Last class for the semester in honours last week. Been very intermittent notes put online about some of the things covered. As usual with me very eclectic, loose. There is no real map of where we go, the guiding principle being simply if it helps the students get a deep experience of what it means to be engaged in research as a practice, then we’re headed in a good direction. As the post on Monday probably shows, I have some views on what research involves and is. As a consequence we don’t do specific ‘methods’. My experience in honours has shown that formal methods only really make sense to the students after honours. If you put the method first then the method drives everything and they don’t see research as a problem with mess, there is no qualitative change in their understanding through research practice, they just learn a method and then apply. Too rote for me. So, I ramble. I repeat. I revisit, I move through examples from all over the shop. As Ted Nelson accurately argued, everything is deeply intertwingled, knowledge does not live in packets of content but resides in relations between things. So my teaching is about making relations, connections, links between things. (For example wondering if spending time as a smart undergrad proving why a theory is wrong is just a reactive sort of Oedipal labour.) Questions, probes.
No idea what they have made of it, the delightful wonderful university Course Evaluation Survey tells me I have earned a Good Teaching Score of 66 point something percent. Most liked it, a couple didn’t. Always the way, and as long as those who don’t like it understand why they don’t like it – rather than thinking dislike must equal bad teaching – then the outcomes are good. Though really, GTS, how this instrument doesn’t encourage a model of student centred learning as fawning fandom is beyond me.
So, last class, we had a shared morning tea in the studio, and then compiled a list of all the things that they had done through the semester. This was to make a simple but concrete list of what participation looks like, in retrospect. Then, as a final task for the semester (well, there is an essay being written) they needed to:
- indicate two things that they have done well, and why doing these well is important
- indicate two things that they have learnt to do better, and why this matters
- indicate two things that they could have done better, and what you will do to actually do them better in coming weeks
Each lets them identify things from the complete list. The first prompt requires an ability to not only identify what you might be good at, but why being good at that matters – too much of their undergraduate education is experienced as being rewarded for being good but not actually understanding what that means, or why it might be significant. The second allows acknowledgement for them that they (hopefully) have developed in their ability to learn during the semester, particularly reassuring for those who still feel lost and intimated by the work that lies before them. Finally, the final one lets them recognise that there will be things that they avoid, dodge, duck, and if they actually start doing these better (or even just start doing them), then their honours outcome will be dramatically better. But not just naming it, for by now after a semester of similar exercises they all know their answers to this, but now they need a plan to do something about it. In other words past (I did), present (I have) and future (I will). Not a bad morning tea either.