Don’t start what you can’t finish

One of the more regular observations I make of (and to) students is the way they start to make a point – either in class or in their coursework – and then don’t follow it up properly.  This offends both my logical and aesthetic sensibilities.

Thus, it was with some discomfort that I found myself doing exactly the same the other day on Twitter.

Having now moved on from my complete dislike of the site (see earlier posts for context) to an only partial dislike of it, I spotted a comment that I felt I should respond to, because it piqued my interest: in essence I just wanted to point out the inconsistency of the person’s views.  It wasn’t the only aspect that I challenged, but it was the most obvious, as well as the easiest to squeeze into the space available.

This then triggered an exchange, in which the original poster sought to rebut my comment and re-emphasise the exceptionality of their case. [You’ll note I’m dressing this up in fancy language: it was rather more prosaic in reality].

At this point I gave up.

Since I’m a good reflective learner, I thought it might be a good idea to think about why I gave up.  Firstly, I needed to challenge the entire normative underpinning of the discussion and Twitter is not the place to do that.  Secondly, in order to do this, I needed to understand better the poster’s thought-process, another thing Twitter isn’t designed for.  Thirdly, someone else was in the discussion with a similar view to my own (although not identical) and it seemed easier to let him keep on going.  Fourthly, tweeting isn’t high in my job spec, and I needed to get back to the rest of the pile of work on my desk.

It’s all classic motes/beams or pots/kettles territory here.  Students often present the same kinds of rationalisations (OK, maybe not the normative thing) when I talk with them and it would be foolish of me not to recognise it in myself.  In retrospect, I should have refrained from replying on Twitter, and instead written a blog post where I could have properly unpacked my thoughts, tweeted the link and gone from there.  What will be interesting is whether I’ll learn from this or not: looking to my students, I’d say it’s 50-50.

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