23 March 2007

On academic game-playing

A former colleague and student, having moved jobs, is now undertaking a "teacher training" course at his new institution, and sent me a draft of one of his essays. I have changed some details of my response to anonymise it, but retain the argument:

What a joy to read!

We have corresponded, you have sat in my sessions and you have participated in them (not necessarily the same thing), but I have never actually read any of your stuff, apart from emails.

Did you choose this topic? Was it up to you to suggest it, or a choice from a list? I suspect it is the former. Much as I enjoyed the TV adaptation of the Delderfield novels--I confess I didn't read the primary source-- there is something of a mismatch between the Arnoldian ideal of the teacher which suffuses Delderfield and (to continue the Arnold [Matthew this time] reference) the Hebraist, utlilitarian construction of the role in the present.

Were I marking this, I would be in a real quandary. There is no doubt as to its academic quality; argument, sourcing, ... they are all there. (And frankly, although there may be dispute about the grade, this is a clear pass at M level, regardless).

But, this does smack of an expert playing an academic game. It takes one to know one! As you know, we set up assessment systems for all kinds of reasons and in response to all kinds of pressures. Very few of those pressures are about demonstrable improvement in professional performance, for all kinds of reasons, including the sheer difficulty of specifying a valid task. But the game is not the real world. The map is not the territory (I know, someone else articulated that before Korzybski, but it's Friday night!)

This submission clearly demonstrates that you can play the game. But how does it contribute to showing how your performance has improved as a teacher? It doesn't. You asked for my opinion on this as a submission for assessment; I've been through the criteria, and there is clearly no problem with any of them-----------given the choice of topic, of course.

Now to get brutally real.
  • I would not have accepted this title, but I would have insisted on it (the title) being submitted and approved in advance, so you would never have written it.
    Delderfield's romantic vision of (school) education for a privileged elite between the wars has very little connection with "bod standard" (i.e. post-1992) universities today. You do not show how any connection might be made.
  • I can't see how working on this essay (not just writing it) has challenged or stretched your understanding of teaching and learning (apart perhaps from the reference to your changing view of Friere).
  • Playing structured games is about maximising performance within given rules and parameters. It's not about stepping outside them and seeing whether such skill works in the real world. We devise games as pale imitations of the real world, and the educational game is the most hubristic of them all, as you know. Perhaps it is because you know that, that you play the game so knowingly!
I may meta-comment later!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:49 pm

    How wonderful to come across such sanity in what's becoming a crazy world (education). Thank you. I find your blog encouraging and inspiring. Just wish you'd write more often!


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