This is my second post for the #rhizo14 course. At the moment I feel I’m mainly just finding the time to write my own stuff and not really engage in anyone else’s but at least I’m doing something which I also fail to in these sort of courses (I’m not very independent!).
Dave in his intro to his blog writes:
“Learning rhizomatically is the goal, but how do we get there? The position of teachers is based on whole set of power structures that create a reliance on the teacher for setting objectives, assessing progress and giving direction. How can we take people who’ve spent their whole lives believing that this is ‘learning’ and MAKE them independent?”
MAKE them independent?
The first thing that struck me this week was the focus on MAKING people independent. Dave appears to be opposed to seeing objectives, assessing, directing etc. but you could say he’s just replaced one set of power structures for another. Their is a clear learning objective, independence, the question is why is this the objective above others (learning content, acquiring skills etc.)?
I think Dave might be on to something, I’ve been thinking about what the benefits are of independence as a learning objective and put them bellow. I have particularly contextualised inside the field of Careers Education (as that is my field):
- Careers is enacted independence: This is to say that careers development happens outside the classroom. Initially when you learn Maths, practice the flute, develop creative writing skills etc. the crucible this occurs in is the classroom. This is never the case in Carers. I am always focussed as an educator on the moment students step outside the institution we are part of together and the set of relationships they have there and start out independently. In some way careers education is always about independence.
- Careers needs personal exploration. No model of careers development ignores the need that on some level you need to understand yourself. As an educator this is something I can not fundamentally do. Even to the extent that I may learn some things about the students I work with this is still my understanding. Students need to learn about themselves, they need to create this learning which implies the need to be independent in order to do the self-reflection and personal exploration needed to develop their careers.
- Careers involves being an active learner. I think that learning in general and especially careers learning is becoming increasingly personal. The rise of the internet etc. has made it easier to learn away from the classroom on your own. This really comes out of the above though about personal exploration. Because we are different people we have different information needs. What I need to know is often (if not always) related to who I am. We can not pre-package what people need to know. They need to learn to learn for themselves in light of who they are.
These are three reasons why independence is good and I’m pretty convinced by these thought but I do have three reasons why it may be bad:
- Is independence for me or them? This is an issue I generally struggle with. Often I find that students don’t want to be independent, they want me to give them the answer, to be the expert. Now when I don’t do this the thing I struggle with is am I doing this because I think it is better for them or because of my values around what learning should be? I guess I don’t want to have some high ideals that don’t help students. Independence needs to be for their good not my benefit.
- Wisdom. Talking about wisdom is to talk about what makes sense and what works in the real world. It is not necessarily trying to construct some great truth but is about the everyday rules we live by. Wisdom in careers is about pointing out things like the importance of SPAG on CVs, smart dress at interview, networking for accessing some careers, protecting your on-line footprint etc. I find students just need to know this sort of stuff and often the most efficient way is for someone to tell them (briefly and then move on to other stuff). Student’s are not always great possessors of wisdom around their careers and so I feel they need some “expert” input to counteract this.
- Community. I think there are two dangers around independence and community. Firstly that you cut yourself off from other people. In an effort to be self-reliant you loose a way of relating to others, supporting others, learning from others etc. Secondly that you form a community but cut yourself off from people that are different from you and just choose people who affirm who you are. Really change is often supported by others and by people who are different from us and challenge us in some way. I feel that there are real resources for learning and personal development from others and we need to make sure that our models of independence don’t cut us off from them.
They you go. Those are my thoughts on why have independence. I am going to try and do a follow up post around how we can create it in students in careers education.