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[Xmca-l] Re: Request for advice

David, I'll make an exception this time.



Helena Worthen
Vietnam blog: helenaworthen.wordpress.com

On Jan 4, 2016, at 2:19 PM, David Kellogg wrote:

> A number of discussants have made the suggestion of small groups,
> tutorials, peer presentations, and so on, and this is an excellent
> suggestion. But we need know—and be able to explain—exactly why it is
> excellent, in what this excellence consists of, and what the limitations of
> the excellence are, because we often do find that in situations like the
> one which Helena is describing (situations like the ones where I have spent
> the last three and a half decades teaching), when we try to introduce small
> groups, tutorials, and peer presentations that we’ve only multiplied the
> problems that we started with and sometimes even exacerbated them. For if
> the professor has only a minimal grasp of English, and if the students find
> it almost impossible to have a conversation about the topic even when the
> professor is prompting them, we have to ask what the effect of removing or
> sidelining or backgrounding the professor will be. Many students feel—and
> the evidence is that they are not entirely wrong—that the effect is to
> remove or to background the only source of English and the main source of
> conceptual knowledge.
> The argument has to be taken seriously, for at least three reasons. First
> of all, as I said, there’s a lot of evidence that shows that although the
> professor undoubtedly feels a great deal of relief that his or her poor
> grasp of English is no longer the centre of the student’s critical
> attention, all that’s really been accomplished is to move the centre of
> attention to a student who in some cases bears it even less well than the
> professor did. Often the results of small groups are not noticeably better
> than the results of teacher fronted classes, except in “skills based”
> classes which offer practice to learners, e.g. conversation classes, and in
> the case of conceptual knowledge based classes the results are sometimes
> dramatically worse. In fact, Hywel Coleman’s large scale studies in Nigeria
> showed that there really wasn’t any particular advantage for small classes
> over large classes, given highly motivated students (and the autodidacts
> amongst us can easily see why this might be).
> Secondly, even if there were no objective evidence on the side of large
> classes and against groupwork, there is an important subjective argument.
> Many learners, right or wrong, feel they learn better from a professor than
> from their peers, just as we sometimes feel that we learn better from our
> peers than from ourselves (or our children). This subjective argument is
> particularly important because I think one reason why groupwork and peer
> seminar have such clout with us is that, unlike Professor Silverstein, we
> are more interested in empowering our learners than merely informing them,
> yet again, of the ways they are disempowered. The argument that groupwork
> and peer seminars are right because they empower learners appears to be
> unanswerable—but suppose the learners use this power to call for the return
> of large professor led classes? The argument is, once again, unanswerable,
> and I think it shows the dangers of confusing issues that are pedagogical
> (and therefore social, political) with issues that are ethical (and
> therefore interpersonal, moral). The personal is NOT political; they are
> two very different, if linked, levels of being.
> But thirdly I think the argument in favor of large classes deserves to be
> taken seriously because it will help us get beneath the surface and find
> out what it is about small classes that is pedagogically more effective. It
> is certainly not the case that all small classes are pedagogically
> effective nor is it the case that large classes never are. Is it SIMPLY an
> aesthetic-political preference, that small is beautiful? Is it once again
> something we all favor for the convenience of the instructor rather than
> for the comfort of the student? Or is there something about the shape of
> actual discourse that we should be attending to, not least because it might
> be transferable to larger classes? Does this mysterious factor, having to
> do with the shape of actual discourse, apply equally to so-called “content”
> subjects, where the emphasis is on what Vygotsky calls “science concepts”
> and to everyday conversation classes?
> (But...I am well over Helena's one screen limit, and I feel the cold clammy
> hand of her hook on my throat....)
> David Kellogg
> Macquarie University
> On Mon, Jan 4, 2016 at 10:14 AM, Helena Worthen <helenaworthen@gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> Hmm, this will take me some research to check out. Thank you, Michael -
>> However, I was given a Cross-Cultural leadership class to teach (in
>> English) that drew from a syllabus placed online by an MIT professor. I
>> said yes just to see what it would be like. It was a skimpy syllabus that
>> relied heavily on the kind of student who would show up in a MIT class
>> (multi-national and academically skilled) and the readings were mostly from
>> Amazon; you got a button to click and buy. I was told that the instructor's
>> lecture notes were all on line but what was actually on line was something
>> he probably wrote in an hour.
>> I had to re-write the class, of course.
>> Helena Worthen
>> helenaworthen@gmail.com
>> Vietnam blog: helenaworthen.wordpress.com
>> On Jan 3, 2016, at 9:26 PM, Glassman, Michael wrote:
>>> Hi Helena,
>>> There is a possibility that your university is attempting to follow the
>> Open Educational Resource model that is being promoted by UNESCO (that is
>> just a guess).  Are they using OpenCourseware, which started at MIT, where
>> major universities post their curriculum and some related resources in
>> their native language (mostly at this point in English?)  A number of
>> universities similar to yours are attempting to follow this model.  However
>> UNESCO itself recognizes the problem that you describe.  There is a second
>> part to the OER movement which involves Learning Objects.  These are
>> locally developed, much smaller approaches to teaching - even taking parts
>> of OpenCourseware and experimenting with them in local classrooms and then
>> posting them to share and in the best possible worlds discuss with other
>> universities in Learning Object Repositories.   African Virtual University
>> is a good model for this.  You can make one an argument that the university
>> can achieve the type of recognition is requires by developing a Learning
>> Objects Repository for Southeast Asia.
>>> Michael
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: xmca-l-bounces+mglassman=ehe.ohio-state.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu
>> [mailto:xmca-l-bounces+mglassman=ehe.ohio-state.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu] On
>> Behalf Of Helena Worthen
>>> Sent: Saturday, January 02, 2016 11:39 PM
>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity <xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu>
>>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Request for advice
>>> Thank you, Elinami.
>>> H
>>> Helena Worthen
>>> helenaworthen@gmail.com
>>> Vietnam blog: helenaworthen.wordpress.com
>>> On Jan 3, 2016, at 11:32 AM, Elinami Swai wrote:
>>>> Dear Helena.
>>>> Your dilemma resonates with what we are experiencing in Tanzania. As a
>>>> post colonial country, we have been grappling with the issue of
>>>> language of instruction for a very long time. Our education system has
>>>> been jogging between Kiswahili and English and for a long time we had
>>>> settled on Kiswahili for all the subjects in elementary level (primary
>>>> 1-7) and English for secondary  to university level.
>>>> Talk of silences in classrooms. Here and there you could hear a sound
>>>> of broken English from the teachers. The end product of such a process
>>>> does not need to be described here.
>>>> Of recent, the new policy has granted the use of both languages
>>>> (Kiswahili and English).
>>>> In your case, think of code-switching and code-mixing. Another
>>>> strategy is team teaching (check Stanford University).
>>>> Kind Regards,
>>>> Elinami
>>>> On 03/01/2016, Annalisa Aguilar <annalisa@unm.edu> wrote:
>>>>> Helena,
>>>>> Is it possible to ignite their imaginations around the concept of a
>> seminar?
>>>>> Or dare I say, peer-learning / study groups?
>>>>> Vera devised the peer-exam, which is really cool, how about that?
>>>>> I don't think peer-exam technically qualifies as an "Ivy-League method"
>>>>> (though it certainly is innovative), but it's peer-led learning, and
>>>>> that may be useful for overcoming the obstacles you and your teachers
>> face?
>>>>> So those are my (naive) pieces of broccoli and spinach for your
>>>>> Vietnamese noodle soup.
>>>>> Kind regards,
>>>>> Annalisa
>>>> --
>>>> Dr. Elinami Swai
>>>> Senior Lecturer
>>>> Associate Dean
>>>> Coordinator, Postgraduate Studies
>>>> Faculty of Education
>>>> Open University of Tanzania
>>>> P.O.Box 23409
>>>> Dar-Es-Salaam
>>>> Tell:255-022-2668992/2668820/2668445/26687455
>>>> Fax:022-2668759
>>>> Cell: (255) 076-722-8353; (255) 068-722-8353
>>>> http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Womens-Empowerment-Africa-Dislocation/dp/
>>>> 0230102484
>>>>      ...this faith will still deliver
>>>>      If you live it first to last
>>>>      Not everything which blooms must
>>>>      wither.
>>>>      Not all that was is past