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Dissolving and Creating - Angels' Response to Pedagogical Frameworks

Page history last edited by Richard Pountney 11 years, 7 months ago

Go back to pedagogical frameworks menu


If I understand the discussion correctly, we have an issue of practice (Dave) and how to imagine existing practices to become 'something other' for let's say, a new lecturer approaching this material and his/her own needs for teaching (Richard).


 Marylyn Strathern (1992) has a work on 'parts and wholes', and one of her arguments is that when trying to reduce either, there is an inevitable reduction of complexity, what gets simplified is complexity itself, as well as the complexity of the relationship between parts and wholes. Here I imagine the granularity of courses as being inevitably de-complexified, however she argues, for the Melanesian case, things that get ‘refashioned’ only do so in other persons, it is invested in others, through others (rather than ourselves, as we –and our work- is the one that gets dissolved, de-fragmented).


 What I also see in this project is that there is more than a relationship between parts (modules) and wholes (curriculum/contextual/practice). We will, I guess, be stuck ourselves in the definition of 'loss' of the complexity, because any changes in the relationship between parts and wholes will take us inevitably there. My concern is how to move out of this 'being stucked' (I do not take it to be circular) in the loss of complexity.


 There is another element, that of the production of new RLOs, and the disegregation of the existing parts of modules, which for me is a different thing, a kind of 'outside' condition of the parts and wholes relationship. I believe that yes, there will be a loss of complexity, as there is a loss of complexity in the way the students, as discussed by Helen and Dave, take that complexity away the moment they ask about their exams and where their learning fits into their assessment.


 And it is at the point that a student sits down at home and faces the revision of his/her lecture notes for an exam or assessment that the ultimate desegregation and re-aggregation takes place. When a student does that, it reminds me of a new lecturer preparing a module, deciding what goes and what gets left out, with some differences, obviously. If I think of students helping other students prepare for exams, for example, they in fact reproduce a teaching context -to themselves and other students-, they re-teach themselves through the materials provided by us.


 In a sense, if I imagine the new lecturer, -or myself as a new lecturer using some of my colleagues notes, which I did as I was lucky enough to have colleagues passing 'down' their teaching materials- I have to imagine a process that is not dissimilar that of a student preparing for an exam, that is going through all the different materials, which have been provided within a context, and making choices about how I think I could use them to either as a new lecturer to answer some questions for my students, or as a student to answer some questions to my teachers.


 I agree with you that the complexity of the learning experience always gets messed up, and at one point we are all 'alone' (well, not here, which is a real treat!) trying to make sense of what has happened, where I position myself in terms of loss of complexity, and how I re-use the objects at my disposal. The thing that a new lecturer, like a student facing exams does, as I see it, is to ‘de-complexify’ some granularity, brake it down into smaller RLOs and then faced with loss, they re-imagine a new context and build up a new context for it all. They make up meaing of the mess and it is them that acquire a position where they can give new complexity, or explore complexity anew.


One of the things I used to do to prepare exams, as well as to prepare a module is a map, an itinerary, I find the bibliography, readings list and then I make an itinerary of what I want to cover. Whoever may use our work is most likely to do that. In that sense the maps,and RLOs, and all the things we provide are already doing so for them.


 We could ask ourselves if in creating maps, and RLOs we are, as we were, is like sitting next to the new people that will use it and pass it on to them, like sitting next to someone revising or preparing a lecture. I feel that no matter how much we give them, in the sense of providing maps and structures of us, they will, however, have to do it by themselves. Where I believe this project is going beyond other projects is that by providing people with the maps, itinerary, discussions, and in a sense by helping them 'revise' the material we are creating a new learning context but more importantly we are allowing for these people to OWN these objects.


 There are two dimensions for me here: 'translation' and 'ownership'. (translation for use and ownership of use)


 On these two dimensions, one that of creating a context where 'translation' is possible: in translation mode, people can come to the project, take the RLOs and bibliographies and use them, and whilst yes, they and we will loose out context and complexity, they also have the possibility to understand and translate the complexity we have reduced -and shared in its reduced form- and thus these new people will be able incorporate meaning of their own. (our translation mode is the toolkit)


 There is a pre-dimension to the 'translation' mode of use: you just put things online without no aid, no context, no nothing and people just 'grab and go'. In this process, context, complexity is reduced and sometimes lost, the objects have little precision other than that new users may give to it, but the richness of the original integrity of elements is gone from the producer’s point of view. A translation process, like we do with the wiki and the other elements of this project, allows for users to engage with the producers, and to get an understanding of a lost dimension, of what may have been reduced or simplified, and the objects become more precise. Depending on the user's ability to get on with language and translation, the object will always maintain a kind of association of meaning -even though the user could, in theory make any use of it, and transform its meaning completely and even use it in an unseemingly uncharacteristic context (i.e politically incorrect context, recalling Helen's comment during our meeting).


 The second mode of use, for me is that of 'ownership'. Whilst we provide help and context, which allows for translation to occur and for an RLO to be used in more meaninful ways that a 'grab and go' type of use, the translation mode does not guarantee that the user will feel a sense of ownership. This is something that I feel, we are implicitly discussing above, especially on Dave's point on the levels of inequality in social relations that we challenge whilst we reproduce.


 For me there is a difference in the process we do, and I agree with Dave on the relative capacity we have to challenge unequal social relations whilst reproducing these, one process is of producing for 'others', new others that will come and take our materials, translate if it were, and then own them.


In reading your comments I have been asking myself how did I end up owning teaching materials that were originally from other lecturers. And by owning, I do not mean I claim copyright authorship. I mean that I feel I can use these materials to the point that if I reproduce them in class they feel 'mine' (as being produced by me) as opposed to 'borrowed' (and being a replica).


 At this point I ought to say that I like replicas and I do not have a problem with the idea that some work can be replicated. I have always used and thought of the meaning of 'replica' in its dual -greek- meaning (that of repetition/copy and of contestation/response/). If you remember Blade Runner, the 80s cult movie, the replicants were the cyborg-like figures that replicated humans, they were cyber copies of humans but also responded/contested/challenged humans. They mirrored the concept of replica in Greek theatre. When I talk of replica is in this dual sense, I mean.


 I am not worried if people would replicate, copy and reproduce the work in this project and make it feel ‘theirs’ and ‘own’ even if they are merely copying. I am interested in understanding how the project enables people to own the materials they subsequently produce for class or learning. In my experience, using borrowed materials makes you feel you do not own the entire production process. I always wondered why is that I feel I do not fully ‘own’ it. Some answer, I guess, it is because a long standing western prejudice, or an ethnocentric bias, on that the production of intellectual materials in our contemporary societies has an aversion to copying, borrowing and lending. I guess, like many other people, I have embodied the belief that when I create my teaching, this one has to be 'mine', rather than 'shared', and that students can not 'copy' others. I have learned in assessment practices that I am not to allow students ‘to copy’, and plagiarism is a severe punishable offense in our understanding of the boundaries of ‘copying’. For me, this is one of the things we struggle with, our own ethnocentric, embodied, practiced understandings on what is a copy and how intellectual materials are ‘shared’ and the extent to which a ‘copy’ is a ‘copy’ or it is ‘owned’ as a new production –under new management of the copy, so to speak-.


 In other cultures, assessment and learning practices and teaching is shared, exam answers are not individually owned, and being assessed means that you can actually copy your classmates in full understanding that copying is legally acceptable. What I mean with this is that whilst we know that there are, in many cultures, learning processes that do not share our concern with individual ownership, and these cultures' practices are as valid as ours, we may find it harder (our users may find it harder) to overcome our own embodied practice on the open access, online medium.


 So, going back to my question on how do users 'own' the materials, I do not know yet if we have achieved a resolution about that. If a user of our materials have a strong embodied practice of individual ownership, uk style, they will be impaired by that.


 Do our imagined future users actually feel they ‘own’ what is that we create here? Or will they ever feel, like I did with the ‘handed down teaching materials from previous lecturers’ not quite at ease with using it and own it it? It is indeed a dangerous territory, the one between ‘adding on’ to the RLOs here, translating, and then finally ‘owning’ it through the creation of a new context. I don’t think we, or our users are that equipped with doing these kinds of complex operations without feeling uneasy or ‘guilty’. It may seem strong to talk here about guilt, but I do remember feeling guilty about all those notes I could copy and re-use in class, and it took me a long time to realise how I had actually created a new context with them, and own that creation. In a way, I never felt I owned those materials I received, but I did, eventually feel I owned the creation of a new learning context. I would be pleased if our work enables the creation of new learning contexts for other people, even if this is done through the dissolution of ours.


 We are here, maybe, in front of a similar process to what Strathern identifies in Melanesia. She gives examples of people who are able to dismantle holistic systems; -the elements that compose persons are dismantled so that the relationships that people carry can be invested anew. So, whilst, as a society we are unable to do what Melanesians do, we can, perhaps, within pedagogic contexts, precisely do that: dismantle the holism of a system (the context and pedagogic intentions and practices) so that the relations that the pedagogic context carry ‘can be invested anew’.


There are of course, differences in this analogy, in so far, in the Melanesian context there is a dissolution of persons, of actual persons. If I take it outside the level of persons and look at the level of producers, us, the teacher who has given their RLOs and those who have positioned these RLOs and pedagogies in a new map, like we do, have dissolved in the process. I wonder if some of our worries come from the fact that we are struggling with such dissolution of our own materials and our teaching selves. Maybe I am taking the analogy too far here. I wonder however, if there is an element of this preoccupation with what Strathern calls ‘dissolution’ about how we own this process, how we dissolve the relationship we have to these materials, and how others may own it.


Ultimately, as she argues, we could also argue that our work here, including these dissolutions of context and practice, they are an investment into social relations, sketchy as these may be, social relations of learning and sharing teaching. In a Melanesian sense, we would be creating new people, outside Melanesia we do not take that metaphor to being real –Melanesians do so, and believe they create new people- but the possibility is also real for us –sorry if I lose anyone here, I know that the idea of creating people is not so shared outside Melanesia-, I am alluding at the possibility of creating new relationships of practice for teachers and students engaged in our project so they can own the context they create through our ‘dissolved/fragmented’ materials.


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Comments (1)

Helen Jones said

at 5:59 pm on Mar 2, 2010

I can identify with the 'ultimate desegregation and re-aggregation' that takes place when students start to make sense (through revision) of the learning they have engaged in over a semester. And I think you are right to suggest this is similar to the new lecturer who starts by deciding what goes in and what gets left out of a course (a process many of us will be familiar with). There is a re-learning, through the re-telling - a re-building using the disagregated pieces. You say 'no matter how much we give them, in the sense of providing maps and structures of us, they will, however, have to do it by themselves' - yes, ultimately we are alone and have to make our own meaning no matter how much guidance we are given. This process - you call it translation - does produce a sense of ownership. Perhaps a precursor to ownship is entitlement - won through struggle with the meaning - through this combination of translation, re-use and re-contextualisation comes the sense that one is entitled to re-use, the possibility of ownership becomes a reality? You are entitled to own something if you have made it as though 'new' (am I making sense or is this my cold germs talking?) I also relate to the sense of guilt as a new lecturer using second-hand materials - as if I had short-changed the students - they were not getting me (nor were they getting the original pearls of wisdom that had fallen from the original professor). 'I never felt I owned those materials I received, but I did, eventually feel I owned the creation of a new learning context' - you were entitled to own them because you had translated, re-used and re-contextualised. Thanks for this discussion.

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