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Posts Tagged ‘Laurence Raw’

Why are Academics (still) NOT Blogging? (from GUEST BLOGGER Laurence Raw)

In Guest BLOGGERS, Our Universities, Research, Teacher Learning on 25/08/2013 at 1:01 pm

Dummies (Academic Blogging) Ver 02 TG

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While reading Ana Cristina Pratas’ very generous review of the book ADAPTATION AND LEARNING ,2013) that I co-wrote with Tony Gurr, I was reminded once again of the ways in which blogging is still viewed with considerable suspicion by many academics – especially those with an interest in furthering their careers.

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To BLOG or NOT to BLOG

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A blog lacks the respectability associated with a scholarly article; it will neither help you to increase your research profile, nor contribute to your institution’s output for a Research Assessment exercise.  Professorships will never depend on the number of hits your blog receives.

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Yet perhaps this is missing the point.  Five years of blogging about radio drama, and education has taught me a great deal about the act of writing; the need to make one’s point quickly and concisely so as to sustain reader’s attention.  As a member of several editorial boards, I have lost count of the submissions I have received where the writing has been quite simply execrable; repetitive, long-winded and woolly-minded.  A blog helps to eliminate such deficiencies; if readers can’t get your meaning in the first two paragraphs, they’ll simply go on to another page.

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Blogger (crap blog)

As we argued in ADAPTATION AND LEARNING, blogs also attract immediate responses.  Writers do not have to wait months and months to receive feedback in journal reviews; they can find out what their readers think and respond in any way they wish.  This process can help to encourage dialogue, as well as helping writers refine their work for subsequent publication, either online or in print form.

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Blogging is also a democratic form of communication.  Readers do not have to spend time searching for articles in obscure journals, or browsing sites such as JSTOR for material; it is available to everyone, irrespective of their disciplinary specialism.  My Radio Drama Reviews blog attracts professionals – actors, directors, technicians – as well as enthusiasts from all walks of life and from all parts of the globe.  Blogging is also wonderfully democratic; there are no distinctions to be drawn between ‘academic’ and ‘non-academic’ readers and/or writers.

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This provides a wonderful opportunity for bloggers to disseminate their work to a wider audience.  In personal terms, this can help to advance their reputation (as well as increasing the range of possible opportunities for further writing and/or research projects); in institutional terms, this process of dissemination might provide the basis for innovative, transdisciplinary modes of research involving individuals from different walks of life (or disciplinary specialisms).

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Creativity (Matisse quote 01)

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Blogging represents freedom.  I do not have to spend time planning and/or researching something; I can write down what I think and receive an immediate response. I can write on my netbook, my iPad, or sitting at a desktop (or on smart phone).  I can write in the office, at home, or sitting in a coffee-bar.  The American dramatist David Mamet once claimed that writing in restaurants offered him the greatest creative opportunities; I wholeheartedly agree.  Above all, blogging helps to stimulate creativity; I am not constrained by academic conventions to produce pieces of a certain length and according to a particular scholarly format.

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blogger

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Blogging should not be seen as a potential threat to more established means of communication (such as the scholarly article). On the contrary, it provides an ideal means to try out new ideas, which might subsequently appear in printed form.

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Blogging (guest bloggers welcome)

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There are some really good pieces on this topic online: look at these, for instance:

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Also, take a look at one of Tony’s earlier posts – it got him a bit of “hot water”:

Holy Trinity in HEd (Ver 02)

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BLOGGING – the “secret weapon” that is (finally) helping TEACHers “trump” SCHOLars!

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Laurence Raw (aka @laurenceraw on Twitter)

Baskent University – Ankara, Turkey
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
http://baskent.academia.edu/LaurenceRaw
http://www.radiodramareviews.com
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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)
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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.
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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).
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Sailing and Teamwork (Slocum quote 01)
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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.
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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.
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Sailing and Teamwork (Pat Riley quote 01)
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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.
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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.
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Change (David Thoreau quote)
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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.
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I wonder if it would work?
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Laurence Raw (aka @laurenceraw on Twitter)
Baskent University – Ankara, Turkey
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
http://baskent.academia.edu/LaurenceRaw
http://www.radiodramareviews.com

LEARNing to Cope with Exams (Guest Post from Laurence Raw)

In Adult Learners, Assessment, Guest BLOGGERS, Our Universities on 24/07/2013 at 3:04 pm

Assessment (David Boud quote) Ver 02

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Many learners from all over Europe will have taken exams this summer; the results might yet not be known.  My fourteen-year-old niece had this experience, and unfortunately she did not do so well.  I realized that the results bore little or no relationship to her intellectual capabilities; she obtained a poor grade on account of what might be termed TESTaphobia.  As I listened to her, I recalled my days at school and university, when I was so scared of exams that I used to imagine myself suffering from chest pains, so that I could go to hospital and obtain some kind of tranquillizers.

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I read recently that British Education Secretary Michael Gove insisted that “exams matter because motivation matters … Human beings are hard-wired to seek out challenges … the experience of clearing a hurdle we once considered too high spurs us on to further endeavours and deeper learning”

But what if the need to jump that hurdle prevents learners from achieving success?  What happens to those whose wires are configured in different ways, and might need to discover alternative means of achieving “further endeavours and deeper LEARNing?”  Many websites offer advice as to how to deal with this condition (by learning from experiences, devising a realistic revision schedule, taking time off or relaxing), but they’re actually missing the point.

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Assess Lit 03

The only way to change attitudes towards exams is to change the LEARNing cultures in which they take place.  Learners have to understand that passing exams is not simply about “clearing a hurdle,” but rather providing an opportunity for them to express what they have learned.  Educators should help them to approach an exam in a positive frame of mind; rather like an actor giving a performance in front of the camera, they need to perform to the best of their ability.  And even if they do not do as well as they should, exams are not the be-all and end-all of their educational lives; what matters more is that they should feel they have achieved their own personal goals through the courses that they have taken.

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Assidere (original meaning) Ver 02

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Perhaps it’s time to go back to first principles; to understand that any program of study is not primarily concerned with the exam but with the experience of LEARNing.  This can only be achieved through negotiation; the working out of a series of mutually shared goals that educators and learners alike feel happy to pursue.  As the course unfolds, so everyone should be encouraged to reflect on its usefulness; this might be achieved through discussion, or by encouraging everyone to keep a journal to record feelings and experiences.  Learners can use this as a means to develop their self-esteem, to discover for themselves what they have LEARNed.

In this type of model, the exam functions as an extension of the journal, enabling learners to expound at greater length what they might have already recorded in their journals, and (in an ideal world) thereby manage to deal successfully with their fears.

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However this can only be achieved through educator support.  This is one thing that Gove and his fellow-mandarins in politics will never understand: learners can only develop themselves when they feel that they are part of a community.  A piece in The Guardian written by a practising  educator asks whether there is a line to be drawn between ‘helping’ and ‘hindering’ learners; whether too much support for learners taking exams is not counter-productive: “What do they learn about self-motivation and independence?  If we want them to become lifelong learners, don’t they at some point need to learn how to teach themselves?

I think this is a comment of mind-blowing fatuity, implying that there is some kind of distinction to be drawn between “TEACHing,” and “LEARNing.”

In a LEARNing community in which everyone participates and helps one another, the problem of developing motivation simply doesn’t arise.  Learners might have to take exams, but they can approach them in a positive frame of mind if they are supported by their peers as well as their educators.

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Assessment (fattening pigs)

The question here is one of shifting focus, of understanding the psychological reasons why learners fear exams, and restructuring the course of study to help deal with them.  However I fear that no one will be too interested in this solution, especially those politicians who believe that standards can be improved through quick fixes.  At the classroom level, however, I think that improvements can be made, or at least I’d like to think so.

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Laurence Raw
(aka @laurenceraw on Twitter)
Baskent University – Ankara, Turkey
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
http://baskent.academia.edu/LaurenceRaw
http://www.radiodramareviews.com

Personal Reflections on MOTIVATION – Guest Post (by Laurence Raw)

In Classroom Teaching, Guest BLOGGERS, Learning & Parenting, Our Schools on 11/06/2013 at 3:53 pm
I have decided to take the day off – to allow you all to ponder my last couple of posts.
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We have been looking at the issue of motivation – and the current challenges across canım Türkiyem have been causing more than a few of us to reflect on our lives, our work and our families.
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This guest post is the result of both these processes.
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Laurence (guest post header 04)
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The question of how to motivate learners is a difficult one.
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I was talking to my fourteen-year-old niece last Sunday, who is contemplating changing schools, as her current institution is “boring” with its incessant focus on exams and knowledge-based education.  I asked her what she would like as an alternative, and she quoted her father, who had previously described her as “a creative person.
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A good education in her view should help to stimulate creativity.
Creativity (Maya Angelou quote)
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However “creativity” is a slippery term.  Entire schools exist in universities devoted to “the creative industries;” despite the positive-sounding nature of the term, many of their members are caught in the educational treadmill of producing papers and/or research, or finding outside funding for projects, so as to ensure their futures.
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Failure (failure zone)
It would be great if we could adopt alternative visions of “creativity”for example, by encouraging our learners to rearrange what they know in order to discover something they do not know.  Maybe we need to remember what the fourth century BC philosopher Mencius once said: to promote an atmosphere of creativity we need to remember how “great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart.”
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I told my fourteen-year-old niece of how I used to amuse myself; as an only child, I didn’t have many friends and learned how to play on my own.  I used to make up stories, using my soft toys as characters; and subsequently wrote them down on an old typewriter.  Through this activity I learned how much I liked to write; I continue doing so to this day.  In other words, that “childlike heart” within me still blazes, even though it’s a long time since I played with my soft toys.
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A genuinely creative classroom values the “childlike heart” in all of its members, learners and educators alike.  It permits experiment; lets people take risks; and does not place any stigma on failure.  As Tim Harford once remarked, success always starts with failure as individuals learn from their mistakes and are encouraged to creative something new and different.  They can only achieve this in a mutually supportive atmosphere, once which recognizes that all of us, whatever our age and/or experience in life, have that childlike quality within us.
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Learnacy ZONE
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This is a far more important motivation for LEARNing than any of the rulescurricula, syllabi, and exams – that govern the most classrooms.  Thomas Edison was once asked by one of his laboratory attendants: “Mr. Edison, tell me what rules you want to observe?”  The great inventor replied crisply: “There ain’t no rules around here.  We’re tryin’ to accomplish somethin.'”  Exactly what that “somethin'” might be in the classroom should be determined through collaboration between educator and learners.  If everyone listens to each other, then they will learn to value their “childlike heart.”
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Risk-taking (quotes)
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None of these ideas can make my fourteen-year-old niece’s search for a good education any easier, as she decides whether to find a new school or stay at her existing one.  But at least by listening to her “childlike heart,” she might sustain her motivation; if she can find like-minded people to work with in any type of institution (the home, at school, in a private course, or wherever), then perhaps she can recognize the value of LEARNing.
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LEARNing vs TEACHing 02
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Maybe we should all recognize the importance of this.
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Laurence Raw

(aka @laurenceraw on Twitter)
Baskent University – Ankara, Turkey
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
http://baskent.academia.edu/LaurenceRaw
http://www.radiodramareviews.com

Going to the DOGS!

In Classroom Teaching, Guest BLOGGERS, The Paradigm Debate on 02/12/2012 at 9:40 am

dogs_surprised

I always loved that phrasebut not the idea of “greyhound racing”.

Aren’t the idioms of the English language bloody amazing? And, some people say we do not need “culture” to really LEARN a langwich

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Over the past few years (certainly since the publication of Teaching UNplugged by Luke Meddings and Scott Thornbury (in 2009) – lots of ELT professionals have been “going to the DOGME” more and more

Of course, going to the “dogs” is not really the best way to describe what all these “dogmeticians” are up to (unless you believe what you see in that little image).

….I just needed a “sexy” title to draw you all in!

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This is a guest post from Laurence Raw – prompted because I suggested that he would indeed enjoy the company of these “dogmetitas“.

He actually wanted to use the title – “On Sitting Down to Read Dogme ELT Once Again” (a title shamelessly borrowed from John Keats’ poem “On Sitting Down To Read King Lear Once Again”)!

But, I am the CBO of allthingslearningso I get the last say!

Dog (teeth close up)

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GUEST POST by Laurence Raw

I had come across the idea of Dogme ELT in the past, but had never reflected on it in any great depth until I was described by Tony Gurr as someone who might embrace its basic ideas.

With this in mind, I resolved to look into it a little bit further.

It is both a methodology and a movement, dedicated to principles such as interactivity, engagement, dialogism, scaffolding processes, empowerment, relevance and critical use.  TEACHing should be conversation-driven, using a minimum of materials, and concentrating on emergent language through task-based LEARNing.

Some might argue (and they do) that it represents an anti-establishment approach to language teaching.

New and Shiny (rocket dog)

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Scott Thornbury’s 2000 article sets forth the basic principles:

“Teaching should be done only using the resources that teachers and students bring to the classroom”;

“Learning takes place in the here-and-now”;

“Teaching – like talk – should centre on the local and relevant concerns of people in the room …. No methodological structures should interfere with, nor inhibit, the free flow of participant-driven input, output, and feedback”.

I am flattered to be placed in such exalted company.

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My basic conception of the classroom experience is based on the principles of interactivity and engagement: LEARNers and educators alike should approach the classroom experience as a shared activity, one whose outcomes might not be identifiable in advance. This is what I understand by the concept of the “here-and-now” – everyone should learn how to adapt to the demands of the moment.

I have to admit, however, that I’m a little worried by the idea of “local and relevant concerns.” Let me illustrate this with two short anecdotes.  In the last week I’ve had two “Aha-moments,” where learners have left me absolutely gobsmacked with what they have produced; the quality of their work was something I could never have predicted.  The more I work with them, the more I realize how little I know or understand about how individuals learn.  While assuming – perhaps too complacently – I understand their “local and relevant concerns,” I discover repeatedly that my assumptions are undercut.

LEARNing, for me…consists of the ability to adapt to shifting concerns, whose relevance changes from moment to moment; this is as significant for educators as it is for LEARNers.

The second “Aha-moment” came when we were working with something I’d last approached five years ago. As we worked, I suddenly understood something about the material that I’d never thought of before. I was inspired; class activities evolved like wildfire; and everyone was exhilarated at the end.

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What do such experiences tell me?

Whether you call it “Dogme ELT” or give it any other name, LEARNing – in any type of classroom, not just in language teaching – comprises a recurring sequence of “Aha-moments.”  Educators and learners alike have to strive to create such moments, both through collaboration and a willingness to adapt themselves to changing situations.

I have no idea what my learners’ “local and relevant concerns” are; likewise, my learners don’t understand my concerns.  But we can spend our time in the classroom trying our best to relate to each other in an open, problem-sharing environment. Like Scott (Luke, too) we might describe such exchanges as “input, output, and feedback;”

I prefer not to give them any names.  It’s just the way LEARNng works.

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Listening (doggy ears)

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If you want to LEARN more about the wicked, wicked ways of these “ELT evil-doers” – why not check out a few of these GREAT BLOGS

…and check out Anthony Gaughan’s süper “unplugged public library” for all the bedtime reading you need!

Questions, questions, questions…(Guest Post by Laurence Raw)

In Adult Learners, Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Guest BLOGGERS, Teacher Learning on 08/11/2012 at 7:55 pm
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Well, give a man an inch…on a blog, and he’ll want a bloody mile!
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A couple of days ago, Laurence did a super guest-post for us. He must have known it was pretty well-received…’cos he asked me to give him another one.
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Not a “rant” this time…but one of the most honest posts I have read for a while on “real LEARNing”!
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So, I’m going to shut up…and let him tell the story.
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Are you sitting comfortably?
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I’ve been fortunate enough to take on a class of graduate learners – the first time I’ve done so in many years.  It’s a pleasurable experience, but also a tough one.
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The reason is this: I’m continually being asked similar questions by learners.  “Is this right …?” “Am I doing it right?” “Do you approve of what I’m doing?” “Can I do it better?”
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My stock answer to such questions is: “I don’t know.  What do you think?”
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However…this often leads to even more confusion.
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I recently came across a site explaining why learners find Top-Down Learning so congenial: it’s because they are “given the ‘Big Picture’ first, and then, maybe, the details of what’s involved in the process.” This may sound acceptable at first, but how do we know precisely what the “Big Picture” is? Is it defined by the educator, the institution, the learner, or a combination of all three?
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My graduate learners seem to be in no doubt: it’s the institution and the educator who determine their agenda
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In my spare time, I devote a couple of hours each week to teaching my thirteen-year-old niece.  Hitherto she has found the task of learning English a difficult one: many of the activities assigned to her have proved difficult for her to complete, and her grades have been correspondingly low.  However this summer she made the effort to improve herself through immersion: watching films, reading books, and trying to converse with as many people in English as she could.
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The results have been fascinating: now she is more than happy to communicate in English, but more importantly, she wants to ask questions – about my life, about her own life, and the different ways in which we were brought up.
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Asking questions is the key to all learning.
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Children learn by asking questions. New recruits learn by asking questions. It is the simplest and most effective way of learning. Brilliant thinkers never stop asking questions because they know that this is the best way to gain deeper insights. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, has said: “We run this company on questions, not answers.’ He knows that if you keep asking questions you can keep finding better answers.  
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My thirteen-year-old niece has understood that asking questions lies at the foundation of improving her language abilitiesInstead of completing endless assignments, ask a question. Intelligent questions stimulate, provoke, inform and inspire. Questions help us to teach as well as to learn.
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Top-Down Learning may be safe for my graduate learners, but it discourages them from asking questions.  Everything is nicely prepared and packaged for them, just like packets of frozen food in a supermarket.  The only way I can encourage them to learn is to ask questions of them, and encourage them to ask questions of themselves in response
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Maybe, just maybe…I should get my thirteen-year-old niece to come and give them a lesson in learning.  If she had sufficient self-confidence, I would certainly do so.  It would be an interesting reversal of accepted wisdom: the further you advance up the educational ladder, the more you are supposed to ‘know.’
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I wonder how it would work in practice?
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Laurence Raw
(aka @laurenceraw on Twitter)
Baskent University – Ankara, Turkey.
Editor: Journal of American Studies of Turkey
http://baskent.academia.edu/LaurenceRaw
http://www.radiodramareviews.com

LOL on LOL….(from “guest blogger” – Laurence Raw)

In Guest BLOGGERS on 25/02/2011 at 5:07 pm

I wanted to try and get a few “guest-bloggers” in to share their recent learning experiences.

Laurence (who goes by the name “LOL”) pointed out that he’d never blogged….so I signed him up!

His post is a keen reminder of the beauty of “a-ha moments”….and the power of transdisciplinary collaboration….

Last week I met two colleagues from the University of Texas – one from Theatre Studies, the other from a department of Literature.

I was interested in what they were doing, and how they approached the subject of “all-things-learning”.

Lucien, the Theatre Studies colleague, began to talk about ‘adaptation‘ – with particular regard to Konstantin Stanislavski’s ideas of training young actors to adapt themselves to changing circumstances on the stage. They might have been well rehearsed, but each performance they give is different: good actors learn to adjust their technique to accommodate themselves.

As he spoke, I had a sudden flash of insight: Lucien was not simply describing a process exclusive to Theatre Studies; he was referring to the entire learning experience.

Every one of us makes the same type of adjustment – a process which is both conscious (when we learn new things from books or other information sources) and unconscious (for example, when we learn to adapt to new surroundings in schools).

This is what learning represents: once we become aware of that, then we can learn how to “think round a problem and approach it in different ways,” as Stanislavski tells us. For more, check out Phil Gyford’s commentary on Stanislavski

Next day I met James, from the University of Texas’ department of literature.

He told me about some work he’d been doing on the relationship between psychology and literature.

I yawned, and began to nod off, until I heard mention of Jean Piaget and his ideas of adaptation, more precisely summarized as a process by which children – in reading as well as in other walks of life – learn both to incorporate new ideas within existing mental structures, as well as formulating new structures of their own.

This is part of a human desire for cognitive balance or equilibration; to achieve that balance, children learn to adapt.

Again I was galvanized into life by the idea that, in this model, learning becomes something like a stream of consciousness: children (as well as adults) do not necessarily need to learn how to learn, but rather understand that this process happens all the time, from the moment they achieve awareness of the world outside.

If this is something they could be made more aware of, then perhaps the whole process of teaching-and-learning might become easier to understand.

Now…..who says that talking to colleagues from other disciplines isn’t interesting?

[LOL – you are a “star”! If anyone else is interested in sharing a similar “learning experience”, let me know]