04 July 2012

On expectations...

Thinking back* on that easy tutorial (see previous post), I was reminded of how much I (and colleagues) have come to expect a pattern following Kubler-Ross's "five stages of grief":
  • denial
  • anger
  • bargaining
  • depression
  • acceptance
Actually, although most references discuss these stages in relation to the prospect of death, K-R identified them as "Five Stages of Receiving Catastrophic News"--which may make them more apposite for a failing grade than a death sentence.

And indeed I have encountered all these responses in tutorials--but not necessarily all of them, nor necessarily in that order. There's an interesting critical article on them here.

I'm struck by the potency of the stage model, and the apparent desire of end-of-life and bereavement counsellors to latch onto it despite its lack of evidence. Going back to an earlier discussion of Berger and Luckmann's externalisation/reification/internalisation process, the K-R model seems to have been reified and then internalised, despite the externalisation impetus being relatively weak. Interesting!

Kubler-Ross E (1969) On Death and Dying (various editions)

* I don't do "reflection".


  1. Very interesting, yes.

    A couple of years ago I was in a studio critique where a student had made a piece of work using the KR stages. As we discussed the work it struck me that the stages were very much like the stages that students (and anyone for that matter being 'evaluated') go through during a 'crit'. We joked about it at the time but afterwards I started thinking about how the stages might relate to Threshold Concepts. As an experiment I took a standard KR description and edited it to fit:

    1: Denial — "I cant do this."; "It’s too much like hard work, I can't be bothered."; "I’m not good enough." Denial is usually only a temporary defense for the individual. This feeling is generally replaced with heightened awareness of the subject but also of how the student is to some degree becoming independent from the expectations of their background (reconstitutive, irreversible).

    2: Anger — "This isn’t working, It's a waste of time!"; "Why are we being asked to do this rubbish?", "Teachers are useless", "They're deliberately trying to undermine me", "They don't like me and I don't like them". Once in the second stage, the student recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the student is very difficult to work with due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy (regarding other students). Any peer that symbolizes achievement or success is subject to projected resentment and jealousy.

    3: Bargaining — "Can't I just continue with what I was doing before?” or "I'll do that so long as you let me include the research I was doing on the last project" etc. The third stage involves the hope that the student can somehow postpone or delay deeper study. Usually, the negotiation for a lighter workload is made with a teacher in exchange for a reformed engagement. Psychologically, the student is saying, "I understand I will have to work harder, but if I could just have more time..."

    4: Depression — "Why bother with anything?"; "What's the point?" During the fourth stage, the student begins to understand the inevitability of full engagement with the difficulties of the subject. Because of this, the student may become more withdrawn than usual, skip tutorials and spend much of the time introspecting. This process allows the student to disconnect from old habits and reevaluate their situation. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time that must be processed.

    5: Acceptance — "It's going to be okay." ; "I can do this, I may as well go for it." This final stage comes with reflective understanding of the hard work that is approaching. Generally, the student in the fifth stage will want to really knuckle down and put all their energies into their studies. Additionally, feelings of increased self-efficacy and confidence may be present. This stage has also been described as the end of the threshold struggle.

  2. Anonymous5:57 am

    The five stages of an engineering project are:

    1. Euphoria and Excitement

    2. Disenchantment

    3. Search for the Guilty

    4. Punishment of the Innocent

    5. Reward for the Uninvolved

    If that helps...


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