Dr. Judith M. Newman



Interwoven conversations II

[ Journal Entry ]

OK. Here are the ideas which caught my attention in these three readings:

  • wonderful ideas - Duckworth
  • negotiation—demystification - Boomer
  • enterprises - Smith

I loved the wonderful weaving of ideas that reading these four pieces together in this order allowed—Duckworth arguing that the point of any learning situation is to find the unexpected—that's whatever is surprising. Unfortunately a lot of school experiences discourages the unexpected, places no value on it, is structured to avoid it. Yet, it's in the making of "mistakes" and then understanding what happened and what might be done about it that real learning occurs. Just the opposite of what many prestigious educators contend.

I'd certainly want to add a fifth item to Boomer's argument that we need to be able to question unreasonable assertions, say that we don't understand when we don't, pause to think, say that we don't know if we don't know. This list should also include we need to be able to recognize the unexpected and to ponder what it might mean and what we might do about it.

The sort of learning situation where those possibilities might occur is one in which teachers and students are working at building a learning community—of the sort that Brent Wilson describes. Smith, also gives some very useful criteria for recognizing how to organize a learning community—he calls his idea "enterprises" —this is another version of a learning community:

  • no grades
  • no restrictions
  • no coercion
  • no status

in other words, a negotiated collaboration—impossible?

I'm convinced it's doable in any classroom, subject doesn't matter, if I'm willling to take some risks with setting the learning situation up and turning the students loose to find out stuff that engages them. The very interesting thing, I've discovered, is that it doesn't matter what the stuff of the curriculum is—anything can prove interesting if the unexpected is explored and Smith's criteria are engaged.