16 March 2006

On emotional aspects of learning

This deserves more than simply a blog entry, but starting with this may prompt me to something more substantial in the future. With the exceptions of Illeris (2004), Salzberger-Wittenberg et al (1983?) and Willie More back in 1977-ish, and my occasional references, this is a sorely neglected issue.

Two prompts today; I stood in for P. to do a session for 3rd-year undergrads on "e-learning" on the "Adult Learners and Learning" module. It was rather a lacklustre performance, I confess. I had a lot of material but limited acquaintance with the group, and although they did the brain-storming* exercise very well—sufficiently well to render some of my prepared material irrelevant (thank goodness, I'd have hated to spell it all out). Still, one point which was missing was about the limits of social and emotional support available for learners on-line.

Even ordinary "additive" learning (as opposed to the "supplantive" learning I have researched) can be frustrating and exhausting, and as well as the importance of feedback (which the students picked up on), simple encouragement is very important. Impersonal on-line responses don't really cut the mustard on that count.

The second prompt was really close to home. I do not like the layout of this blog, so I have been trying to edit the template, with guidance from a tutorial in .net magazine. After two hours, I gave up. I could just about understand the html/xml markup involved, by dint of very careful reading, but there was just too much of it. I played with some of it but it had unpredictable results.
  • So I got "fed up" and decided it was just too complicated to bother with. I may return to it later (it's the diffference between its display in different browsers which really bugs me, although you probably couldn't care less).
That's trivial, but the general issue of frustration at not understanding, or of being overwhelmed by how much there is to learn, or lack of confidence that it will ever be mastered—it's all a very potent demotivator for our students.

Partly it is a matter of timing. I am a motivated learner (or at least problem-solver) in this area, and I am also used to long-term learning projects (see here for more on this than you may want to know) but I need to know that I am making progress. As it was, everything I did seemed to take me backwards. So I got frustrated and gave up. It's normal, but its implications are considerable, and often neglected.

So you are stuck with this clunky page design for a while yet! In particular, why does it just refer to the dates of the posts and not to their subjects? I'll sort it one day, but I've had enough for the moment.


*Some PC people seem to think that "brain-storming" is an unacceptable term. I gather that is not so according to a National Epilepsy Society survey; it is after all a positive and creative activity.

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