23 June 2009

An Adult Educator's Manifesto

I'm still looking for a job - preferably a tenure-track position in which I can both inspire and guide students, and continue my work on the Valence Organization and its implications for society-at-large.

But I am also an Adult Educator, and that brings considerable depth and context to what might otherwise be just another business school prof doing organization behaviour - especially since Valence Theory is, at its heart, fundamentally subversive to the foundations of conventional business schools. On the other hand, it is ideal for other faculties (e.g., public administration, workplace learning in faculties of education) that might be looking for a contemporary approach to organization theory. But I digress.

One of the key considerations these days in professorial hiring is one's teaching philosophy. I call mine, An Adult Educator's Manifesto (make sure you click on the full-screen toggle button at the top right of the linked page). Here's a taste:
I respect my students’ abilities to become actively engaged and committed to their own process of knowledge-building, bringing Marshall McLuhan’s sensibility to the learning environment that, as an educator, “I don’t want them to believe me; I just want them to think.”

Therefore, adhering to the credo that “education is what remains after you’ve forgotten everything you’ve been taught,” I incorporate five guiding principles into my teaching, whether situated as formal, informal, or non-formal learning.

1. People will learn when they are ready to learn, and thus will acquire their lessons in the places in which they will learn most effectively. These places and circumstances are most often not a classroom. Therefore, it is incumbent on educators to invite our learners’ experiences, circumstances, histories, contexts, and cultures into our classrooms in combination with our sources and syllabi to enable the collaborative construction and emergence of complex and diverse knowledge.

This means that:
2. Learning should concentrate on context and process; specific content – as important and relevant as it might be to any particular undertaking or discipline – is, nonetheless, indifferent to the credo of education. In a time of unprecedented complexity, enabling adaptable and continual learners ultimately serves the as-yet unanticipated and unknown future needs of our contemporary world.
You can download my Manifesto-cum-Statement-of-Teaching-Philosophy in its entirety here.

And if you happen to know of an appropriate department - perhaps even your own - anywhere in North America that is hiring, please pass my name along. Much obliged!

(Thanks, Anne Urbancic, for inspiring me to write this.)

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2 comments:

Jeffrey Keefer said...

Mark, I wish you luck in finding a position. I teach as an adjunct (in NYC) and have done so for years, though working on a PhD as well (in the UK). Not an easy job search I am sure.

I found your teaching manifesto interesting. Have you any familiarity with Jack Mezirow's Transformative Learning theory? I am asking because I am wondering how you may see his role of the teacher as one who promotes learning from the framework of intentionally creating disorienting dilemmas to help move learning along, rather than just waiting for learner readiness.

Nice to read your blog.

Jeffrey

Mark said...

Thanks very much, Jeffrey. Jack Mezirow is a big name around here (that is, in the Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology at OISE), and a lot of his work informs the discourse of Adult Ed as it is practised and taught. In essence, TL is the basis of my practice - one of the key issues is to understand the diverse nature of disorientation, especially in the context of many people living mostly unaware in the chronically familiar. It was Marshall McLuhan's inspiration from which I am moved to ask the question, "what HAVEN'T you noticed lately?" that creates cognitive and perceptual disorientation. For me, it is essentially about learning to think new things about that which everyone already sees. Fundamentally, I maintain that we are all always ready to learn; it becomes more an issue of creating an optimal environment of inquiry and effecting the appropriate intrinsic motivation.