I watched a skit a few days ago by a Canadian comedian. The comedian highlighted two kinds of professionals. Those that that entered their professions because their parents advised them. And those that joined going against the pressure from their environments. It was funny watching the skit because the comedian made all the comments in the right places. A few days ago, I met someone who worked in the medical industry and I asked her why she joined her chosen profession.
Surprisingly, her response was because her parents asked her some 50 years ago. I suggested whether she might change profession if something better came along and she said yes. I met someone else and asked him a similar question. His response was similar to the first person’s. His parent’s wishes. I see nothing wrong with changing jobs nor being a doctor and considering something else. What strikes me as odd is the reason for taking the job in the first place, especially considering how the preparation for the individual concerned requires many resources, it just seems that there must be a point where others cannot maintain interest in pursuing a profession without reflecting about the matter.
The time it takes me to do something, and the amount of effort required depends on what I want to achieve. Sometimes, I consider that what I am setting my sights on helps with how I am approaching my goals. So it is changing. When I consider someone else’s goal and what I need to do to achieve it unless I am more or less sure of what it is I am setting my sight on, I might find one route and then consider another later on, or do one task one way and later on another. So success is in what I am doing which creates enjoyment for me because of how I am trying to achieve my goals. I can reflect on my goals better and how I try to achieve the goals also. When I consider that joining higher education and taking that journey towards improving my self, there is much demand on what the institution should do help me reflect more on how to achieve my goals. Perhaps this is the reason for my surprise from speaking with those I meet in different professional settings about their motive for starting out in their professions. As we continue to discuss, their love of the profession and excelling in the field gives them a sense of achievement and motive for continuing down their chosen path. So success for them can also be attributed to their accomplishment and proof that they can do what others have pressured them to do. Education can do more to improve the reflective capacity of individuals.
In the Middle East, especially, Saudi Arabia, I find that young millennial minds are just that and more. They ask themselves these questions and even question their identities. They have seen the changes between what their parents have been through and what they are experiencing today. So, jobs for life, jobs because their parents said so, and jobs, because they don’t like it, are not part of their options. These kinds of students find it difficult to think deeply but given the option to consider what success means for them, their first point of call is often themselves. When I ask them what they want to focus on in their programs, they often have some idea about the field of interest. Here, I consider it the job of the institute to make the choices clearer and allow the options to be achievable based on what the students can accomplish. Students also have access to never-ending data! Mobile technology and Shaikh Google regularly give them information based on what they ask in a language they understand in an instant.
The excitement of working in higher education can begin by asking why we work in the field in the first place. A little bit of reflection goes a long way so we don’t end up being on the wrong end of the skit!
In this brief article I will highlight the cart containing stakeholders, their views on learning, and the coachman who directs the horse towards an approachable strategy. I used to think stakeholders represented only students, teachers and administrators. Now, the definition covers government agencies, business interests and international bodies. The international bodies include groups representing professional certification organisations and college accreditors implicitly supporting government agencies.
Any language program manager can place learners at a disadvantage. If learning is viewed as inputs like teaching, covering units and examinations, there is a need to know consequences of using chalk and board with digital natives. Also, the process of collecting information about students or preparing self-study reports produces learning beyond the outcome. Hence, shaping outcomes is the method for obtaining information built on what forms the view of the data. The data needs to meet the change initiative.
McCaffery describes change as a constant. To a certain extent, I agree so long as solutions for problems work. People need to eat, that does not change, what changes are the means which we use to achieve such basic needs. For example, change can be thought of as economical or developmental. Laying off staff and increasing profit, that is economical. Building teams and supporting the transformation of staff that is linked to building the organisational capacity. Fixed in these two initiatives is a difference that does not change, however, the methods used to execute these two initiatives differ. In that contrastive analysis, can a link with strategy be classified as linear especially considering that eating can be as messy as managing?
A long time ago, I could not get the support of the department to change the method of teaching at a language program. I spoke to each member individually to find out what was blocking them from the action. I then asked for support after producing a report about the course book I would like to use with my students over a semester. After that, I asked the administrator for assistance with a new pilot scheme. The entire department supported the initiative for change through the risk I was willing to take, which to me was deliberate, calculated and based on my instinct that it will work. For instance, when students do not know how to learn, they are often reluctant to participate in class, and when the students are used to being spoon-fed, they need to fall into a developmental category of change once they end up in the classroom. The success of the pilot led to measures in place that include a placement test, placing students in levels and splitting the productive and receptive skills for variety in teaching.
I would not call my success based on being an expert, but in a situated context, I might have been more competent than my colleagues. However, I believe those present at the time have also gained. The experience could be utilised to achieve other initiatives, had I known about changing the culture, values and attitude at the time.
In education, the cart can come before the horse, but only when contextualising. After that, it is important to reflect for the type of change necessary to use the kind of method that makes a difference. Making a difference and being part of any change initiative is an excellent aspect of leadership quality which for a manager at a language program is crucial.
Here is the thing about learning today I have been thinking of lately. We seem to always be under tremendous pressure to conform. Either we want to be caught doing the right thing, or we want to find others doing the right thing. What about actually trying to do things right because we believe it is the right thing and the right way to do things?
Governments expect learning organisations to follow through plans that transform their societies. Following through leads to a question of achieving success through a comprehensive plan. Following on from the dichotomised idea, the various entities that make up the organisation ensure each unit has a vision that fits the image. It is no use having a visionary who does all the work, do others walk the same path? Now path leads to activity and all the activity taking place around the units, centres, and departments require people. People as always need something to use to make sense of their lives. Observing people, I would say it is not still the case of different folks using different strokes to tow the line.
At an organisation I would like to call successful recently, I have observed numerous attempts at taking pressure off governments by introducing powerful alliances with international bodies. One great thing about this kind of success is using international bodies to certify operational outputs. The strategic move ensures the folks watching interpret success correctly. From the outside.
Now homing in on the inside, you start by asking how far did one activity support us reaching our overall targets. So, for the many people that need to be seen doing the right thing, if you are like me, doing the right thing for the right reasons has more transformational power on the overall activities of the organisation. The factor for change that supports transformations and who does not want transformation that reaches the national level, right?
Right reasons are where accreditors help out with their measures of success. I think it helps to get an organisation halfway there. Perception might make a quality assurance attractive. But intending to change is all about the degree of change. So recalling the overall plan, the right reason will lead to questioning how much operations support meeting the overall plan for success. As a leader, this is where training and development kick in. We want great people to do great things believing in the comprehensive vision. Greatness comes from thinking about relationships of activities with the concept. How much do you incorporate the overall view of the individualised plan?
I will focus on four assumptions in general and how they formulate around higher education (HE) and why they require acknowledging if not some degree of appreciation. These include: (1) what higher education is; (2) valuing HE; (3) contrasting HE with people from different backgrounds; and finally, (4) HE’s impact on organisational learning.
Webster defines HE as education “beyond secondary” received within colleges and universities (2017). Curiously, Barnett (2004) separates higher education from university so HE and university seem not mutually exclusive terms. That
education produced by the superior Western culture masks the non-Western as the ultimate customer (Altbach, 2004; Brook et al., 2015; Chan, Ho, & Ku, 2011; Long, 1998; Rappleye, 2007; Taylor & Albasri, 2014). The utility value attached to education hath no bounds, it seems.
education has always been “hot” makes the appeal for it all the more attractive to which Brook, Fergie, Maeorg, and Michell categorised as neo-liberal social imagery (2015, pp. 129–130). Therefore, in a saturated market the product clouded as Western
Valuing higher education can be seen as an increase of both government support and university enrolments. For example, in Saudi Arabia due to government support, the increase of students who studied at university for a 3-year minimum program has gone “from 432,000 in 2001 to 1.5 million in 2014” (Habibi, 2015, para. 25). Also, observing education in Malaysia produced terms like ‘over-education’ and ‘productivity’ or the value attached to “human capital or education, experience, and training” (Zakariya, 2013, p. 268). What is clear is that the majority of individuals in developing countries and their governments’ value higher education even though how much adverse value they attach to the philosophies of education remain contestable. For instance, such contentions have been debated as “one’s understanding of the natural world, one’s relationship with the natural world, and understanding of causality” remain central components to the type of rationality (Cobern, 1996). Then, what happens when those non-western governments hold different views of such concepts of rationality might impact their assessment of what it means to be scientific and to an even greater extent cultural? These, in turn, might affect the cultural view attached to concepts such as higher education. Moreover, where language is concerned, in Twisted roots: The Western impact on Asian higher education, Altbach maintains colonial links between countries ruled through the British empire in the form of an attachment to “learning, textbooks, scientific research, communication with colleagues overseas – everything.” (1989, p. 16). It is, therefore, not strange that the type of valuation of higher education itself will be based on a specific culture even though it is about a specific type of learning organisation.
In Western countries, control of public educational entities shifting to more private ones laid claim on educational reform (Ball & Youdell, 2007). At least it is putting it mildly because according to the neo-liberals mentioned in the introduction above, shifting such costs of education edges closer to the individual rather than governments or the state (Lynch, 2006). As a result of such shifting responsibilities coupled with a massification of university, it is no wonder that accountability and the voice of systemisation has grown stronger (Alexander, 2000, p. 413). Though it is difficult to contrast Western universities with non-Western ones, it is possible to have faculties with individuals that hail from Western countries along with their culture, rational, and critical approach to assumptions.
In my professional field, many colleagues have compared their curriculums, programs and language centres with one another while evaluating them (Boud & Walker, 1998). While such reflections can be questioned when contrasted as part of a single loop learning curve it is possible that such assumptions also aim to undermine what may be seen as another us versus them mentality or at best a superstitious way to learn (Bess & Dee, 2008). This can in part be blamed on the type of development mentality some team members held regarding resources allocated for development without real accountability taking place (Dwivedi & Nef, 1982, p. 72). However, to a larger extent, the type of assumption needed to revamp the organisation may also have required less individualised learning, more systemized thinking (Smith, 2001) and a questioning of the basis and assumption of the department’s goals and objectives (Bess & Dee, 2008). As an individual, I can honestly say I value and even use some of these assumptions in practice, but until now, never thought of the organisation as itself having a learning curve which shakes all the assumptions that maintain the integrity of the organisation’s structure.
To sum up, understanding HE and all its complex contexts and meanings has been a slow process, an inevitable happening process, one possibly tagged with certain amounts of personal conflicts.
Alexander, F. K. (2000). The Changing Face of Accountability: Monitoring and Assessing Institutional Performance in Higher Education. The Journal of Higher Education, 71(4), 411–431. https://doi.org/10.2307/2649146
Altbach, P. G. (1989). Twisted roots: The Western impact on Asian higher education. Higher Education, 8(1), 9–29.
Bess, J. L., & Dee, J. R. (2008). Understanding college and university organization: Theories for effective policy and practice. Understanding College and University Organization Theories for Effective Policy and Practice.
Taylor, C., & Albasri, W. (2014). The Impact of Saudi Arabia King Abdullah’s Scholarship Program in the U.S. Open Journal of Social SciencesS. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 2(2), 109–118. https://doi.org/10.4236/jss.2014.210013
In this third post in the Divergent series, I will speculate on the significance of symbols within learning in a social context, their implications on the set and in my professional practice.
I find it useful to isolate speech that is ‘self-directed’ or personal vs a ‘social’ especially where a first language L1 may be distinguished from a second language L2. Furthermore, a language in the confines of this week may be “subject to manipulation” in order to attain the language user’s goals. Also, such a manipulation of tools opens up the opportunity to view goals and languages within a cognitive realm whereby socially directed language may be further examined. Finally, examining languages suggests Nunan, requires demarcating discourse on the basis of the mode such as written or spoken.
Likewise, where two forms of a language may likely be utilised such as in written or spoken modes, the concept of bilingualism or diglossia impacts the isolation of speech. For example, Ferguson established low (L) and high (H) ‘varieties’ of the same language where the acquisition of the former (L) may be “formal” and the latter “requiring less teaching and more norm and rule imitation”.
Besides, Wells (1994) compared the works of Halliday and Vygotsky especially on the theory of learning, allotting Halliday’s view of language as an instrument, Vygotsky’s as a method for realising objectives of social living (Ellis, 2008). In my opinion, combining all the above theories of language suggest a strong link between what an individual may contribute towards describing realities, interpreting them and more significantly valuing them. Powerful tools for meaning making when apprehended.
The realisation also then becomes easier to see and question when it relates to individuals joining a doctoral programme, that evokes their learning skills, including their beliefs and emotions, their tendencies to perform collective meaning making, reflections as well as sharing a collective habit which ensures all learners regardless of their knowledge or skill competence contribute towards one another’s learning. The question relates to how learning socially takes place without the significance of language in the process.
Where meaning making allows a learner to switch to the L2, it seems that the understanding of reality attributed by a language may have a universal applicability as suggested above by Ferguson, where in this case the language reference off the set may be represented by L and online the academic language may be represented by H (Smith, n.d.). Therefore, while interacting on the set, pertinent becomes the need to further have a regulated and structured symbol for the learner to refer to when in need of either assistance or clarification. For example, Hess recommended, where the inability of a teacher to monitor large multilevel learners’ “turn taking, negotiating meaning”, collaborative learning, due to able students having the opportunity to “explain and learn” through their explanations as well as listen and stack up their patience while their peers contribute towards the learning. As the learning uses languages, the content itself such as the topic of discussion may allow one individual to be able student one week and another student the same student the less able or listener (reader) the next.
There have been numerous times at work where meetings have been conducted and everyone has received feedback or an agenda has been set. When the time comes for execution, not one but many individuals ask any person around them for assistance such that rank (full/associate/teacher), age, expertise (experience), or even qualification does not cross the mind of the asker. Though they have physically been present, their cognitive presence remains accountable, possibly. Similar occurrences have taken place with electronic notifications where reports discussing the findings of a collaborative work from a department have been shared. At the time of implementing the findings, one resemblance to the meetings occurs of an evaluative nature which the report covered but was not identified by the reader. It may be possible that the listener or reader (all speak different L1) lose some of the meaning of the content of the spoken or written discourse due to the nature of the interaction, however, the most significant possibility this week may be stem from what Vygotsky describes as the impact of “formative assessment” while learning which allows immediate correction depending on the situation rather than correction at the end of the learning.
To sum up, processing symbols may mean one thing to one person and another to a different person, however, the interpretation may require linguistic proficiency such that learning may occur as close to their academic values which may also be interpreted as meaningful learning depending on the basis which the academic refers to when writing or reading the content. Also, while collaborating such meaning-making may allow a sharing of roles which aid learning through a more formative assessment practices.
Ferguson, C. A. (1971). Diglossia. In Language structure and language use: essays (Vol. 1). Stanford: US: Stanford University Press.
Hess, N. (2001). Teaching large multilevel classes. Scot Thonbury: UK: Cambridge University Press.
Nunan, D. (1992). Research methods in language learning. Cambridge: UK: Cambridge University Press.
Springer, L., Stanne, M. E., & Donovan, S. S. (1999). Effects of small-group learning on undergraduates in science, mathematics, engineering and technology: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 69(1), 21–51. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543069001021
Wenger, E. (2010). Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems: the Career of a Concept. In C. Blackmore (Ed.), Social Learning Systems and Communities of Practice (pp. 179–198). London: Springer London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-84996-133-2_11
In this second post in the Divergent Series, I would like to look at some theoretical implications on learning in a professional context.
Giddens relates specific terminology to analytical levels of research approaches for small or large scale level respectively termed as micro and macro (Giddens, 2009). So, a key point to consider when discussing social constructivism is the further significance conflict plays within a learning environment. For example, Macpherson and Clark (2009) echoed how documentation of procedures hardly translates into knowing in action especially where novices and experts need to interact so deep learning reaches those who may be in need of it most. As individuals enrol, finance, and continue their studies on programmes such as this doctoral one, the differences in their individual learning performances comes into question. Moreover, it is possible to ask whether such a situation motivates and affects the student towards learning which reduces the gaps that may exist between individual. In fact, after reading Springer et al. (1999), I realised how the learning environment impacts the learner significantly that it contributes towards attrition or student drop out. So on the individual or macro level, the learner remains motivated to learn within a group due to a shared value such as goals achieved through a collective process.
On the means of reducing such gaps, as an individual communicating with an international cohort, unless I am willing to participate as a learner, it might seem that I will not gain as much from the learning exchange which might endorse surface learning maybe even allowing such surface notions in the mind of my colleagues. Therefore, how the learning culture transfers from the collective to the individual is significant within the social learning context especially where modelling, copying and noticing the roles everyone (student/teacher) plays.
Ellis (2008) identifies the willingness to communicate as a property of the learner which plays a significant portion in pushing the student to participate in different roles using the language as a context for interacting, connecting with content and enabling further linking with others who share similar willingness. Also, Lave and Wenger (1991) identified groups of individuals working together to a common goal, with learning materials and sharing similar levels of competencies. Therefore, the individual may be persuaded to act in the best interest of the group by adjusting the individual ego and unwillingness to participate negative learning qualities. On the other hand, thinking of the group’s best interest assures the learning of the individual through accountability measures such as individual grading for the individual role partaken during the group activities.
At work, some students do not value reading from their course books nor fully grasp the advantages of using the material as the basis for further discussions (Perkins, 2006). Hence, rather than ‘force’ them to read as expected and answer comprehension questions, I copy the paragraphs which may number one to five depending on the level of the class in order to allow them to adopt new learning habits. Then, I prepare four questions for each paragraph. After that, I assign students letters depending on the number of paragraphs. Finally, groups consisting of different paragraphs, questions, members with tasks sit around to read, answer, discuss, then write up as follow up to individualise the exercise and provide further critical thinking without (me) the teacher having any role apart from clarifying instruction. Such activities I prepare for students agrees with the findings of Springer et al. (1999) and in my professional context, such jigsaw reading using cooperative principles for reading fall under what Ghaith and Bouzeineddine (2003) described as jigsaw reading.
To recap, the theory of social learning aims to enhance student motivation, increase confidence through engaging the emotional side of a learner and jigsaw reading supports the theory of group learning through using social constructivist practice including cooperative and situated learning practices.
Ghaith, G. M., & Bouzeineddine, A. R. (2003). RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN READING ATTITUDES, ACHIEVEMENT, AND LEARNERS PERCEPTIONS OF THEIR JIGSAW II COOPERATIVE LEARNING EXPERIENCE. Reading Psychology,24(2). https://doi.org/10.1080/02702710390197444
Springer, L., Stanne, M. E., & Donovan, S. S. (1999). Effects of Small-Group Learning on Undergraduates in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology: A Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 69(1), 21–51. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543069001021
This discussion shifts towards the structure that provides meaning for both the “agent and agency” so that the individual may use those “unique variables” that enable more positive contributions towards others’ learning in the same structure.
Atherton describes “legitimate peripheral participation” as the place where an individual (adult) focuses on how to progress while working alongside others similar in their level within a structure that progresses with their understanding of meaningful knowledge. This level of abstraction seems to promote the individual’s method of meaning-making rather than an instructor’s approach to such a promotion. In fact, Springer, Stanne, and Donovan (1999) also appear to concur by suggesting a “shift in emphasis” as an effective means for learning, through an individual’s understanding of how to learn, assuming that meaning making here equates to learning.
Also, within an agency agent model, a record of all the individuals within an online environment suggest that progression with repetition and reflection agrees in such a way that allows easy modelling of practice encouraging effective participation to take place. In order to understand this, Eraut makes an interesting distinction between competency in a general and a specific profession which causes the meaning of competence to also take a general and a specific definition. The implication for the progression with repetition and reflection seems to suggest that competency perceived by an individual of other’s within the learning structure causes the copying of practice, hence, learning through participation moves progressively and effectively.
To a certain extent, I agree with this model where time is not a factor. For example, at work, I created a model set where the managers and teachers share information when evaluating their programmes. Such a model, in this capacity, allows for competition to be non-existent as the product from the collaboration between all the members is key. However, this may take place through dialogue in the form of reflection, especially when the involved members understanding that learning is not a trickled down hierarchical formula and competence as a skill may appear within one person one minute and move to someone else the next. The time factor kicks in when the members actually realise what the implication and expectation of the evaluation mean to them, and only then, do they contribute which indicates that understanding is crucial for enabling an individual to actively participate more positively towards others’ learning in the same structure. After the initial setup of the environment, some of the members produce outstanding work which when incorporated at the right time also enhances the evaluation along with the process itself. Also, another distinct feature when contrasting the situated model with a learning set suggests that after doing away with a facilitator, presenter and members within the learning set, our model for this week incorporates and recognises technology as an aid of collaboration between individuals working towards their learning. In such a situation, it requires engagement with content, the design of content and an almost near certain interaction between individuals, content and their working environment for learning to be meaningful.
To sum up, meaningful learning may take place for an individual even when the individual seems not participating on the set. Also, as the acquisition of skills takes place, individuals shift from different levels of competence depending on the content covered as exposure to some experience and knowledge brought onto the learning makes the individuals progress backwards and forward, and that fine when some learners appear to sit on the fence. Finally, the use of technology provides an avenue for researching within the field of collaborative learning.
Eraut, M. (1994). Developing Professional Knowledge and Competence. Falmer Press.
Springer, L., Stanne, M. E., & Donovan, S. S. (1999). Effects of Small-Group Learning on Undergraduates in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology: A Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 69(1), 21–51. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543069001021
This is a presentation at a conference for English language learning and teaching. It is about the use of assessment to help you plan your next lesson rather than giving students a test to finish a learning cycle.Check it out.