27 October 2007

On expressing an opinion

In the UK, the clocks go back an hour tonight. We revert to "Greenwich Mean Time" from "British Summer Time" a.k.a. daylight saving time. I, with many other people, think this is silly, so I thought I might make a comment on it on the blog.

It was then that I was struck with the curse of academic integrity. When was BST introduced? Who invented it (it was William someone). If the counter-argument to the reversion (how about that for abstraction calculated to lose one's readership?) concerns traffic accidents as children go to school in the dark in Scotland (which is a major plank in the argument. [Isn't it? where's the evidence?]) then how realistic is it? And is it still true today, when fewer children walk to school? (Is that true? Particularly in Scotland?)
  • Norway extends even further North than Scotland (doesn't it?) How do they handle that problem? (Can I get that from http://www.regjeringen.no/en.html?id=4 ?)
  • And Sweden, and Canada, and Russia...
And what, for goodness' sake, does all this mean in the context of what someone has apparently called "wikieality"? Can't remember who they are, but it was in today's paper somewhere...

More seriously, the gap between the double standards is getting wider.

Asserted opinion seems to be winning; incontrovertible evidence-based research is losing (partly, of course, because there is no such thing. It's a boojum [or is it a snark? I need to check that out].)

OK, 'twas ever thus. (Prove it!)

This post clearly needs the services of a fact-checker in the New Yorker tradition. At least I can support the notion that there are (or were, of course; all evidence pertains to the past) such people. Or can I? The link was to wikipedia...

Draw your own conclusions!

22 October 2007

On students' experience

A friend has sent me this link;

I'm not entirely sure what to make of it; it's a class exercise (probably a very good one for freshers) but the methodological implications of developing ideas via wikis is something I need to think about...

Can it be trusted? Is it a true picture? Is it different in the UK? If it is true, and these are the "millennial students" we hear about, what does it say about our teaching methods? Is it incumbent upon us to adjust to their experience and expectations, or on them to "get real" and "grow up"? Or both?

11 October 2007

On taking risks

Today we had a really good staff development meeting across the college network on the pedagogic rationale (hey! that sounds good, must use it again...) of our new Study Days programme. [If you have just stumbled across this blog, you don't need to know this.] The underlying principle will be "Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge" (papers on this very promising angle on learning and teaching can be downloaded from http://www.tla.ed.ac.uk/etl/publications.html)

However, as we were discussing what constitutes a "threshold concept" in our own discipline (no, I'm not going to explain. Read the papers from the link above. And it doesn't really matter for the sense of this entry.) ... we got onto spontaneity and risk-taking in teaching.

And it is a real battle-ground within institutions nowadays. Quality assurance procedures and watchdogs (such as Ofsted) insist on a "consistent product". They insist on believing in a self-serving myth of setting "minimum standards"; teaching will never fall below these standards, but is (of course) free to soar way beyond them.

Bul***it. In the real world, setting minimum standards involves setting maxima, too; because reaching for the stars involves the possibility of failure.

We didn't set out to make the point, but it became clear as we proceeded that our systems have made the "good the enemy of the best"*

We did that in social care, too, twenty years ago; I'll return to this.

* Yes, I know. This is a deliberate inversion of "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien" Voltaire (1772)

09 October 2007

On PowerPoint (again)

It doesn't say it all, but it does say a lot.