Michael’s Midway-into-M3 Primal Scream

Okay, I’m not going to scream. (It was just an attention-getting headline.) But, having read M2’s material about learner-based syllabi, and now, in M3, the initial overview of Instruction Design Models, and the OLC Five-Pillar Quality Framework material, I have to remark:

No teacher talks like this.

These are not terms teachers use, at least none I’ve ever conversed with.  (It’s a matter of both vocabulary–Content assets? Storyboarding? Domain specific referenced items? Post-assessment items?–and more.)

There’s always the possibility–I think this is the faith we’re riding on at this point in our course–that these are terms we’ve actually always needed, and that here’s our chance for paradigm-shifting enlightenment about something we’ve all been doing for years. Or that these terms correspond to things we’ve always done. It’s also possible that some disciplines are closer to these ways of thinking than others.

But for me, it’s a mysterious view. And as a historian, I always argue that it’s important to listen to the accounts and points of view of the people your research represents: concrete, on-the-ground experience contributes meaning and insight that you can’t get any other way. And as one who’s been in the thick of teaching for a generation now, I can’t believe these people have ever taught or listened openly to a teacher, at least to a teacher like me;  I find these thoughts–to put it as neutrally as possible–unfamiliar, somehow off-base, and therefore something less than organically connected to what I’m trying to do. Doesn’t mean I’m not willing to try, but–isn’t it important that no teacher talks this way?

Beneath it all–this is beyond the question of jargon–what I sense is a businesslike conflation of broad, undergraduate liberal-arts education and inquiry with focused, practical, and measurable workplace skill-training; there is, deep in the assumptions here, a reduction of teaching to the transfer of testable information, combined with a bias toward “application to real-world problems”–and I’m teaching literature. There are certainly elements of information, comprehension, and analysis in what I teach, but–crucially, I think–a lot of the value of what I do isn’t that easily reducible:  I need to share an element of appreciation, of evoking pleasure and affect from the text, of  inviting enthusiasm and interpretive imagination, of modeling a life of reading and perceiving and enjoying to my students (which may affect them more than any specific text they read). These are easier to do face-to-face. Online, I’m pondering how to preserve that part of my work. (And, by the way,  my teaching has elements of “faculty satisfaction” these guys have never heard of.)

At this point, I’m not embarrassed to defend these sorts of intangibles–the feel central to me. What do you think–am I just being sentimental?


1 thought on “Michael’s Midway-into-M3 Primal Scream

  1. Michael, you’re my hero! You were for a long time, but this post… Can’t possibly comment on your being sentimental-coming from where I come from. Alas, your meditation on the jargon, on the unfamiliar (if at least were a bit uncanny, but nope), on the businesslike new sounds of our ancient craft of business, on the talking like a human being. Man. Poetry. Education. Culture. Happening. As it should in the thick of all things university. Is it over yet? Thank you for this posting.

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