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Posts Tagged ‘exceptions

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In the video, John Green shared the general rules on using the prepositions on, in, and at.

This was useful to me partly because I was just asked that question last week during my research writing consultation. Now I have an answer for the next session.

The video was also useful in a broader sense. With just about every rule comes exceptions, and grammar is no exception.

I would challenge anyone attempting to standardise “pedagogy” or “learning” in schooling and education. When implemented, they will find exceptions to the model answer, ideal formula, or prescribed standard.

So are standards or definitions pointless then? No, they are baselines from which variations sprout. We just need to be critical enough to recognise what is valuable or erroneous, helpful or harmful, and relevant or not, depending on the context.

Yesterday I described one way of designing exit tickets for reflection and feedback in the context of my flipped learning seminar.

One result of a simple and open design of my exit ticket is a funnelling effect, i.e., the majority indicate common takeaways. If these are aligned to objectives, then you know you have done something right as a speaker, instructor, or facilitator.

There will be exceptions. One involves outlier comments, and the other, negative comments.

The outliers are questions or comments that fall outside the norm. But they can be no less valuable because, while not intended, they were serendipitous and important to the learner. For example, one participant wanted to leverage on social media to flip learning.

Another outlier comment about flipped learning was: “It is more suited for tertiary level as they are deemed to be more independent learners with greater ownership of their learning.”

The participants of the seminar were mainstream school teachers. If I did the same session with lecturers and professors from higher education institutes, one or two might say flipped learning is better for younger kids.

This particular outlier comment is harmful to the participant because it indicates a negative, it-cannot-be-done mindset. The commenter needs to think about how kids are natural learners, how schooling tends to create a dependence on teaching, and how flipping (kids creating content and kids teaching) can counter the effect of bad schooling.

negativity by laurabl, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  laurabl 

Then there are negative comments.

Instructors who care have the tendency to focus on the single negative in the face of 99 positive comments. The negativity stands out.

I do not get these often, but I had one this time round. It troubled me. I even chose to ignore the positivity of the person who took the trouble to come out of the venue after me to commend me for an excellent talk.

So how does one deal with this?

I had an honest look at myself and what I did. Perhaps this person had a point. Or perhaps s/he had an agenda. Or the person was, pardon my French, an asshole (they exist and they stink up the place for everyone).

Fortunately, I use more than one feedback platform. I had the Padlet stickies and the TodaysMeet backchannel. The person was negative on both and commented on relatively superficial things. The person also chose not to share his/her name.

A person who wants to be negative but honest and constructive will generally be open to conversation. This means not hiding behind anonymity. Such a person will also focus on ideas that matter.

So, as difficult as it is, I am ignoring the negative and non-constructive comments in both channels in terms of how they affect my confidence. But I address them by providing a reply in the backchannel and reflecting on my thought process here.

#negativity #dontletin #bepositive #qotd by TITAN9389, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  TITAN9389 

Having outliers by way of takeaways, comments, or feedback is not a bad thing. It might be a sign that your instruction expanded from teaching moments you control to learning moments you cannot.

Negativity, on the other hand, can control you. If you let it. It is best to remain objective, review the data and information you have, and decide if the negativity was warranted. If so, eat humble pie and do something positive. If not, ignore it.

The rules are changing or breaking. One reason for this is that some exceptions are becoming the rules.

For example, countries we might label first world attract immigrants wanting a better quality of life. These immigrants form a minority of the population. But when all the minorities are combined, they start to rival the original majority citizens:

  • About 30% of the Singapore population are not citizens or permanent residents (page 3 of this PDF)
  • 85% of the population in Dubai are foreigners (unofficial source)
  • The USA has coined the term majority-minority

As the minority become the majority they start to make the rules. Alternatively, as the diverse needs of the minority become obvious, older and restrictive practices give way to new and more accommodating ones.

The rules in schools are breaking too. Rules like:

  • learning in only one place and at one pace
  • you must listen to your teacher
  • you must buy these textbooks
  • you must pay high fees
  • good grades guarantee good jobs or salaries

These rules are worth changing or breaking because they do not put the learner first and foremost. This is the individual learner who has his/her unique talent and needs, and is the minority of one. But there are millions of such minority members.

The good thing is that we live in such an exciting time because the majority-minority can learn to take control of their education.

We can uphold outdated rules or we can help break them. If we are to help our learners, we should do the latter.


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