Lest auld acquaintance…

One of the very best things about contributing to this blog is the way that it has let me maintain contact with a great group of people who – in other times – I would have probably not heard from again: indeed, it’s fair to say that I struggle to keep up with most people I meet at conferences and workshops, except at later conferences and workshops.

This point is been underlined today by the simple fact that I’m meeting one of my fellow bloggers – Amanda – who’s here in the UK discovering some of the joys of Higher Education.  Despite not having see each other since APSA in February 2011, we have had this space to share ideas and maintain a community with colleagues.

“That’s very nice for you, Simon, but what’s it got to do with me?” I hear you ask. Three things spring to mind.

Firstly, it highlights the conditionality of interpersonal relations: not everyone gets on with everyone else. I’m going to guess that you have all met at least one person at an event with whom you would happily never have anything to do again.  Thus, when you do meet “people you can work with” then it’s worth building on that.  This is true both for students and academics, if we give any weight to peer-learning models (which we should).

Secondly, relationships need work.  Our group has been far-sighted (or at least fortunate) is not only having the blog, but also a project to produce a journal special issue on simulations (which we’re hoping to get out before too long).  These activities have given us good reason to talk with each other and to build our collective output.  Likewise, interaction without purpose doesn’t work: ask any student who doesn’t understand why they are doing a particular activity.  Sometimes, we create group tasks from students without really giving that meaning beyond the opportunity to work in groups (the classic here would be to have a seminar discussion without any scope for valorising that peer interaction). This is particularly true in situations without physical co-location.

Thirdly, learning shouldn’t be dull.  This is an enjoyable group of people to work with, which makes it very much easier to do.  Our interactions have allowed us to interact beyond our narrow starting point and have eased the way in following through on future projects.

So there you have it: keep up with those with whom you work well; find purposeful activities and; enjoy it.