Pedagogy. What Happens When Agents Resist:
Report from the Summer
Challenge to Emergent Pedagogy:
- Lines are inevitable and thus,
insiders and outsiders.
- The articulation of this great
irony, that the act of recognition is always an act of
"determinateness" and "fixing," and thus will always be resisted, goes
back at least as far as Hegel's 1807 essay on "Lordship and Bondage."
articulates the stages in The Phenomenology of Mind: those of
mutual recognition, opposition, consciousness, labor, and
- Early Scenes from
Summer Institute 2005
- As we concluded our opening
presentation, we asked participants to write on-line, and then to read
aloud to the group, a short story about some change they made--or chose
not to make--in their teaching or learning or life. One of the teachers
refused to read her contribution to the group: "We are not children.
Adults don't like to be read to, and I try to respect what people
want." Her refusal to perform publicly her own relationship to change
was our first indication that our attempts to gather all participants
into a single story--however commodious, however complex and
paradoxical--were going to be continually met with resistance.
- Resistance/defiance or identity with
other/outside, locks or at least limits movement/growth/action. Begins
cycle of Disengagement/dis-enfranchisement.
- Paul Willis’s description of Midlands ‘lads’ in Learning
to Labor: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs (1977). Willis demonstrates
that the "lads" in his study "disqualify themselves from the middle
class," "self-produce themselves as workers "by defining themselves, in
antagonism, as others of bourgeois culture.
- Lila Abu-Lughod’s
description of Egyptian Bedouin women in “The Romance of Resistence" (1989): "If the systems of power are
multiple, then resisting at one level may catch people up at other
levels." (Her example is Egyptian Bedouin women who free themselves
from the control of their mothers-in-laws by becoming more directly and
narrowly dependent on their husbands. In the name of increasing
freedom, the women are "backing in" to new forms of subjection.)
essay also provides, presciently, a
cogent analysis of how a student might move out of the sort of
that Willis laments, beyond the seemingly inevitable stand-off between
recognition and resistance: "precisely in labour
where there seemed to be merely some outsider's mind and ideas
bondsman becomes aware...of having and being a 'mind of his own.'"
- Resistance is a necessary step toward
- Resistance begins
the defining of
- Engagement or moving “in”, requires
accepting agency / defining self
- Defining self requires interacting
and accepting “other”, accepting the “outside”.
- Once trust is established between
inside and out and self confidence is gained, then exploration of other
can begin without fear of losing self.
- Through work/engagement self is
further developed and constructed.
- Later Scenes from
Summer Institute 2005
- It seemed to us that precisely
this phenomenon--actively contributing to the data-gathering and
observation-making that is the work of science,
and to the pedagogical innovation that is teaching students to do the
same--would enable our participants to move beyond the conventional "resistence" that so many students demonstrate in
relationship to their teachers. The classes which succeeded best were
certainly those in which participants were asked, not to attempt
replicating an experiment in which the results were already known, but
rather to gather data for new ways of organizing the world. Through
such labor, they were laying the foundation for what Hegel calls
- They flourished, for example, in
revolution" designed for them by a colleague in biology, who asked
them to sort and classify a wide diversity of life forms, according to
schemes which made sense to them. They were able to acknowledge the
validity of the organizing patterns they themselves had designed.
- Another colleague in geology
helped them to understand the complexities of "global
change" by asking them to describe what they knew about what
happens in their classrooms: What causes changes in students' attention
spans? What happens if a perturbation--a distraction--occurs?
Recognizing how their classrooms worked as systems, they were able to
extrapolate to the complex interactions underlying climate change, to
see how small changes in one area could have very large effects in
- Another colleague in computer
science used "water-based computation" and the computer program "Alice"
(an object-based way to teach the properties, methods and functions of
computing). These activities helped participants move from computer
"literacy" to "fluency": "getting the concepts behind the applications,
being capable of applying these skills in various contexts."
- All of these exercises
were composed of multiple trials and errors, with plenty of time and
space for asking questions about what was working (or not), and why (or
Lessons for Educators:
- Be aware of inevitability of inside/out
- Be as inclusive as possible
- Be willing to go outside
normal (teacher imposed) classroom structure
- Risky & requires re-structuring
of power dynamic in classroom (no classroom?)
- Strive for engagement, but again
realize that that in itself is a line that some may not cross.
- Allow for time to build
trust….students trusting you, and you trusting that students will
eventually choose to engage/explore.
- Is it possible to not
draw lines in a classroom?
- With teacher vs
student power structure?
- When expectation/learning objectives
- Can we realistically re-define our
learning objectives such that lines are not necessary?
- What does learning look like and how
can it be evaluated in such and open system?