FLIP: synthesizing my learning experience

COURSE: Fostering Learning in Practice

FORUM: Koala

TOPICS: Fenwick, reflections, adult learning, experiential learning, constructivism,

WEEK 10 – Task 2: synthesizing my learning

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TASK 2 WEEK 10

1)   What is your case (expressing the learning dimension in your workplace) a case of? (restate)

My learning dimension is the Intercultural Communication dimension.

My hot case clearly shows that in my professional context there is a prevalent lack of consideration for issues related to the intercultural learning dimension. My hot issue prompts me to advocate for the introduction of Intercultural Communication practices into the college educational and work environment.

2) What do you now see as the identity issues that relate to your learning dimension?

I have identified two levels at which identity is negotiated within my professional practice:

At the micro-level, we engage in identity building, i.e. the building of our autobiography, through the construction of a narrative made up of carefully selected episodes. Such narrative is likely to fit into existing discourses of education and actualization.

At the macro-level, we engage in the contextual reality of our professional practice, which may result in having to negotiate our identity and “adjust” it to our workplace environment.

3) What conceptual understandings of adult learning in practice do you feel relate to your learning dimension?

The most appropriate approach cannot really be established a priory.

The following structure develops from a system, non-linear perspective.

I would exclude Lave and Wenger’s participation perspective, as it believes that “the educator’s role is not to develop individuals, but to help them participate meaningfully in the practices they choose to enter.” (Greeno, 1997) (Fenwick, p.36)

I have selected two levels that will be helpful to outline my position.

Micro level:

Constructivist (humanist/progressive)

Macro (global) level:

Constructivist (radical)

Constructivist (transformational, Merizow)

System approach (enactivist perspective)

4) What are the best actions that you feel would move the learning dimension forward? Why would these actions be best? How might these actions be organised as a learning strategy in your workplace?

DEVELOPING A SOLUTION-ORIENTED RELATIONAL PERSPECTIVE

Support noticing, mindfulness, and reflection activities.

Relational view (Chappell et al.)

By acting at the two levels suggested above, I will be able to raise awareness of the intercultural communication dimension. By acting as a communicator, story maker, and interpreter I will assist learners in the emergence of a new consciousness through processes of transformation.

At present, in my current workplace I can only see room for action at the micro level.

Injecting the intercultural learning dimension into my workplace will require institutional commitment. This will require me to renegotiate my role within the college by promoting my level of “intercultural expertise.” That would require a shift in my role towards a more pro-active and solution-oriented approach.

Firstly, with regards to the students, towards the recognition of the cultural differences embedded in their narratives. That could be done by implementing curricular changes in courses and by explicitly recognizing the intercultural communication competence.

Secondly, with regards to staff/faculty, towards the implementation of appropriate initiatives such as professional development opportunities, aimed at creating and promoting an understanding and awareness of the intercultural communication dimension beyond the make-shift approach currently in place.

Intervention at the macro level remains currently a philosophical exercise, given the education orientations currently in place. It remains to be seen whether changes at the micro level will also open the way to a transformation in attitudes that will acknowledge issues of false consciousness, confessional education, and governmentability. The kind of intercultural shift I am advocating would need to extend way beyond current essentialist views and embrace the challenges presented in a systemic paradigmatic shift.

FLIP: orientations to experiential learning at my workplace

COURSE: Fostering Learning in Practice

FORUM: Koala

TOPICS: reflections, adult learning, experiential learning, Fenwick, constructivism, humanistic

WEEK 8 – Task 2: orientations to experiential learning

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Fenwick, T. (2001) “Experiential Learning: A Theoretical Critique from Five Perspectives” Information Series No 385, ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational Education now located at the Centre for Education & Training for Employment at Ohio State University, accessed on June 2, 2009 at http://www.uni-koeln.de/hf/konstrukt/didaktik/situierteslernen/fenwick1.pdf

Chapter 1

Keywords

Experiential learning

Constructivism

Adult Education

John Dewey

Andragogy

Freire

Boud

Watskin and Marsick

Progressive

Radical

Humanistic

I have two part-time jobs. One at a corporate art college, the other one teaching adults in the foreign language evening program at Seattle University. Since my hot issue took place at the art college, I will consider the questions for this task as they apply to that context

1) How prevalent do you feel ‘experiential’ learning is as the basis of an approach to adult learning in your workplace setting? What evidence do you draw on to reach this position?

My workplace is organized around a corporate framework that streamlines educational approaches across its network of colleges.

At first it would seem that my college has adopted many of the elements found in the constructivist-humanistic perspective, including an emphasis on student-centered teaching and critical thinking theories. This is reflected in the course syllabi.

In spite of a number of adult learners found among the students, adult learning practices are not specifically addressed and/or recognized.

Experiential learning, however, finds recognition in the coursework, as many of the college’s programs focus on the development of vocational skills.

2) Are you able to see evidence of either the progressive, humanist or radical orientation to adult learning (Fenwick, p.7) in your workplace? What ‘evidence’ do you call on in making your judgement?

Curricular activities cover a broad range of hands-on learning. I believe that the curricular competencies fall within the progressive and humanistic orientations.

Progressive: Students are made aware of the level of responsibility required in their educational path. They engage in problem-solving activities to become successful in their chosen fields.

Humanistic: The General Education Department emphasizes humanistic aspects by stressing student-centered theories and the development of students’ personal success though the reinforcement of self-awareness and self-actualization strategies. Teachers’ professional development across departments also relies on humanistic guidelines, as I realized during my teacher’s training, which emphasized student-centered learning. (I remember “The biggest enemy to learning is the talking teacher.” – John Holt)

Evidence of these two orientations is found in course documents and school policies.

3) Which of the orientations do you feel best captures your own approach/ orientation as a learning practitioner in your workplace?

As a teacher in the General Education department I am comfortable with a humanistic approach augmented with problem-solving strategies as suggested in the progressive orientation.

However, in the case of my hot issue, which focuses on the intercultural communication learning dimension, I would argue that a radical approach would be more suitable to examine, discuss, and challenge cultural discourses, assumptions, issues of representations and otherization, and personal narratives. A radical orientation could be more effective at uncovering and possibly overcoming issues of oppression, cultural relativism and essentialism, and ultimately addressing the imbalances that are still part of our social and educational models.

4) Is there an alignment between your orientation and the orientations that are enacted in your workplace? Does this matter

At first I connected well with the humanistic-constructivist perspective at my workplace. Later, through my own self-reflections and from conversations with the director of General Education, I have become more aware of the corporate ‘hidden goals” and the “business as usual” power-oriented mentality that influence the academic environment.

Does this matter? Absolutely. At the very least, it makes the humanistic orientation in our teacher training sound phony; and at its worse, it makes the curriculum and relevant coursework look like the usual assembly line of traditional education, so beautifully described by Chappel et al (2002):

“Today, epistemological discourses emphasise knowledge constructed as practical, interdisciplinary, informal, applied and contextual over knowledge constructed as theoretical, disciplinary, formal, foundational and generalisable.” (Chappell et al, 2000, p. 2)

Adult education is important to me:

Because it allows people to create an alternative path to personal development and education, and creates an arena for opportunities that would be otherwise restricted to younger learners. It also allows for broader, less academic discussion of issues that are important to many.

It achieves a more generalized level of active citizenship and participation across many generational, social, cultural and gender barriers.

It fosters personal responsibility for one’s own participation both in society and in one’s personal self-actualization.

FLIP: reflections as an adult learning practitioner

COURSE: Fostering Learning in Practice

FORUM: Koala

TOPICS: reflections, adult learning, practice, workplace, context.

WEEK 8 – Task 1: reflections as an adult learning practitioner in your workplace/professional context.

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Task 1
Begin by thinking back to the issues that came up last week in the discussion of this course. Then think about those issues in relation to the following questions:
•    Do you see connections with your own workplace?

As a teacher in my workplace, I do not have to deal with issues related to readings. However, other issues identified last week may be relevant.

  • A manageable amount of readings : n/
  • Less emphasis on group work: we end up having meetings that are, in my opinion, not very productive. As for group work as an instructional approach, I have the same reservations as I have for our ALGC courses. The majority of my students constantly complain about issues related to their group work (logistical difficulties; others’ lack of participation and commitment; unfair group evaluation; effects on final outcomes)
  • Relevance to personal capability envelop: it remains to be seen whether the activities we do as teachers are increasing our personal and professional goals. Institutional goals are prioritized. In my particular case, I try as best as I can to link both my classes and the meetings we have to my learning experience in the ALGC. This is a great opportunity for applying learning to practice. For example, many of the issues I am discussing as an ALGC student reflect my current practice in teaching critical thinking and group work dynamics.
  • Inclusion of Intercultural Communication components: This is the crux of my hot issue. It has been discussed at length in my first assignment report and in the discussion forums. In my current workplace, this issue is not adequately addressed.
  • Time-managed, task-oriented approach hopefully agreed upon by all: tasks are distributed from the top down, even when it seems there is a negotiated approach to task sharing. When it comes to organizing a large work group, my preference goes towards fairly well-structured activities, to avoid the kind of issues mentioned above under “Less emphasis on group work.” This is also the preferential corporate approach, embedded in the Northern, Anglo-Saxon work ethic.
  • Available technology assistance to participants: in this regard, the college where I work is very active in bringing teachers up to date on the technology available to them. Many teachers – however – have still issues with working with technology, and many others want to use the technology they are more familiar with, instead of using the streamlined platform that has been enforced on us by corporate management. This platform is actually pretty good and does provide with cutting-edge options for teaching design. Unfortunately it also penalizes those who already have their own platforms (web sites and other curricular frameworks) which would now need to be transferred into the main frame of the institutional platform.

•    Can you identify instances when people in your workplace approach tasks with different cultural understandings?

There are differences found among departments. I work in the General Education department, which employs a humanistic approach to education. In many cases, the emphasis may be on the process, rather than on the result. The meetings are a lot about processing dynamics and information; unfortunately, this affects the achievement of “practical goals” versus “developmental objectives,” even though the curricular structure appears to be evenly distributed among the building of behavioral, cognitive and affective learning goals.

Different approaches to teaching and learning are evident also among teachers of the same course. I believe there is a tendency to imprint our own background onto the curricular activities. Our identity seems to inform our teaching practice

•    How do you think these differently embedded cultural understandings might apply to fostering learning in practice in your workplace setting?

Tricky question. In most instances, we all have to abide by corporate guidelines. Issues of power are very present in my work environment. In reality, however, since I operate within a highly individualistic context that gives lip service to academic freedom, many teachers are still steering away from corporate “corralling” policies and pursue a more personal approach to their teaching practice.

FLIP: dissonances in expectations and assumptions

COURSE: Fostering Learning in Practice

FORUM: Koala 5

TOPICS: expectations, assumptions, identity

WEEK 7 – TASK 1: dissonant expectations and assumption (link to forum)

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  • Reconciling my perceived lack of experience in the field of education and the its unrelatedness to the intercultural dimension with my personal identity and its clear cross-cultural framework.

During assignment 1 I perceived a lack of experience in and exposure to the field of education. Whereas many of us sounded firmly grounded in their professional practices, I felt I was instead analyzing my current work environment without having – as a part-timer – much standing among my co-workers. To overcome such lack of “credentials” I developed my hot issue around the intercultural dimension, which appears very external to my current workplace, and has more to do with me than with my professional practice. If I were to identify dissonant expectations and assumption in these reflections, I would say that my strong interest in cross-cultural issues does not always resonate with the affordances found in my workplace. I feel as if I belonged to a relative small group of professionals engaging in a “mission” that does not get much recognition. My identity is heavily informed by my intercultural experience. It emerges from a rich narrative that reflects available discourses in intersecting fields relevant to the intercultural dimension of the human experience. This course asks me to draw connections between my identity and my workplace, but the reality at work does not easily accommodate the very intercultural dimension that I am advocating for.

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