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Saturday, 14 February 2009

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants...and pissing on them

After the exams, the lecturer for "Bring Your Own Beer", a module designed to teach students how to write correctly, in an academic context, delivered a hectoring lecture, angrily castigating the assemblage of students in fron t of her, for their terrible performance in the first assignment. The lecturer's focus was particularly directed at our collectively appalling grammar, punctuation, syntax and sentence structure.

The same lecturer, then posted on Blackboard - the Web based message and info system for Universities in the UK, a notice, the second paragraph of which reads as follows:

"If in your assignment feedback you were picked up your sentence construction and/or lack of paragraphing, I strongly recommend that you look at these resources, which have two tasks which you should complete and learn from."

While it is true that Alanis Morrisette's song "Ironic" does not actually describe any ironic situations (look up Ed Byrne's comic rant on You Tube), this latest piece of gibberish from this particular lecturer, compounds the cumulative irony of this module, and the way it is delivered. For example, early on in the module, we the students were urged NOT to accomplish the pronunciation of "phenomenological" because, as a word, it was "too big", and the lecturer did not "do" jargon. Similar arguments were applied to any word, or even syllable, which may cause difficulty - words such as "parallelogram" - apparently "too many 'le' 'le' 'le' ".

Equally, a core element of the module was the TEACHING as FACT of the notions of learning styles, reflective learning and Kolb's Learning Cycle. In fact, my final assignment for this module is to write a 3000 word essay, self-assessing my Learning Style, and how it has changed since the start of term. Due to the fact that I have been given to understand that it is not allowable to repeat a single word 3000 times, I have embarked upon a voyage of self-directed study, a research project to investigate the how's, why's and evidences for the concepts of learning styles etc. Titled "Reflect on this, sucker" I expect this latest work to be met with the same level of critical acclaim that "Civilization-Why?" reached. Hopefully, it will take me above Mr Dawkins, who as we all know is the 3rd Best Academic in England.


Grasshopper said...

I have a student in my lab who is currently taking a teaching certificate from the centre for university learning and teaching. Upon being introduced to the nebulous and scientifically questionable notion of "learning styles", he proceeded to prompt the lecturer for references that would allow him to verify the data to support the existence of such styles. When this met with no luck, he went to the library and found articles on his own...all of which seem to debunk the usefulness of this concept. He has been sitting on the scientific articles that he has gathered, not knowing whether he should educate his educator...what a lot of bunk.

MJN said...

I found a few articles - the ones "supporting" Kolb and associated concepts were mostly social sciences, or marketing "papers". Mostly no attempt to test the hypotheses, at all, just whimsical little pieces "describing" individual's reflective experiences. In other words, garbage.

I've mentioned Geake's work before, I think. He's an Oxford neuroscientist and has published a paper debunking these "neuromyths" and warning of the danger of using them in education.

He has written another piece which can be found here. He is not afraid to use the word nonsense: