[iDC] duplication theory of educational value

Adrian Miles adrian.miles at rmit.edu.au
Sun Sep 18 11:01:40 UTC 2011

hi John :-)

On 17 September 2011 01:29, John Hopkins <neo at neoscenes.net> wrote:


> Any situation where there is an open encounter between the Self and the
Other is
> the epitome of a learning experience. If an insitution, though an onerous
> process of control of participant's expressive pathways, closes down the
> wide-potentialed freedom of the encounter, it eventually causes its own
> at the expense of the participants (they either conform to the strictures
> expression and reception of creative energies, or they are 'punished.')

Oh, I like this and in the spirit of the conversation here I'd more or less
appropriate that and force it (jumping down on it quite hard to make it fit
if I had to) into my terms so it is absolutely about the Other, and it is
this open encounter that facilitates and enables the qualitative change that
I rather poorly talked about in the earlier email. It is not about learning
more about something, it is about an experience that lets you learn
differently (in the best of circumstances) and to change your understanding
of what matters, which is rarely for the majority of students things like
academic rigour (because the majority do not want to be academics and those
that do generally have internalised the value system anyway so display all
the rigour you would want). It is disciplinary understanding, about what it
means to 'be' a scientist or engineer or film theorist or media maker. The
Other here is not knowledge as information, but the recognition of a
knowledge that is outside of us and you and the student and that to learn to
see it, hear it, listen to it is important and is quite a different thing to
just learning lots. Again this is learnt in the encounter, by doing.

And institutions, bloody hell, it isn't even closing down creative pathways.
It is things like policing plagiarism as 'academic integrity' and then
through some strange slight of hand thinking this is about assessing what
the student actually learnt (last week I got to sit through one of those -
when I asked how did you know the student who cut and pasted without
attribution hadn't actually learnt what they had cut and pasted they
admitted they didn't know, but also didn't seem to realise that what they
thought the point of their teaching 'innovation' was had just dissolved). So
it isn't just creativity, it is policing of strictures because they are
strictures rather than anything about what they may or may have not learned.

> Careful attention paid to this dimension of the learning encounter may
> completely negate any perceived material lack and convert such a
> perception/situation into an inspiring encounter.  I have tested this
> hyppothesis countless times in my own facilitation/teaching work over the
> and I have not yet seen it fail.  As a teacher, I concentrate the bulk of
> attention to the quality of these Dialogues in the classroom encounter,
and it
> seems that that alone stimulates endless creative energies with the
> participants.  It is not the norm, however, and there are significant
> institutional pressures which have to be countered or eliminated in order
> this fearlessness to take hold in 'normal' university situations.  That's
> reason I maintain a distance from any one institution so that I do not
become a
> 'regular' member of any faculty and thus integrated into the local
> power-politics.  This seems to free up substantial potentials for open
> with the students.

Being outside has a lot of benefits on the other hand certainly here in
Australia your employment conditions are worse, and it also means you have
agency in your area but not elsewhere. Being inside, when you have a
perspective like we probably share, it is dispiriting at the best of times
simply because most academics and therefore the institutions that house them
(and which we largely get to define, academics traditionally become senior
academics in leadership positions) self define as disciplinary experts
(which would seem to me to be a reasonable state of affairs) and are very
good at being disciplinary experts. But the errors that happen next I think
are one of two forms.

The first is to assume that all the students you teach are there for the
same reasons that you have, or had when a student. So you assume as a
default a whole range of academic metrics and practices as what counts
because, after all, you're at university. Hence in many ways the experience
of university to many students is one of being acculturated to these values,
in spite of, or regardless of what they intend to do next. These values
aren't wrong, it's just that most of my students don't come to the programs
I teach in to become academics, and so these deep values are not perhaps the
best ones to use in judging what matters.

The second is that I got to university as a career for being smart and
literate. Not for being a good teacher, and certainly not for demonstrating
any great self awareness about how I 'perform' being smart and literate - my
own black box of being a researcher, writer, maker, and teacher. I 'got'
theory, no one had to teach me how to be 'theoretical'. I was the classic
excellent student. It took me quite a few years of teaching to learn that
'theory' could be taught, and that most students don't get it at all. I
don't mean theory of 'x', but, well, the concept of theory as a thing in
itself that everyone on this list just 'gets'. I had outstanding students,
which as a beginning teacher I figured must have been me. Nah, they were the
students like me who already 'got' theory and just soaked it all up. In a
subject with 40 students this might be 5, the natural high distinction
students. And novice that I was, I ended up teaching to them, the ones with
the questions, the interest, did the difficult reading, wrote great essays.
But actually these students teach themselves with a bit of guidance and
critique, but it's the other 35 that I think are the measure of my ability
as a teacher. So the second error is to not spend your time being a
content/disciplinary expert and not pausing to think about your own practice
long enough to be able to model the sorts of practice/thinking/action that
you actually do when you do what you do theoretically.

> That said, at this point it would seem reasonable to point out the small
> built into a discussion among people who are mostly in more-or-less secure
> institutional positions, as I know many here are.  It is that (social)
> which itself is a certain stricture to open encounter and fearless
> Shedding the strictures means constructing new, more relevant community
> situations for encounter, or simply letting go of as many such strictures
> personal life as is possible -- questioning ANY of them in their affect on
> personal human relations.  (had to say it, I'm now suiting up with a
> flame-retardent graduation gown)...

See above. :-) But the thing is, we have built it, and it is very easy to
find yourself acculturated to the institutional values (I chose this career,
I want to be an academic, etc) and so it is made more or less by us. What
drives me spare though is that I can sit in a room with a dozen brilliant
theoreticians who can spot a hegemonic/ideological/etc structure a mile off,
but can't actually see their own socialised professional norms as similarly
ideological etc. It doesn't mean they are wrong, but at least recognising
this you can begin a conversation.
> Hope you are enjoying a nice springtime!
Oh, Melbourne's had very mixed weather, typical early spring here, but
beautiful week of mid 20s (celsius) coming up. Let me know off list when
you're back in town would you?

an appropriate closing
Adrian Miles
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