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Friday, 28 November 2008

Bring Your Own Beer

It has been a month in building, but eventually, the dam that was frustration just had to burst, otherwise JJ, my new Uni-buddy, surely would. Our frustration is rooted in "do" words and our confused expectations of life as a mature student.

JJ is the similarly aged guy I met on my first day at Uni, someone whose experience had taught him also to sit at the end of a row of seats in the lecture theatre. Since our meeting we've stuck together like glue, experiencing the highs and lows, the struggles and victories, the confusion and angst of the first semester and together we reach a conclusion: we both want out. Not, you should understand, 'Out' of our degree course, because this achievement of attending University in the second half of our lives is to us both a sacred and noble undertaking, but only a part of it, the module we have taken to calling "Bring Your Own Beer", or "Tie Your Own Shoelaces".

The correct title of BYOB is actually Manage Your Own Learning. At a glance, the title, as part of an Educational Degree, makes sense. After all, if potential Educators cannot Manage Their Own Learning, how can they be expected to Manage anyone else's? After four of the compulsory lectures however, doubts begin to emerge. The breaking point really hits with the lecture on writing essays, a Lecture that is subtitled "Picking the title to bits", and has as a featured handout a list of "do" words. The lecturer, explains that these "Do" words, when included in an essay title, tell you (the student), what you should 'do' in an essay. For example, if the "do" word is "Describe", this means that we should, well, 'describe' whatever it is we are asked to, erm, 'Describe'. The lecturer drives home the point "Do we all understand what a 'do' word tells us to do?". JJ, in a North Dublin accent dripping with sarcasm (it is a very dry accent), sticks his hand up "When you say 'do' words, do you mean 'verbs' ?" he asks, his voice rising to a pitch that actually defines the word "incredulity". The lecturer looks at him, askance. "Well, some people call them that, but I don't like jargon", she says sniffily. In a previous lecture, the same lecturer has announced that she will not say the word "phenomenological" because she does not like "big" words. The sound of young brains being taught the reality, but not the pronunciation of vacuous, fills the auditorium.

Managing Your Own Learning, as it transpires is actually a remedial level module, compulsory in our first undergraduate year, designed to compensate for the inadequacies of the British Educational System. JJ and I have sat through lectures on how to switch on a computer, on how to write essays, on how we shouldn't reference Facebook in our essays, but the final insult comes with the introduction of the complete load of bollocks that is the "theory" of Learning Styles. This pseudo-scientific quasi -religious claptrap is presented to us as fact, and we are invited to complete surveys which will tell us which of the four 'Learning Styles' we are - reflective, tyrannical, sexual, prehistoric. Actually, I just made up those categories because I cannot be bothered to remember the teenage-magazine level rubbish that each category supposedly was. We both automatically manipulate our questionnaire to demonstrate that we are all of these styles at once, but the lecturer ignores this rebellion, explaining it away as proof that humans can be very flexible. NO SHIT, Sherlock!.

The second I find out that my assignment for this module is to compile an action plan to improve my learning skills based on the questionnaire, and that this comprises part of my Year Marks, the revolution starts. JJ. has like me has had a very varied and interesting life. More of this will be revealed as YNWA gradually catches up with the last few months over the forthcoming week or so, but suffice to say, that like myself, if there is a revolution to be had, JJ usually finds himself as the mouthpiece. We rapidly convene a delegation (me and him) and are off to see the Head of Department. Miraculously, we emerge from the meeting, with the achieved objective of being excused from the objectionable module, and we 'do' this without having to resort to any of the tactics that we had earlier discussed over a few pints - strikes, letter writing campaigns, sit-ins, demonstrations etc. We retire to Gaz's (a nearby cafe that has become an HQ for Liverpool fans in Hull) and have a slap up breakfast as a victory celebration.

1 comment:

JoeyMac said...

hehe. Do you realize that one of my biggest projects is an automated software guidance system (we're not allowed to call it 'help') which makes suggestions, in part, based on expertise and yes, learning style.

For you me and JJ, the fat that humans are flexible and learn in different ways is a no brainer, but trust me, I have met a number of teachers with less teaching ability than my current software. ;)