#rhizo15 week one – Subjectives and resuscitation

Beak to beak resuscitation?
Beak to beak resuscitation?
Chickenofeathers CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I am finally resuscitating my blog for #rhizo15. This seems a rather good occasion to do something I was meant to do quite a while ago! Hopefully I will manage to finish this MOOC, as I’m used to sign-up and never finish them. Except #moocmooc, that was my first – and only – completed MOOC.

So, this is my post for week one, I have introduced myself to some tweeps, and I have commented on two posts (@kwhamon’s and @nlafferty’s post). Actually, I will use those comments to develop this, and try to answer David Cormier’s questions:

Build learning subjectives: How do we design our own or others learning when we don’t know where we are going? How does that free us up? What can we get done with subjectives that can’t be done with objectives?

@kwhamon’s post attracted me immediately. Keith encourages educators and learners to sustain equanimity, just like Sir William Osler did with his medical colleagues, despite the struggle of the medical profession. I agree, we, too, should maintain certain stability, even in that complex environment of any rhizomatic course. Edgar Morin talks about the need to embrace complexity as a natural part of uncertainty, which emerges from the limited human beings’ ability to comprehend phenomena. But, how can we practice this valuable lesson? Are we teaching our students to embrace the complexity and the uncertainty of the rhizome, when we provide them with a full, comprehensive list of learning objectives (and learning material to assimilate), which barely leave space for subjectives to emerge?

In my – relatively short – experience at University, I notice very little acceptance and flexibility towards complexity and the uncertainty it brings. Many students want to know exactly what information they need to master, and be sure, in that way, that they will pass the exams. This doesn’t leave space to exploration of different, but maybe more exciting, paths.

Students seem to look for the certainty provided by the pre-traced track of defined learning objectives, rather than the freedom of following “subjectives”. Is this maybe a reaction to the easier access to digital information? I do think this can be overwhelming, and rather than embarking in content research, selection and critical evaluation, it is definitely easier to be provided with the pre-packaged information to study. Building – or, more precisely, pursuing – learning subjectives requires independent, critical skills.

Designing others’ learning when we don’t know where we are going is complex. There is a delicate interlace of elements that (un)balance the freedom of personal preferences and the direction and support we need to provide students, in order to help them pursue meaningful and contextual learning. Why go through this path then? And, as Dave asks, what can we get done with subjectives that can’t be done with objectives?

I see the two things a bit like visiting a new city by following the touristic paths from a map and visiting the same city without a map, half wandering around, stopping to check the hidden, little shop, walking through a tiny passage just because there are lovely coloured doors in it, turning right because there is a signpost for the Colosseum, but then turning left again because there is an interesting, broken column I must check. What’s the difference?

In the first case I will surely view the most salient archeological monuments in less time, in the second case I will still see some of them, but I will have discovered things that are interesting to me, even if they are not defined “archeological monument”. I will probably have gotten lost and wasted time, stopped to ask information, met people, and learned my way through. This path will have maybe taken more time (or less!), but taken me to different streets and enriched me in different ways.

In real life I do both, really. It depends from the context, the people I’m with, the place I’m visiting. I still need to define my personal meaning of the word subjectives, but I think with them we can better develop our personal agency, and, to cite Vygotsky, move through and across different ZPLs to reach unexpected learning.

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2 comments

  1. Hi Annalisa, I really enjoyed reading this. I love the analogy of visiting a new city like Rome and walking off the beaten track. It’s something I’ve done often and it’s the excitement of discovering hidden gems. Following the tourist path you scratch the surface but by meandering you get to experience the heart and soul of a place and get to know a place more intimately. I think learning is similar – wandering off and exploring and satisfying your curiosity helps to take you deeper and beyond what your taught but this can help and increase your understanding.

    In medicine the sheer volume of what students have to learn perhaps makes this a bit of a challenge but I think there’s still some scope. There is the tendency to switch off or complain if things aren’t in the exam without appreciating that these sessions reveal other aspects which can actually help their learning and provide additional context.

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    1. Thanks Natalie, you have articulated my analogy beautifully! I know you like visiting cities like that, we did it together in Prague :) – I find it more relaxing and satisfying, and the same happens when I do it with learning.
      Absolutely, maybe because the huge amount of content in medicine this is something we see a often. But I think the outcomes based curriculum doesn’t help either…

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