Dispositions and qualities

Barnett, R. (2007) A Will to Learn

How do you recognise Barnett’s ‘qualities’ in the context of a course you work with? Think of a couple of examples.

Bartnett distinguishes between disposition and qualities in higher education, dispositions  being ‘the expression of a will to learn’ and qualities ‘ the form that those disposition takes’. He also emphasises that dispositions take fundamental role in comparison with qualities.

Qualities that he suggests particularly fit in higher education are:

  • integrity
  • carefulness
  • courage
  • resilience
  • self-discipline
  • restraint
  • respect for others
  • openness

In terms of the course I work with, BA Spatial Design mostly, I can recognise most of the qualities as important in students experience and performance on the course. Self- discipline is one of the qualities I believe is the key to systematic progress and I can recognise that students who demonstrate it usually achieve intended goals on time and with satisfaction. It allows them to focus on what is important for them during specific stages of the project and prioritise tasks effectively.

I particularly like the openness as a quality highlighted by Barnett. n the case of my students, I believe that the ‘openness’ manifests through student approach to learning, being hungry to experience and research, being open-minded in their approach to new technologies, testing new ideas, not being afraid to ‘fail’ and learn from their mistakes. Openness is also manifested though the approach to others, being understanding of the cultural differences and prior experiences and learning from it, embracing it and utilising it as their own experience of learning.

To what extent do you recognise Barnett’s ‘dispositions’ in your own approach to learning? Assuming this varies, what influences them?

Barnes’s recognise these  particular dispositions having specific affinity with higher education:

  • a will to learn
  • a will to engage
  • a preparedness to explore
  • a willingness to hold oneself open to experiences
  • a determination to keep going forward

I believe that what Barnes’s characterises as dispositions here closely reflect my approach to learning. Having a will to learn and engage in the subject seems like a fundamental element to begin the process of learning and also to maintain the interest in the subject. I have recently completed Master of Research in Arts and Cultural Research during which I can recognise all of the above being manifested (or not, which affected my progress at some stages). I can now reflect back on it and recognise that the will to explore and engage, and learn would be the dispositions that are fundamental in my approach at the early stages of engaging with a new subject. A determination to keep going and a willingness to hold myself open to experiences would determine how far I want to take the subject and which directions to explore it, as well as, in case of my MRes, complete the research in designated time and to my own satisfaction with found results.

However, I believe that there are many factor that can determine what influence the approach to learning (in relation to Barnett’s dispositions). One of them would be the subject itself. If at certain stage of the learning process I found the subject no longer interesting or not relating to my current experience, I found myself loosing a will to engage on deeper level. I would explain to myself that it is not that relevant and exploring it can wait when it becomes more relevant to my current experience. This is when demonstrating determination to keep going forward might decide if I keep engaged in the subject or not. I believe that delivery of the subject can also influence my approach to learning and I am aware of that in my approach to teaching. I found it easier to engage with the subject that is delivered to me in a fun, interactive, structured and interesting way.

UAL’s Creative Attribute Framework

Are UAL’s Creative Attributes more like Barnett’s ‘qualities’? Or his ‘dispositions’? Is it just a question of phrasing? Comment on a couple of examples.

I believe that based on Barnett’s clarification of dispositions and qualities UAl’s attributes could be characterised as dispositions e.g. Making Thing Happen resonates with Barnett’s   determination and willingness to engage. However, this particular attribute could also be considered as a result of Barnett’s qualities such as courage, self-discipline (pro-activity) and openness (agility).

Showcasing Abilities and Accomplishments with Others could be compared with Barnett’s  willingness to hold oneself open to experiences through qualities such as openness  respect to others expressed in the student’s activities.

Navigating Change could be compared to the Barnett’s preparedness to explore demonstrating qualities such as courage and resilience.

The Creative Attributes are explicitly focused on employability and enterprise, i.e. on preparing students for socially useful occupations. What valuable attributes (‘creative’ or otherwise) can you think of that aren’t employment-focused?

I believe that determination and self-discipline are attributes that are valuable not only in educational setting or creative industry but in any areas of life. For example, being curious but not persuading the subject systematically and with determination will not result in the same level of self satisfaction. Being pro active is fundamental to initiate ideas and take on challenges however with ought determination it might be hard to see the process of exploration and testing of new ideas.

I also believe that to being afraid to ‘fail’ is an attribute that can determined the progress in learning and by testing and experimenting different options one gives itself an opportunity to find the best solution.

How are these attributes taught and/or learned at UAL?

Based on my experience with students at UAL I believe that they are continually encourage to test different ideas and explore various avenues or these ideas without being ‘penalised’ for ‘failures’ along the way. BA Spatial Design students often work on projects that require clear understanding of the brief which is then utilised to direct they ideas. Students are always encourage to use various methods and techniques to test different ideas and not be afraid to ‘fail’ at this stage. I believe that this approach allows them to find determination in them to find the solution that best responds to the brief through continual experimentations and testing.

Barnett’s ‘qualities and dispositions’ are about learning, and the CAF is about creative practice. Are they more or less similar than you would expect, given this difference?

They seem to relate both in terms of Barnet’s dispositions and qualities. In some cases the wording is slightly different in other cases it is repeated in UAL’s attributes.

The student experience

‘Experience is not what happens to you.
It’s what you do with what happens to you’.

(Aldous Huxley 1932, Texts and Pretexts)

What role does our personal history play in our experience of learning?

I believe that our personal history plays a major role in our experience of learning. In both circumstances,  as student and as a new teacher, I was exposed to different teaching and learning approached which, to certain degree, influence how I learn and how I teach. It is the past personal history that makes us create narrative about education. I believe that it is what we think and believe in (which can be influenced by personal experiences)  and how we reflect on it, links us to the way we teach.

I think that learning environment of creative subjects in specific and different personal experiences of learning from previous various and possibly different environments can often be manifested by the ways that students learn. The cultural experiences will also have impact on how students understand learning. The lack of certain methods that might have been used in their prior experiences can have an impact of understanding of the subject and activities involved in creative environment.

What do we do with what we learn?

I believe it depends on the environment we are learning in. I would like to believe that we attempt to reflect on it and use it in our personal journey. However, it is often the case that some of what we learn we never question and as students we take what we learnt for granted. The moment we start questioning and reflecting on what and how we learn becomes our own experience. Looking at the learning experience from this perspective makes me want to agree with Huxley that ‘Experience is not what happens to you.  It’s what you do with what happens to you’.

What are the risks in encountering new ways of thinking, being and making?

There is always a risk involved in facing something new. From a learner perspective it can be frightening, overwhelming and surprising. The new way of thinking might even surprise ourselves. It can lead to isolation in the way we think. We might feel embarrassed to share it.

How does learning change the way we experience ourselves?

I think it might bring an element of surprise. We might surprise ourselves that learning influences the way we perceive ourselves. It can make us feel more confident or exactly opposite, can make us realise about all the other areas that we lack expertise in and this can make us feel incompetent. Personally, learning gives me confidence that I am in charge of what I believe in and what I do with what I learn.

Do you agree with Huxley’s view on experience?

To certain degree. It seems that his view may be relevant to situations when we reflect on what we learn and understand what it does to us and how we can use it to create our own journey.

Understanding Art: The Play of Work and Spectator

Gadamer, H. Understanding Art: The Play of Work and Spectator  in Vilhauer, M. (2010) Gadamer’s Ethics of Play: Hermeneutics and the Other, Lexington Books

The text introduces the concept of ‘play’ in form of and ‘event’ and ‘experience’ of a work of art. Gademer describes finding the artwork in participation of spectator in some form of continuation ‘to-and-fro play’, the process in which meaning is communicated. He emphasises also how spectator play a crucial interpretative role, ‘creating’ the meaning of the artwork. He describes is as continuus activity.

Gademer also recognises the process of understanding which in his opinion ‘only takes place in a dynamic, interactive, interpretative process of working through meaning with others’. He emphasises the ‘back-and-forth movement as essential part of play, an event that ‘cannot be fully determined or mechanical’ but encourages ‘spontaneity and variety’. It relies on the individualism of ‘players’. This resonates with Munday’s approach to learning in less formal environment, without strict classroom management techniques. The idea of players being individual can be compared to the learning environment where each student varies, has individual approach and is different from one another. In analogy to a play-event,  the process of learning might occur in the interaction between learners ‘as a shared experience’ which depends of contribution of all players/learners. This could be experience by collaborative projects where all participants hold similar roles and responsibilities. Participation seems crucial to experiencing the play according to Gademer, however he stresses that the play is something happening to a participant rather than participant ‘doing’ it. Having said that the participants are not passive, they ‘become a part of an activity that is bigger than their own personal, active roles in it’.

The concept of play and the crucial participation is also emphasised by the commitment of the players, the total involvement. In relation to teaching environment, learners are encouraged to participate in the learning and their participation requires some form of letting self go and allowing to be ‘guided’ by the game/event/experience. Allowing to be ‘caught up’ by this experience. the interaction between each other can then influence/allow the transformation of knowledge/understanding.

 

 

The classroom: a problem or a mystery?

Dr Ian Munday

Munday begins his paper by recognising an element that classroom is perceived by researcher from different background in a common way – ‘a site for solving problems’. He stresses that despite teaching different disciplines, a teacher might question his/her working techniques in specific environment and therefore identifying potential problem. Furthermore, Munday considers the meaning of the classroom as ‘a space of “mystery” rather than a site for problem solving’ which he relates to Gabriel Marcel’s understanding of mystery as being and problem solving as having.

I found the paper very interesting and can relate to author’s considerations of various aspects in my own teaching practice. Problem solving in the classroom environment, for me, is linked with combination of teaching techniques (I like the analogy of the teacher as facilitator of the environment in which the knowledge is being ‘created’) that provide ‘scaffolding’ for the teaching/learning experience.  It is my preferable attitude to teaching/learning experience that gives more flexibility in the classroom environment while being responsive to this environment.  However, the concept  of ‘mystery’ seems also familiar with my teaching experience, especially the studio based activities that encourage ‘making’ as for of teaching and learning, and research, and responding creatively to a given problem (not a problem in the same way as Munday describes the classroom but more as something set by the particualar project brief, the spaces that students design, the solution they come up with for particular client etc.). This process of making could often be described as ‘mysterious’, it is individual, can rely on one’s intuition. The term itself,  ‘a mystery’ can be interpreted as something that we cannot fully know however it still encourages one to find ways (experiment, make, try) to unveil something, discover.

Munday reflects on his early career as a teacher in terms of ‘classroom management’  making him consider students as ‘obstacles to be overcome’. Only when he allowed  for the classroom to become ‘a living breathing organism’ he began to relax and stopped spending all day dealing with ‘problems’. I support this idea in my own teaching practice as I see it as reflection of the professional practice, where being open to opportunities that certain experiences provide and being able to response creatively and flexibly, is very common in creative industry. Having said that, some form of plan and management of the situation is required, to be able to facilitate the processes of teaching/learning in the specific environment (either a classroom or industry).

I also somehow relate to the description of the online environment and difficulties that Munday describes in posting and replying to questions on online platform as a form of engagement in learning. The issue with clarity and somehow intimidation in answering the question ‘in right way’ can stop one in truly engaging with the subject. The lack of interaction with others also might lead to engaging with ‘objects’ rather the human interaction/collaboration.

Munday’s also discusses the lack of opportunities for teachers to engage in deeper understanding of educational issues. I agree with the limitations that teachers have in terms of external research (this can also vary depending on the role). I found it particularly difficult as a Associate Lecturer to find time outside of my responsibilities as lecturer to engage in research even though I would love to that. I feel that the students don’t differentiate academic staff and expect the same level of understanding of the subject (practice/research) from all their lecturers. Having said that, not all the academic staff is encouraged/supported in engaging in research.  Munday suggests that the engagement in the research may bring the ‘vitalism’ to the classrooms.  The ‘vital’ experience is what he brings up as a memory of his school where ‘knowledge was creatively transformed within the “vital” experience of teaching and learning whereby the notion of “possession” somehow became redundant’. He does not explain in the paper  what the ‘vital’ experience might be though? ‘Mystery’?

 

Universities and their Function

Whitehead, A.N. 1929. Universities and their Function. In The Aims of Education and other essays. The Free Press. pp91-101

As my refection in this post I want to write some keywords and quotes that stand out from this reading. Perhaps they can for some sort of narrative.

  • the scope of this article: problems/issues that Universities encountered
  • business schools representing one of ‘the newer development of university activities.’
  • purpose of university ‘is that it preserves the connection between knowledge and zest of life’

I like the view that the universities supposed to act as the connection between the knowledge and the life by connecting the old and the young through learning. The notion of imagination and creativity seems crucial to this connection.

  • imagination
  • excitement, imagination, consideration = transformation of knowledge.
  • ‘a fact is no longer a bare fact: it is invested with all its possibilities’ hover ‘imagination is not to be divorced from the facts: it is a way of illuminating the facts’
  • ‘the task of a university is to weld together imagination and experience’

I would like to believe that the role of the university is to provide the ground for constant interaction with knowledge through imagination and connect it to the life experience (give the life a ‘flavour’).

  • universities originated in an obscure and rather unnoticed way (natural growth)
  • the universities ‘should function in the preparation for an intellectual career’ they can do that ‘by promoting the imaginative consideration of the various general principles underlaying that career.
  • ‘the proper function of a universities the imaginative acquisition of knowledge’

I find this last statement the key element in the purpose of universities. Obtaining the knowledge (and not only the knowledge but also experience environment in which the acquisition of knowledge occurs) creatively seems to be fundamental. Perhaps considering the right teaching ad learning methods that allow the ‘imaginative acquisition of knowledge  is critical to the function of universities.

  • ‘Imagination cannot be acquired once and for all’
  • ‘the learned and imaginative life is a way of living’
  • ‘Do you want your teachers to be imaginative? hen encourage them to research’
  • research

 

A Learning Model for the Future

Aoun, J. 2017. A Learning Model for the Future. In Higher education in the age of artificial intelligence. MIT Press. pp45-75

key points

  • technological skills among most desirable on the planet
  • historic role of education in elevating people to the next level of economic development
  • future will depend more from us therefore we need to demand more from education
  • ‘an education for the digital age needs to focus not just on technology and understanding what technology can do but also what it cannot do – at least for now and perhaps never’.

I find the above statement close to my way of thinking about technology in learning and teaching and  I do see the role of technology in education as fundamental however not as a tool or subject to replace the other methods that can be implemented in teaching and learning. Thinking creatively seems to be of of the element that is debatable as to what degree technology can ‘think’ imaginatively.

  • ‘education should cultivate out creativity’

it prompts a question about being actually able to tech creativity…

tbc.