’s not a bad prescription.

  • Start with Concrete Experience; tell me about your area of teaching, your setting (if it has any influence), your learners, their course… and what you do
  • Then reflect on it; draw on your experience to think about what is actually happening when you teach–especially to the learners. What do they take to/learn easily, and what poses problems? Whhat methods do you use, and why? What are their strengths and limitations?
  • It is at this point that you can bring in the theories (Abstract Conceptualisation); how does looking at practice through the lens of a particular theory draw attention to some aspects of it?
  • …and what does all that suggest about ways in which you might develop your practice further (Active Experimentation)?

All this reference to lenses and Paul G’s question about the nature of critical evaluation reminded me of this–hope it makes sense without the accompanying lecture:

Enough! See you next week.

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