Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Revolution in learning and teaching?

The Department of Education has released the “National Educational Technology Plan” According to the Chronicle of Higher Education. “To achieve these goals, the National Educational Technology Plan (NETP) calls for revolutionary transformation rather than evolutionary tinkering. It urges our education system at all levels to:

• Be clear about the outcomes we seek.

• Collaborate to redesign structures and processes for effectiveness, efficiency, and flexibility.

• Continually monitor and measure our performance.

• Hold ourselves accountable for progress and results every step of the way.

“Just as technology is at the core of virtually every aspect of our daily lives and work, we must leverage it to provide engaging and powerful learning experiences, content, and resources and assessments that measure student achievement in more complete, authentic, and meaningful ways. Technology-based learning and assessment systems will be pivotal in improving student learning and generating data that can be used to continuously improve the education system at all levels. Technology will help us execute collaborative teaching strategies combined with professional learning that better prepare and enhance educators’ competencies and expertise over the course of their careers. To shorten our learning curve, we can learn from other kinds of enterprises that have used technology to improve outcomes while increasing productivity.”

[from Linda Coughlin in "The Academic Ear"]

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Course Description

Philosophy of Teaching, Learning, and Knowing

St. Mary’s College
Fall 2010
Anne Arundel 103
Tuesday and Thursday, 12-2 pm

Professor Matthew R. Silliman
Office: 102C Anne Arundel Hall
Phone: 895-2147; Email: mrsilliman@smcm.edu or m.silliman@mcla.edu
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday after class, and by appointment


* Plato, Republic (Bloom translation recommended and available in bookstore;
other translations are acceptable provided they have Stephanos numbers
for cross-reference)
* Harvey Siegel, Rationality Redeemed? (available in bookstore)
* David Kenneth Johnson and Matthew R. Silliman, Bridges to the World
(we will discuss availability of this text in class)
* Various articles

Course Description

This seminar will explore some questions in the philosophy of education, understood as a branch of applied epistemology. That is, we will take theoretical and practical questions about teaching and learning to represent concretized hypotheses about the nature and process of getting, having, and sharing knowledge or understanding. We will thus examine some major treatments of pedagogy and epistemology in the history of Western philosophy (with at least passing comparisons to such alternative approaches as those of Confucius and the Hindu Advaita tradition). We will also explore some contemporary educational ideas, in particular the radical constructivist views currently in vogue in schools of education around the world.

Philosophical issues in teaching and learning have been largely neglected by professional philosophers in recent decades (with notable exceptions, as we will see), while by and large teachers and teacher educators have limited training in philosophy. Such mutual neglect and compartmentalization does discredit to both professions. Here is a character in Bernhard Schlenk’s recent novel The Reader articulating the point to his son:

Don’t you remember how furious you would get as a boy when Mama knew better what was good for you? Even how far one can act like this with children is a real problem. It is a philosophical problem, but philosophy does not concern itself with children. It leaves them to pedagogy, where they’re not in very good hands. (p. 141)

As Professor Berg suggests in this passage, one central paradox of teaching is the many-faceted problem of paternalism: how can we reconcile the need for direction in both content and method with the need for the autonomy, curiosity, and enjoyment that are desiderata of effective learning? I am currently co-authoring a book, in dialogue, on the subject of education, and this paradox is one of its central themes. Since our seminar is, after all, one kind of classroom setting, it will itself will function as a place both to discuss such issues, and at the same time as a proving ground for experimenting with possible resolutions of them, both practical and theoretical.


READINGS: Because our discussions will determine the pace and direction of the course within some broad instructor-imposed boundaries, I will not publish a schedule of course readings (which is likely quickly to be obsolete, and so misleading). Thus you must rely on our collective decisions toward the end of each class meeting to determine what to prepare for the next meeting.

WEEKLY SLAPS: Each student will bring a question, developed in my prescribed SLAP format, to the first class meeting each week, as a basis for our conversation.

BLOGS: Every student will also be responsible for reading posts on the weblog I will maintain for the course (www.skeptiblog.blogspot.com) in preparation for class, as well as setting up and regularly updating their own blogs, and commenting on others’. I expect a minimum of one blog post and one thoughtful , though not necessarily lengthy, comment on someone else’s blog each week as basic fulfillment of this requirement. For these purposes, each week will end at midnight on Sunday, and there is no way to make up missed blogging.

EVALUTION of each student’s performance in the course will be based on SLAPs, quantity and quality of blog contributions, class leadership and participation, and preponderantly on two concise scholarly essays. We will discuss the details of these essays, which we will develop in multiple stages, at the appropriate time.