Last week was the real start of project communities and it immediately made me reflect on how to shape my teacher role in an online community. My main task online is to comment on and grade student’s blogs. One of the big constraints is time. I don’t have much time and I would like to comment on all student’s blogs and give them grades that make sense and include helpful feedback. How can I develop my skills so I can quickly read a blog and give quick yet meaningful feedback? For now I’ve been doing quite a bit of that in my own time and I won’t be able to keep that up for long.
But the main point on my mind was not so much the time, but the best way of commenting. On the one hand there’s the weekly assignment and I need to check if a student actually follows and answers the assignment. On the other hand, I feel like a coach that is encouraging the students to really get in there, get confusiastic and just get going on developing their role in the community. And that puts me in a dilemma when I have to respond to a blogpost that is open authentic and contributing, yet not following the rules of the assignment. How to comment, how to grade?
There were two helpful resources on that during the week. Firstly there was the video of Alan on online vs offline identity. That got me thinking on online versus offline dialogue with students. When you’re F2F the dialogue is synchronous and you can immediately check if you are being understood correctly. The asynchrous nature of posting online makes it more important to think about what I write because it has to be clear to the student. And on top of that there’s the thing that what is online, stays online. If I say something that is simply stupid, or later contradicted by Laura or Nancy, that will make me look really bad. How much risk of bad exposure do I run here? Combined with the short amount of time that is really putting the pressure on.
I am also a part of the research group Philosophy in Professional Practice. For next Tuesday’s meeting I got a draft for an article by Henrietta Joosten . In the article she describes 3 models for a teacher student relationship. This was a real starter for getting further reflection going. She does it very thouroughly but in my quick understanding they are:
The knowledge transferer. The teacher has a lot of knowledge on a subject and transfers that to his students. In a way it means that the teacher replaces or supplements the knowledge transfer via a book or the internet. He attunes the knowledge transfer to the speed and level of the student.
The master and apprentice. This has evolved from the set-up of the guilds in medieval times. The students doesn’t just theoretically learns but starts acting, setting up creative sessions, designing products and services, building business models, conducting interviews for research etcetera. The teacher already masters these skills and helps the student to develop them by doing it together and providing feedback while gradually building up to higher levels of skills.
Friends in search for truth. Here the relationship is more equal and based on a shared desire to uncover new truth, gain new insight. It is difficult in the sense that the search for truth is more important than the relationship. So you can’t ‘agree to disagree’ you have to go a step further and really debate until you agree on something or decide to break it off.
In her article Henrietta beautifully researches the friends in search for truth roles and how they might be developed or stimulated in professional higher education. But for me the three models already provided lots of insight. My planning talk with Maarten is coming up and I was wondering if shouldn’t be carving out a clearer position in the team, claim a field. But I realised that my strengths are in bridging the different fields of innovation & project management, business and technology. I can fulfill the knowledge transfer role and master role in most of these field, but I’ll never be the big master of any of them. And that’s OK because that’s not really my thing and I don’t need that role to be respected. Being able to bridge fields and being very strong analytically helps me to be good in the role of searching for truth. That’s why I love to do project tutoring and especially graduation project tutoring. That’s where I can finally get to the point where students don’t ask for help or confirmation but we can have a real dialogue towards finding the actual best solution. This helped me realise that I don’t have to choose to be the master of a certain field, I can choose to be the master friend of truth finding.
But so much for my own personal development plan. The other thing that it helped me to see was that you need to be friends and have a relationship of trust if you want to be finding the truth together. And after meeting two or three times, I just don’t have that kind of a relationship with most first-year students yet. It’s difficult for me to gauge what they want and need and how they see these roles of the teacher. Are students ready to go on a new truth finding expedition together. Or will they react with a “Well you are the teacher why aren’t you teaching me” attitude?
In my experience trust is like respect, you give it before you get it back and there is always a risk involved. But hey, all innovation involves risk taking so I am ready to go for it!