19 May 2009

Teaching in Higher Education

Where's Paulo Freire when you need him?

I'm currently taking a course in Teaching in Higher Education offered at Woodsworth College at University of Toronto. To paraphrase Rob Weir in this article from Inside Higher Education, the ability to create syllabi, understand evaluation rubrics, and other skills of professorship don't come shrink-wrapped with the PhD diploma. Besides, the main assignment in the course - design a syllabus for a course that doesn't yet exist (in one's own department), not based on something I've taken or taught previously - provides a useful and usable outcome. And, for the peer-observed lecture portion of the program, I'll be filling in for my friend, Bonnie Slade, while she is away; I'll be doing a seminar in workplace learning for this summer's incarnation of Introduction to Adult Education.

But oh, how I wish there was more adult education in higher education! Last week's seminar - more of what Freire refers to as "banking education" in which the teacher makes knowledge deposits in the supposedly empty accounts of the the students' minds, than a true seminar - focused on the so-called vocabulary of education: Bloom's Taxonomy of learning objectives (Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation), and the distinctions among forms of active learning (collaborative vs. cooperative, experiential vs. service learning, discovery vs. problem-based). Tonight, the theme is on learning styles, for which students are sliced, diced, and sorted according to their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, their Kolb Learning Style, their Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument, or their Felder-Silverman Learning Style (you can read all about these here.)

Yes, I realize the modern system of education is founded on a culture of fragmentation and creating distance between the knower and that to be known. But I cannot help but connect the notion that modern education is more about sorting students into society's classes, with the dichotomous taxonomies that pervade formal pedagogy. I cannot help but hear that nagging voice in the back of my mind reminding me that T.H.E. is part of the novitiate's admission process to the professorial priesthood, that one must become well-indoctrinated into the mindset and methods of that cynical social purpose in order to be admitted to, and to survive the system. I'm reminded that the formal education system is a "highly developed situation [that] is by definition, low in opportunities of participation, and rigorous in its demands of specialist fragmentation from those who would control it," to recall Marshall McLuhan from Understanding Media.

I'm tired of taxonomies, and well... regular readers know how I feel about hierarchies. I favour the 4 Cs (Connection, Context, Complexity, Connotation) rather than the 3 Rs. And I actively bring to mind Eduard Lindeman's voice - that adult education is social education for social change - to drown out the voices of extreme instrumentality in formal education. I will survive Teaching in Higher Education. As for really teaching in higher education? Social education. Social change. Engaged learners. Engaged citizens.

Yeah, that's better.

[Technorati tags: | ]

1 comment:

Harold Jarche said...

Bloom's is a significantly flawed taxonomy and was never designed to be prescriptive, only descriptive.

I wonder if they cover George Siemen's theory of "Connectivism" which has much more relevance today.