A Jeanne Site
California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: September 28, 1999
Curran or Takata.
Theory from Anthropology:
Edward T. Hall analyzes the levels of learning as:
Informal learning is learning by example, by modeling, often out-of-awareness, no conscious focus on learning.
Formal learning is learning by rules.
Technical learning is learning by discussion of the reasons for the rules, the theory and policy. For example, we might discuss the theory that manners provide the glue for society's rough spots in interpersonal relationships, so that our policy is to rely on manners to keep those relationships smooth.
Now let's try to take this principle of increasing affect at less formal levels of interaction to a real world problem: your concern for your grades and the difficulty the institution of higher education experiences in trying to alter approaches to teaching.
Following Osgood's ideas on searching for theroetical clues in other disciplinary areas, suppose we take the idea of affect at different learning levels and apply that concept to the problem of teaching and learning:
Theory of affect levels applied to grades:
Informal concerns about grades might include a general sense that you work hard and that that should earn good grades for you. There would also be a sense that grades are important for later work promotion, and that C's no longer represent "average" to many people.
Formal rules with respect to grades include some general expectations about the "serious student." I equated these in the lecture to nomative ordering with respect to the educational institution.
Formal rules might best be represented by the syllabus in the college classroom.
Please note at this point in the argument that we recognize that changing the setting and the procedure for grades away from competitive testing is stressful. Those of you who learned to get As this way are now faced with figuring out how to get As in our system. That stresses us out, too. So we share the informal level of stress with you.
At the formal level we gave you rules: the syllabus. Then we promptly rescinded that set of rules by saying that it was not exclusive, and demanding that you set your own standards and measures of learning so that you can authenticate them with us. For this I will give you two academic resources: Punished by Rewards, by Alfie Kohn and O'Donnell's Avatars of the Word.
But notice the affect level. The rules, which would have provided some security, are not exclusive. We expect you to measure and authenticate your own learning. Very stressful. For us, too. Remember we have to discuss this and come to agreement with you. Oy!
And then on September 28, Jeanne gave this lecture to bring theory in to help us step back from the less formal levels and try to develop a general sense of what we are all trying to do here. That was an attempt to remove any discussion of grades to a technical level. For many of you that worked.
I wouldn't want you to think we were all alone in this boat. I pulled out the latest sequel to Women's Ways of Knowing to help you see that the problem really is very real and very broad. (I'm not going to say "universal" because we all know the postmodernists would come after me.)
One resource for the study of the difficulty of altering approaches to teaching in the higher education setting is afforded by Ann Stanton's "Reconfiguring Teaching and Knowing in the College Classroom," in Goldberger, Nancy Rule, et al., Knowledge Difference, and Power, Basic Books, 1996, a sequel to Belenky, et al., Women's Ways of Knowing. At p. 37, Stanton says: When a faculty committee reqorked the mnicourse materials to incorporate them into year-lon core courses, they erased components that emphasized students' shared dialogues, reflection on themselves as knowers, and gaining a voice. Instead, sole focus on content, (albeit interdisciplinary_ was reinstitute, [fn. omitted], a reminder of how difficult it is to grasp and implement ideas from a new paradigm in a setting where traditional views about teaching and learning receive unquestioning support."
This won't give you five barriers to jump to get an A, but it might help you understand what we're trying to do. Let's make it fun.
Sorry, it's a little more than 25 words. See, even that rule isn't exclusive. Got to make your own decisions.