December 17, 2007

I try to set up a learning situation; my class is quiet and the students are all occupied. It is, however, scary to let go; how do I know that they are learning? How do I know that they are learning the right thing things – I catch them sometimes surfing, playing games, watching films. Yet, always, at the end they come up with the work and they show that they take it seriously. It is easier, in the end, to limit and control than to adapt to each case.

To live with doubt and self-questioning without falling into a situation of weakness and formlessness is the greatest human undertaking – for those that are persuaded that they are right and those that want power and control will always try to dominate and see doubt as weakness.



December 17, 2007

I often here the comment from teachers: ”I taught them that, but they did not learn it”. From student’s I frequently hear the opposite: “ we were never taught that”.


There is a large gap between what I think I have taught and what is learnt: between the evolution of my own thinking and what the students have taken in.


So, today, towards the end of the term, I have set a “test” to see if certain key points about narrative have been assimilated or not. “Can we use the internet to look up the answers?” they immediately asked? Well, why not? The aim is that they assimilate the information, not to punish them for not knowing it. To tomorrow we will discuss the answers and their results and, hopefully, the required information will pass without reward or punishment. 

“Doing School”

December 2, 2007

I believe that real learning happens as a result of the impetus when intrinsic motivation creates an active engagement with a subject along with a sense of personal responsibility for, and control over, the learning situation .

I also believe that the school environment does not foster such a relationship with learning; rather it encourages us to see schooling as something that happens to us, to abdicate the responsibility for the process onto the teacher and to develop strategies for “surviving the system”.

The reality of school is that we are attributed grades that determine our future possibilities: whether we can continue to study, whether receive the certificate that will give us access to the job we want:. They also have a great influence on our perception of ourselves, the view held of us by our peers, the school system and society. Thus, the real focus in school is on grading, not learning.

We are given project, tests and deadlines and we quickly learn to juggle the demands made on us, to read teachers so that what we satisfy their requirements. The aim is not learning, but to pass; the relationship between the quality of work, learning experience and grade is forgotten in the daily experience of production.

Never the less I try, within this system, to bring you back to a personal learning experience and your own engagement with the quality of your work; to begin from where you are and not where I am. This leads to misunderstanding, frustration and confusion in some students who have never experienced such an approach before.

Firstly, you have to take responsibility for yourselves and to organise your own time. Since the pressure, and the habits, of the system do not go away, some students see the time I give as an opportunity to finish projects from other classes that appear more pressing, or simply to “relax” from the constant pressure they are under

Secondly, my evaluation tries to take into account your own capacity evaluate and understand the learning experience, rather than to focus on results. For those who wish simply “to pass”, this can lead to frustration and anger since there is no simple formula to get a good grade; you have to be involved!

Thirdly, I impose myself rarely; there are those that would argue that it is my responsibility to provide “the right answers”, but I believe that it is rather to pose questions and to offer possible structures for approaching these questions; to elucidate the relationship between structures and answers. In short, to teach methodology.

I ask you to move from a perception of the world in terms of discrete, external, absolute facts and to see it in terms of shifting relations; this change in perception is required to draw successfully and can be applied to all areas of your education. I believe that anyone can learn to draw and are thus capable of this intellectual leap; to look at structures in the context of the circumstances that gave rise to them and to understand the relationship between a grammar of expression and a communication and to be able to evaluate the result. I have asked you to consider, for example, how the structure of a software program directs the sort of work that you produce with it. How the ‘grammar’ of design functions and what might be “good design”. How narrative structure affects the communication. All sophisticated ideas that require a capacity for abstraction.

Too ambitious, too demanding, too complicated? Beyond the level of a simple CFC? It is, indeed, ambitious, but it is also what our shifting, evolving economy and workplace requires to survive and, as I mentioned, only the same understanding needed to draw.

I became a teacher to try to help students gain the only freedom that we possess; the freedom of being able to think for ourselves and to be able to articulate those ideas. If you can understand what I have written here, perhaps you will better understand my courses!