As always we are often called into why we might sit courses in our free time. My current course on concept-based learning makes me wonder.
It reminds me how learning and schooling are always in tension.
I question concept teaching models that aim for skill based transfers in my subjects. Such an approach loses the power and relevancy of our discipline. Instead I say we should aim for insights, human interest elements. Between schooling and learning, aim for learning.
Explicitly teaching dissimilar transfer is very interesting because it was naturally my line of thinking being state-school educated and fairly autodiadactic myself. It has struck me this year how students believe that there is no characterisation or message in their ‘trashy’ literature, like avengers, comics etc.
Also, I think that some of the concept formation strategies that I use function on how we are continually making transfers through metaphors and how we understand them. The very word ‘understand’ is a metaphor – what are we standing under? Or is something standing underneath us? Or how does that reflect knowledge at all?
I have spoken a few times about models. And it is essential to point out that none of us has a direct access to reality. We cannot see atoms etc. Emotions and schema distort reality. Instead we use models, which due to the busy nature of life – of schooling for example – we have no awareness. Four part lesson, pedagogical theories, these are all models.
Models are functional, a way of seeing the world that is practically useful. Yet as Edward Hall in ‘Beyond Culture’ says, models, by their nature, must be partial. By that I mean they cannot reflect all of reality. Nor should they. Their strength comes in their specific nature.
Whatever a model prioritises, it must also deprioritise something else.
Any models that fail to prioritise something are inherently nonsense. This is why when you are listening to interviews, someone who rattles off a series of buzzword values cannot be trusted to have a cohesive philosophy.
Therefore, through transfer, we are showing students a platform from which they can begin to judge the arbitrary nature of the world, of whether a boss is efficient or lazy, or whether a partner is passionate or selfish. I am not saying that as teachers we have the cultural and emotional literacy to enact this ourselves – schools are hierarchical institutions and increasingly corporate – but at least we aim for this through transfer.
In teaching in my school I am focused on challenging and supporting thinking, not on fighting for control or managing political or religious tensions. My model is one in which thinking hard is the priority above everything else, with all the flaws and issues that might bring.