Tony Gurr

The “Art” of Sailing…and Collaborative LEARNing (from GUEST BLOGGER Laurence Raw)

In Adult Learners, Our Universities, The Paradigm Debate on 18/08/2013 at 2:51 pm
Creativity (Duras quote on seeing 01)
I have just spent four days watching the conclusion of the Tall Ships race in Szczecin, Poland, as well as attending a conference dedicated to the metaphor of the sea in humanities learning.
Watching the tall ships was a fascinating event, especially when one of them sailed into dry dock, accompanied by the crew singing Egyptian sea-shanties to the accompaniment of the bagpipes (an interesting transcultural experience there).
Sailing and Teamwork (Slocum quote 01)
As I watched, I could not help but admire the way the crew acted as a community of purpose – not only playing and singing their own music, but working with one another to ensure the ship’s safe passage into the dock.  I wondered why such communities could not be forged elsewhere – especially in the academy or educational institution.
The next two days were spent listening to papers at the conference, and I soon understood why.  Although ostensibly dedicated to transcultural learning and teaching, the majority of pieces were dominated by what might be described as binary oppositions (black/ white, learner/ educator, west/east, America/Europe, Democrat/ Republican) that are necessarily exclusive in concept: one part of the binary is necessarily reinforced at the expense of the other.  Educators assume more importance in classes than learners; Mainstream American cultures are prioritized in curricula at the expense of locally produced cultures; the list is endless.
Sailing and Teamwork (Pat Riley quote 01)
I reflected a little, and wondered if we might find alternative ways of thinking by returning to the idea of tall ships and the sea.  To negotiate stormy waters, a crew must learn to act together; to take into account their differing strengths and abilities and use them to forge a prosperous community dedicated to the tasks in hand.  This should also be the basis of every learning experience; to negotiate the stormy waters of criticism, funding, syllabus or classroom issues, members of an academic community – whether at the school or university level – should take heed of the ship’s crew, and learn how to work inclusively rather than exclusively.
To do this requires a fundamental shift in thinking.  It means that greater attention needs to be paid to “why” questions rather than “what” questions, especially where learning issues are concerned.  Everyone should acknowledge that learning is messy; it cannot be shoehorned into binary oppositions, as everyone (whether learners or educators) learns and reacts in different ways.  A community of purpose should give each of its members the time and space to think, as well as determine their roles within that community.
Change (David Thoreau quote)
Through this subtle shift of approach, I believe that a learning community can become like a ship’s crew, piloting themselves (as well as their institutions) through the Scylla and Charybdis of obstacles, so that they can land safely in dry dock.  Until the next voyage, that is.
I wonder if it would work?
Laurence Raw (aka @laurenceraw on Twitter)
Baskent University – Ankara, Turkey
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
  1. Hi!

    Very interesting comparison…

    What do you think about collaborative learning and cooperative learning being not the same educational concepts? Do you consider collaborative learning a methodology?

  2. They aren’t the same educational concepts. Cooperative learning implies some kind of consensus between educator and learners, but still implies the educator in a leading role; collaborative learning dissolves the distinctions between the two. If I knew what a ‘methodology’ actually was, I’d be able to answer you. But I’d just call collaborative learning a strategy to improve learning performance among everyone

  3. I’d also call the post a riposte to Chazz’s pieces, all of which imply some degree of educator-centeredness

  4. I agree with you Lawrence but also wonder whether learner-centredness is a learning process in itself. As a teacher, I have had to take both approaches to keep students content; on the one hand meeting their expectations but also trying to accomplish what I think is essential, i.e. a learner-centredness where they are more active participants in their learning. There are days when it is really a challenge!

  5. I think it’s a fallacy to believe that you have to “keep students content”.

    Challenge them with the unconventional, the innovative. How do you know that what you assume is essential is actually essential for the learners? This is what collaboration can help you resolve.

  6. […] Source: The “Art” of Sailing…and Collaborative LEARNing (from GUEST BLOGGER Laurence Raw) […]

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