It’s been a busy period since new year, both for my Learning & Teaching work and for my other research interest, euroscepticism (which, as you might guess, has been of more general interest of late).
Usually, the two are rather separate, and that’s fine by me: each offers an escape from the other, giving me some work-work [sic] balance [sic]. But I’m now seeing some cross-over between the two, particularly as the British debate about the European Union moves into a more public phase.
One of my big concerns about that debate is that most people don’t know much about the EU and – just as importantly – don’t really care enough to find out. As someone who would like there to be an informed and measure discussion, that’s a concern.
At this point, I put my teaching hat on and consider how I would deal with students who neither want to be in the class (if they turn up at all), nor know anything of any apparent relevance to the subject in hand. Put like that, I can see some options.
Firstly, I’d show that they do know more than they realise. We might take the most obvious expression of the subject and talk around and out from it, pulling in concepts and knowledge from other areas to build analogies and bolster understanding.
Secondly, I’d tackle the subject in a non-conventional manner: as those who teach research methods know, sometimes it’s much easier to do that when you don’t mention the phrase ‘research methods’ at all, but just get into an applied situation and let students see how it works from the inside. Likewise, much about the EU can be handled without talking too much about ‘Europe’, or in a way that’s a bit different.
Thirdly, I’d go a long way to adapting to students’ positions and knowledge. That might mean being a long way from where we want to be, and even not always getting to where we want to be, but unless there’s a validation of students and their ideas, then a challenge to them will be less likely to work.
Finally, I’d recognise that it would be a long process and one that had lots of scope for failure. But all teaching’s like that: if it wasn’t, then everyone would know everything.
So as I continue to engage with this subject, I’m going to try to remember the things that I already know, because if I can’t use my transferable skills transferably, then why should expect my students to do the same?