Saturday, August 07, 2010

Interdisciplinary Research Project at Kwantlen

Wordle: Blog post August 7 2010

This is one of those projects that has tremendous potential; both, potential success and potential pitfalls. One of the areas of potential pitfall lies within the very ethical framework that will serve as the foundation for the project.

“Our research will be conducted in the community, by the community, and for the community” in other words we are looking at a rhyzomatic, community as curriculum process. I have written before about how much I love this concept. I am also keenly aware that it comes with its own set of challenges and this post is my attempt to shine a light and explore solutions to one of those. If we can anticipate some of the potential problems at the onset we are less likely to fall into the pit.

Challenge number one, in my view, is around the idea that people don’t know what they don’t know. I don’t know who actually said that first (I’m lying, I do know, it’s bookmarked in my delicious somewhere, I’m just too lazy to dig it out and too aged to be able to pull it up from my mental hard drive) but it’s something that has rung true for me on more than one occasion.

I’ve been involved in a couple of educational projects that were open to the point of the becoming sink or swim learning. They were projects that had the best of intentions when it came to respecting the concepts of constructivism and the unique knowledge of the learners. Sometimes learners need some guidance, boundaries and help to bridge the gap from where that are to where they want to be. I think this is especially true when you add technology to the mix. If you don’t know that a tool even exists you are not likely to include it in your list of possibilities.

Of course the antidote to this is to embed laddering (see Bloom's Taxonomy), scaffolding (Brunner influenced by Vygotsky ) and mentorship into the learning process. Embedding those things into the process without losing sight of the essence of community as curriculum is an art form. It requires an instinct about what to show people and how to show it so that you plant a seed without overly priming them to think in a certain way and subsequently losing opportunities for them to learn outside of the box. The irony is that this process no matter how well intentioned is at best strategically influential and at worst manipulative. And yes, I struggle with this daily as a teacher, as a counselor and as a human.

The quandary for me is best described in this scene. You are walking along a path with a “learner” and you encourage them to go first, to discover the knowledge that is already there. Then you notice that they have taken a path that leads to a cliff. How long do you wait to warn them? Do you warn them? Or do you just let them fall? If you chose the last, I am never, ever going hiking with you.

Yes, I know, no one ever dies from a bad idea. Yet, people do, when they fail before they have built resilience and an understanding that failure is just feedback, develop a fear of taking learning risks. To me that is almost worse than a physical death. That is the death of potential.
Ok, so maybe I’m way over thinking this. I have been presenting on the Club of Rome’s mantras around learning by innovation and the value of anticipation and participation almost daily of late and that could be influencing me a bit more than it ought to. Or not…

The spark beneath this idea and igniter of the project is Ross Laird and he truly is a master at developing human potential. I know that with Ross's leadership this project is unlikely to succumb to the pitfalls that similar projects have encountered. So it's fitting to end this post with a Wordle of his summary of our first meeting. (I hope Wordling someone else's words is not a violation of blogging ethos?)

Wordle: Ross Laird's post on Interdisciplinary Research Project


vicki said...

Hey Jaimie - nice to see you blogging! Love where you are pointing with this one. Looking forward to reading more.


Jamie Billingham said...

Thanks Vicki!