Pandaji's Blog

Art, research, education

Profile 3. Teaching and/or supporting student learning, August 2010

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“I never teach my students; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn”

“It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”

“Imagination is more important than knowledge… “

–Albert Einstein

U.S. (German-born) physicist (1879-1955)

I would not go as far as to say I never teach my students, but creating the conditions for learning is also a major part of my job. (See 4. below.)

I try to encourage peer assisted learning amongst the students. In accordance with Phil Races’ presentation called Ripple (2004) and written up in Making Learning Happen, “consolidating what they have learned by putting them into a position of helping others gives students increased self-esteem and confidence in themselves.” (Race, P. 2005)

As Brookfield (1995) points out, “A teacher who encourages peer learning shows how important it is to trust other students.” My action research proposal begins to investigate the potential for formalising peer-assisted learning by using a chart designed to help students identify who has particular ceramic skills amongst them. These students need to have the confidence to sign up for a particular skill, thus agreeing to help others who will then seek them out for help with a specific skill or technique. I try to make sure that I then follow up with the students concerned to ensure both parties are satisfied that they can trust each other.

I am trying to use methods that enhance transformative learning like exposing students to disorientation and failure. (Taylor 1998) Moreover, I do not consciously set up students to fail, but if something does ‘fail,’ I find it useful and productive to discuss what is perceived as failure, because in an arts subject (as opposed to medicine for example), failure could be construed as a positive outcome. I help the student to learn from these “failures’” which I refer to as “kiln gifts.”

Learning can be the ability to know where to find knowledge. Different facets of this ability in the context of ceramics include:

  • Understanding the way to read a standardised glaze test;
  • Ability to imagine whether it would do justice to a particular piece;
  • Practising the application techniques in order to learn how it behaves on a specific piece or place.

“As we increasingly move toward an environment of instant and infinite information, it becomes less important for students to know, memorize, or recall information, and more important for them to be able to find, sort, analyze, share, discuss, critique, and create information. They need to move from being simply knowledgeable to being knowledge-able.” (Wesch, M. 2009) I agree with this statement because using the glaze test tiles resource or experimenting with glazes and discussing the results with peers demonstrates the move from knowledgeable to knowledge-able.

It is important to allow time for discussing test results or work in progress, either as a whole group or individually, and to encourage students to discuss their work with each other. This helps enhance self-esteem.

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Author: pandaji

Ceramic artist, educator

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