We’re going on a journey

One of the more enlightening exercises that I’ve undertaken as someone interested in pedagogy was an analysis of my language about learning.

via GIPHY

The facilitator suggested that people tend either to see things in terms of a ‘journey’ or of a ‘framework’.

Me; I’m a framework kind of person, possibly because I tend to mistrust things that smack of a teleological project ‘to’ some destination, but also because I like diving off down side paths [sic], using the tools that I’ve got to explore new areas.

Importantly, neither way is intrinsically better than the other, but it is important to recognise the multiple ways of looking at the world: your reference points and heuristics will vary from others’.

I’ve been reminded of this by our current anguishes over the shift to online (and possibly, partly, back again).

How much do we see this as a track to be followed, to reach some new equilibrium, and how much is it about re-deploying or growing our skills to fit particular situations?

Logically, it’s both, since each approach offers something different to the mix.

Thinking of this as a journey can help us to manage the stages of change, by suggesting what it is that we need to be working towards. Right now that’s probably the most difficult thing, since your institution probably still hasn’t made up its mind either about such things.

Laying plans for “what might be” can give us purchase on the slippy slope of moving our practice from what it used to be to what it needs to be in future.

But equally, abstracting ourselves from the process and working on our capacities, our skills and our resilience can underpin that transition. As I’ve (and others have) argued here before, much of teaching online is about good generic teaching practice: clear learning objectives, alignment and engagement.

If you can recognise that, then you can cope more easily with this novel situation.

Yes, however you look at it, this means change and development. The difference is whether you locate that change within yourself, or in your environment.

This leads me back to one of the key insights of the negotiating theory that teach [no, still haven’t worked that one out for this autumn’s classes], namely that there are things under your control and things that aren’t.

Negotiation is a way of trying to improve outcomes on those things not in your control, or at least protecting yourself against their effect. But that works more generally too.

There is an awful lot of stuff out there right now that we can’t control, so the best strategy is to work on what is up to us, so that we can be better prepared for what might come.

The more that we can engage with our situation, the better we can identify where we might get the biggest problems (and either avoid them or prepare for when they hit), or indeed the opportunities.

As a general rule of thumb, there is an advantage in being an early-mover: agenda-setting is less effort than it might appear and its benefits can be lasting. Put differently, if you don’t make choices or take action, then others might do it for you.

And that might be a less enjoyable journey.