Enforcing Independence Part 2

I haven’t engaged much with the topic for week 2 of #rhizo14 which is about whether we can enforce independence because I’ve been too busy doing my own thing (haha!) and thinking about D&G.  I’ve been reading blogs of other participants, though, and I guess that it has been percolating away at the edge of my mind.  I started by thinking that all one would have to do to enforce independence would be to refuse to spoon-feed or to provide support, but of course it’s not as easy as that.  As Maddie writes in this post, you don’t make somebody independent by telling them to stand on their own two feet, you have to create the right conditions for this to be able to happen:

you cannot just make people empowered, you cannot hand them down their powers or tell them to be responsible.

scaffoldI know that some people are not a fan of the metaphor of scaffolding.  I am, because it gives me a bit of shorthand (jargon) to describe what I try to do with my Jigsaw Classroom, where I begin the semester with carefully structured collaborative tasks and gradually withdraw as I see the students developing their critical abilities.  If the metaphor works for you, I reckon you grab it. If not, ignore it and move on, as Terry Elliot is doing here with metaphors that do speak to you.

But, or course, I am thinking about students in a formal learning environment, and as @FrancesBell has mentioned more than once, this is not the whole story.  In addition, Helen Crump suggests in a lovely blog post that we need to move beyond traditional types of assessment if we are really going to allow independent learning.  However, if we were serious about that, maybe we could stop the obsession with using electronic plagiarism checkers such as Turnitin, because, as Catherine Nardi says in her blog, when you start to allow folk the independence to design their learning for themselves, then this happens:

I have wrapped my head around some great ideas, because you just can’t Google the answer.  And that for me is learning.  It is even better when it is shared.

There’s lots of metaphors that I have been thinking about in the context of rhizomatic thinking, but the two that are speaking to me the most are Anna Sfard’s metaphors of participation and acquisition types of learning.  Independent learners participate in learning, they don’t just acquire knowledge.  And, of course, as Helen and others have pointed out, that requires a community of learning.

Finally, as Maddie also points out (and Catherine makes the similar point in a different way), there often needs to be some disruption for learning to begin:

You can only create such circumstances or situations (not exactly scaffolding) but something that makes them uncomfortable perhaps? so as to make them take notice of their actions and behaviour which will in turn start a process of self-introspection and self re-mediation.

I’m reminded of Immanuel Kant’s remark:

I freely admit: it was David Hume’s remark that first, many years ago, interrupted my dogmatic slumber and gave a completely different direction to my enquiries in the field of speculative philosophy.

Yup.  Down with dogma and up with all thinking for ourselves:

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2 Responses to Enforcing Independence Part 2

  1. balimaha says:

    Thanks for that, Sarah, a very good synthesis there. But u didn’t tell us how the “other” reading is coming along 😉

  2. Sarah, I like what you are doing with the Jigsaw Classroom. Appreciate the nod to the Google Comment. I like this sentence most of all… Independent learners participate in learning, they don’t just acquire knowledge. Thanks for participating!

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