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Posts Tagged ‘taskmaster

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This clip from the series 9 finale of Taskmaster reminded me of a difference between persistence and resilience. Knowing and acting on this difference is important if educators are to help students nurture both. 

Spoilers for the video ahead.

Ed Gamble, who won this challenge, also beat the other contestants to the series prize. Even though the points and prize do not ultimately matter — it is a comedy game show — Gamble seemed to take his tasks seriously. So seriously that he exhibited great persistence and strategic resilience.

He persisted even though he had to repeat the tasks because he kept messing up. In the end, he was the only one to get points even though he was the slowest. The others were quicker, but failed to follow the rules. 

When the clip reverted to the studio, Gamble did not let the Taskmaster get away with awarding points based on “the spirit” of the challenge. His resilience came in the form of a spirited defence of doing what was right. 

For me, persistence might be a trait that no one else sees. You push yourself, but no one really knows why or how. Resilience can be qualified by externalising that persistence, e.g., a recorded account of an experience, a reflection of that experience, or in this case, a defence of an evaluation.

Resilience can be difficult to quantify and challenging to showcase. It is not comfortable. But educators need to embrace it if they are to push forward with the character education of their students.

Am I serious about emphasising the differences between persistence and resilience? Not really. I am making the point about how easy it is to create a niche in education and edtech sphere. Jump on buzzwords and spin!

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The comedic game show, Taskmaster, is chockablock with tasks like the one above. In this challenge, participants had to think of ways to Impressively Throw Something Into Something.

In the task below, contestants were challenged to Camouflage Yourself As Well As Possible.

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The only thing that seems to happen consistently is how each person comes up with a different way of doing the same thing.

Viewed through an educator’s lens, I might conclude that these are examples of achieving the same ends through different means. This is like having shared goals and objectives.

However, the similarity ends abruptly there. In most schooling, there are vain attempts to standardise the means in order to reach the same ends. Sameness is valued over differentness. 

While there is a place for sameness, that mindset stifles creativity, exploration, and risk-taking. Educators might consider focusing on learning outcomes instead. 

Consider intended learning outcomes. These are only superficially similar to shared objectives. Objectives focus on teacher behaviours and expectations. Outcomes focus on learner actions. If learning outcomes are aligned to a teacher’s objectives, then one might call them intended learning outcomes.

Then there are unintended learning outcomes. Some of these outcomes might be unanticipated and therefore unplanned, but this does not make them undesirable. For example, a group project might have curricular outcomes, but accidental outcomes might include close friendships or better communication skills.

Another set of unintended learning outcomes is those that the learner defines. These are like the Taskmaster contestants’ efforts. The Taskmaster gives them an objective and each person interprets the instructions, rules, and limits on their own. They seem to go off on tangents, but in doing so shape and attain their own outcomes.

I could be wrong, but I think that schools are generally the least comfortable with learner-defined outcomes. They value objectives that provide the illusion of standardisation and conformity.

The reality is that students need to grow out of rigidity and operate in higher education and a working world where tasks rely independence and agency. Unlike Taskmaster, these tasks are not just for laughs. The sooner we get learners to operate more autonomously, the better we prepare them for life.

Even a comedic game show like Taskmaster (YouTube channel) offers a reminder to educators.

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The segment above featured the champions from previous series competing for the Taskmaster’s points. They had to figure out the combination code to reveal what was inside a locked case.

Each contestant used a different strategy. They relied on a shortcut, manual work, brain work, guess work, and physical violence. All arrived at the right answer.

What is the reminder for educators?

Much of teaching focuses narrowly on the safe or right answers. Teachers get there with methods established by collective experience. There is nothing wrong with that unless you realise this also prevents the exploration of other strategies.

The exploration of such alternative strategies can seem chaotic. They are often out of a teacher’s hands and are the work of students. But does it really matter if students find different means to the same end?

I am all for the scaffolding the learning of knowledge and skills with pedagogically sound and time-tested strategies. There is a reason why we call them academic disciplines.

But there is a reason why we call on people to think outside the box. For educators, this is the classroom box that does not take into account the wider world or the input of learners. If we do not learn to operate outside this box, we become unreasonable and disconnected taskmasters instead of facilitators of learning.


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