Building Pedagogical Intelligence

Carnegie Perspectives: Building Pedagogical Intelligence

It’s been eight years since I taught an (explicity) adult education course, so I’m spending quite a bit of time reviewing the literature and trying to find an appropriate framework for the class I’m teaching this fall. In the past I’ve always taught as part of a specialized graduate program, and students either entered with some exposure to the field or were looking to my course to provide the basis future work. This class is the only one on the topic at William and Mary, so it will probably be the only exposure many get to adult education as a field of practice. Packaging a field that includes everything from adult basic education (ABE) to continuing professional education (CPE) into a single course is no small task.

One key goal of my classes has always been to help participants become more effective self-directed learners and more confident in their abilities in “learning how to learn”. Pat Hutchins, at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, calls the enhancement of this ability of students to become more aware of themselves as learners “building pedagogical intelligence.

More important, having a voice in matters pedagogical would make students better learners. It’s easy for those of us in “the business” to forget that getting educated isn’t easy. Just jumping through the hoops is not enough. Students need to be able to make connections between what is learned in very different, and typically unconnected, settings. And to do this they need to be able to step back and see what their efforts add up to, to take stock both of what they have learned and what it will take to get to a next level of understanding. In a word, they need to be agents of their own learning.

Since this will be a graduate class in the school of education, we can probably justify a little more obsessing about the topic than the typical undergraduate course:

This is not to suggest that Econ 101 or 19th Century American Lit be turned into occasions to obsess about the learning process. But the disposition to be thoughtful about one’s own learning, to be an active agent of learning, to find and even to design experiences in which learning is advanced—these are goals that should be central to undergraduate education.

What’s Being Done In Other Places

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Ostrich egg

Ostrich egg,
originally uploaded by Dr Hotdog.

In a small town in Vermont where I grew up there’s a story about a farmer who set an ostrich egg on a stool in the middle of a henhouse. “Ladies,” he said, “it’s not that I don’t appreciate your efforts, but here’s a sample of what’s being done in other places.”

Gardner Campbell has begun posting podcasts to the Mary Washington Faculty Acadmemy site. I was impressed when Rob and I went up last year, but I have to admit to being blown away by the scope of the program. Amazing what’s being done in other places–particularly at the University of Mary Washington.

Even Higher Education

Back to College

I generally avoid reading the AARP magazine–which I guess is the successor to Modern Maturity. As Tom Paxton wrote:

So when you find it in your mailbox for the first time my friend
You can tell that you getting older, you’re turning grey….
Modern Maturity, means you’re getting old
When you get the magazine that you hide from your friends
Once it was Rolling Stone, it was thrill after thrill
Now Modern Maturity means over the hill.

This issue has a piece by Harvard professor and author Rosabeth Moss Kanter about the future of “even higher education”. She’s proposing a future in much which experienced, affluent 50 and 60 somethings will be returning to campus for “Advanced Leadership School” before heading off on the next phase of their careers in providing distinguished public service.

Someday soon, going to a university at 50 or 60 could become the norm. Someday, every major graduate school will have graduate schools designed specifically for accomplished professionals who want to make the transition from their primary income-earning careers to their years of flexible service.

Kanter stresses that this is different than the traditional retirement activity of taking a few courses for diversion. These new programs and the students who populate them are emulating a new model that has been set by the likes of Jimmy Carter, Lee Iacocca or Bill Gates who have the experience and the energy to “support new forms of philanthropy and public service that truly solve problems”. They don’t want to volunteer in the traditional sense; they want to change the world.

Colleges and universities can be a key role in helping adults make this transition.

But for all the talk about what older boomers want to contribute, there are practically no ways to help them do it. How do they gain the knowledge and refresh their skills so they can end childhood hunger or save Newark? How do they use their considerable experience if they never earned a degree the first time around? When and where do they make the right connections?

There will have to be some changes made to made…

Of course, the educational model should feel right to accomplished adults, tailored to their life stage and experience. It shouldn’t resemble the lecture halls, know-it-all professors, and musty textbooks of college memories.

The the resulting programs would look much different than the current activities on our campuses, according to Professor Kanter:

Sessions would be more like think tanks, in which faculty facilitate discussions about how to tackle major social needs. Participants could use the university as their sandbox, catching up on recent developments in their fields, and adding a language or a science skill. Their “dorms” would be two-bedroom apartments, with their spouses or partners as not just roommates but coparticipants in the program. Participants would be more like contributors than students, mentoring undergraduates or leading seminars for grad students. The presence of accomplished leaders could change universities in positive ways. And by focusing on the world’s most daunting human problems, leaders will find direction for their next productive decades.

I guess I still wonder why we have to retain that kind of school for the 50-somethings. Sounds like our current students could benefit from much of what is proposed in this new world of “even higher education.”

Penn Requires Blogs–Sort of.

Inside Higher Ed :: An Academic Blog for Students

The university of Pennsylvania reportedly will require all incoming freshman to “keep blogs” of their academic progress, though I’m sure many in the blogosphere will have serious issues with the use of the term. New students will complete online journal entries that will focus on their academic interests and concerns, background information and summaries of experience. Other than the on-line part though, most of the features that we’ve come to associate with educational blogs will be missing.

Unlike typical blogs, the Penn blogs will not be public. Access is limited to the student, the student’s advisor, and, under certain circumstances, authorized university officials.

The decision to require all students to use the tool was made after a pilot that involved 300 students. The Inside Higher Ed article doesn’t give any detail about how the pilot was evaluated. Given the free wheeling nature of most of the online journals that naturally attract students, the restrictions that the university has in place seem pretty draconian.

Because the College of Arts and Sciences sponsors the journal pages, DeTurck said the school is responsible for monitoring the quality in order to avoid liability issues. The student pages are considered academic records, and after an entry is completed, it cannot be altered by the student. Members of the college’s counseling office can look at material if it is deemed to be relating to the student’s mental health.

Seems like a good way to use the technology to enhance the communication between advisor and advisee; I just think I’d call it something different so that faculty who want to use blogs in the more traditional sense won’t have to overcome of misconceptions that would be developed through this program.

Sharing the Sense of Wonder in the Classroom

Gardner Writes » Blog Archive » Surprised by YouTube

Gardner writes about his experience with students in his film studies class finding an illustration for a critical essay–on YouTube. As usual, Dr. Glu extracts some important lessons for himself and his colleagues.

As the information abundance spreads, and if we are brave and curious enough to embrace it, we will find our own serendipity fields dramatically expanded. And we will find our students bringing archival gems into the classroom, casually and crucially. At that point, the professor’s role as advanced learner, one who models the “ah, what do we have here?” that’s the result and nursery of a good education, will be explicit and essential as never before.

My students constantly put me in that role of advanced learner (and sometimes not so advanced–just older) when 8-9 of them are using their notebooks to find resources, update our wiki, check facts, and Skyping and IMimg with folks all over the continent. (Picture sitting in a technology planning class talking about personal learning environments when one of your students says, “I’ve got Darren Kuropatwa on Skype and he has a different perspective. Darren, do you want to share your thoughts with us? I actually don’t remember exactly who Sheryl was Skyping with that night, but I remember being impressed.)

One of the shortcomings of traditional college teaching is that I probably know more about what’s happening in that film class at Mary Washington than I do at almost any of the summer school classes at William and Mary. I know that lots of faculty are using PowerPoint or Blackboard, but I know almost nothing about how they are making sense out of these new tools as they use them in class each day. What insights are they taking away from their interactions with their studens? Are they intimidated? Energized? Humbled? I wish there were more mainstream faculty who were sharing there reflections more broadly.