What is it to be active?

Posted by Edward Willatt on Friday, September 17, 2010 Under: Education

An obsession with measuring activity means that it needs to be obvious and unmistakable.  This is the only way we can be sure about it and calm our fears.  When it comes to teacher training, such as course I am currently undertaking, it is often assumed that one is passive when one is listening.  ‘Lecturing is the least effective form of teaching’, we assume.  It is supposed that we retain the least information if we are listening.  We must ask ‘Are my students active?’  We must prove our worth by orchestrating ongoing and ever changing activity, a hyperactive seminar room or lecture theatre.  Yet we never ask what it is to be active.  We don’t consider what is at the root of this whirl of activity.  Often this brings with it a heavy emphasis upon the experiences of students, assuming that learning must build upon prior knowledge.  Thus discussions need only be prompted and then the activity can begin in earnest.  If there is a pedagogy specific to philosophy it would need to question these things.

I would argue that a lecture at which listeners are passive is a bad lecture.  It is delivered by someone lacking in rhetorical skills, unable to energize the lecture theatre and bring students with them in their explication and elucidation.  This is not something that can be measured; it is not the sort of activity that is amenable to the current concern with proving beyond any possible doubt that one is a ‘responsible’ and effective teacher.  We must make activity overwhelmingly obvious.  This becomes a problem when the experiences of students get in the way of their learning, when it is not a case of building upon prior knowledge but of delivering a shock and a dose of confusion.  A philosophical pedagogy would have to respond to the concern of philosophy to construct accounts that do not presuppose what they are accounting for.  An account of experience (such as the one Kant provides) could not be taught on the basis of the previous knowledge of students.  This may be of great assistance but would not enable tutor and students to join together in a move from the empirical to the transcendental.  This is crucial to an understanding of Kantian philosophy.  No group of people could enter into a transcendental account of experience without undergoing this move.  The accumulation of knowledge and experience cannot be drawn upon if we are to account for knowledge and experience.  Otherwise we presuppose that we are seeking to account for.  This would have to be recognised in how the subject is taught.  It would suggest that we can be active when listening, no matter how frustrating it might be for some that we cannot make this activity blindingly obvious and overwhelmingly evident.    

In : Education 



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What is it to be active?

Posted by Edward Willatt on Friday, September 17, 2010 Under: Education

An obsession with measuring activity means that it needs to be obvious and unmistakable.  This is the only way we can be sure about it and calm our fears.  When it comes to teacher training, such as course I am currently undertaking, it is often assumed that one is passive when one is listening.  ‘Lecturing is the least effective form of teaching’, we assume.  It is supposed that we retain the least information if we are listening.  We must ask ‘Are my students active?’  We must prove our worth by orchestrating ongoing and ever changing activity, a hyperactive seminar room or lecture theatre.  Yet we never ask what it is to be active.  We don’t consider what is at the root of this whirl of activity.  Often this brings with it a heavy emphasis upon the experiences of students, assuming that learning must build upon prior knowledge.  Thus discussions need only be prompted and then the activity can begin in earnest.  If there is a pedagogy specific to philosophy it would need to question these things.

I would argue that a lecture at which listeners are passive is a bad lecture.  It is delivered by someone lacking in rhetorical skills, unable to energize the lecture theatre and bring students with them in their explication and elucidation.  This is not something that can be measured; it is not the sort of activity that is amenable to the current concern with proving beyond any possible doubt that one is a ‘responsible’ and effective teacher.  We must make activity overwhelmingly obvious.  This becomes a problem when the experiences of students get in the way of their learning, when it is not a case of building upon prior knowledge but of delivering a shock and a dose of confusion.  A philosophical pedagogy would have to respond to the concern of philosophy to construct accounts that do not presuppose what they are accounting for.  An account of experience (such as the one Kant provides) could not be taught on the basis of the previous knowledge of students.  This may be of great assistance but would not enable tutor and students to join together in a move from the empirical to the transcendental.  This is crucial to an understanding of Kantian philosophy.  No group of people could enter into a transcendental account of experience without undergoing this move.  The accumulation of knowledge and experience cannot be drawn upon if we are to account for knowledge and experience.  Otherwise we presuppose that we are seeking to account for.  This would have to be recognised in how the subject is taught.  It would suggest that we can be active when listening, no matter how frustrating it might be for some that we cannot make this activity blindingly obvious and overwhelmingly evident.    

In : Education 



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