Back to learning as the leaves fall

My summer was a quiet one in terms of writing, mostly because it was absorbed with moving into a new house (and emptying the old one) and then catching up on all the work that had to be done before the start of the Fall semester. Oh yes, and applying for a new job (which I got!).

This fall has me tackling two big opportunities to learn. The first is in taking on a full Instructional Designer role halftime while retaining my Assistant Instructional Designer job halftime. I am my own assistant. Well, sort of. We are also hiring someone to fill the other half of my assistant position. Previously I worked on new courses only when my help was requested for specific tasks but I am now learning the rest of the process of developing and designing an online course. I have had my first development meeting and it was the perfect one to start with as the instructor is enthusiastic, very focused on active learning, and happy to try new things. I’m excited about the course although the material is outside my area of expertise.

Regardless, I will be learning a large amount as I figure out the best way to negotiate through this process. Luckily all the instructors I am working with have previously taught online and some of them have extensive experience developing online courses. I will be able to learn a lot from them even as I provide my own suggestions, hopefully allowing them to learn from me as well.

The other side of my learning is actually a little more daunting. I am taking Introduction to Education Research (ED 800). It is the first face-to-face course in my MEd and the instructor, Marc Spooner, has been making it a good experience. Admittedly, I am not a fan of the textbook. Actually, my response to the first chapter was a desire to rip it out and shred it. Being trained in the humanities, I have a pretty major aversion to the desire to legitimate research through association with science. I have never felt the need to call my work science or to be more “scientific” to prove that what I do is valid. I believe in multiple ways of knowing and understanding. Moreover, I believe that our current view of Science as trustworthy, unbiased, and full of truth is highly problematic. So a chapter in our text on social research that includes a rather large section discussing science and scientific research is unlikely to excite me.

That is doubly so when the author discusses the problems with relying upon experts, then proceeds to expound as an expert, also implying that while the books in a book store are full of opinions (oh my!), scientific research is not. My post-modernist, feminist, post-colonial, post-structuralist, critical self rose up and started a rant. My husband, a couple coworkers, and one fellow student all got various versions of it. My instructor will likely receive some discussion of it also when I write a journal on our first readings. Thankfully, after our last class, I know that he and I share at least some of our theoretical location.

Although research is a dear friend of mine, making some of the information so far feel like old news to me, many of the students in the course are very new to research. This still worries me. At the same time, it does illustrate that not all faculties treat their students as future researchers. To be honest, I think we may do a disservice to students when we limit their education to that of a future researcher. Knowing how to research and understanding academic research is important (anyone could benefit from that if only to learn how to be skeptical of what they read or hear relating to statistics, expert opinions, research, or even the process of publication), but the majority of students will never become academic researchers.

I am still adjusting to a graduate degree being the point at which you learn about the wonderful world of journals, however.

All this is to say that this fall I will have a whole lot to think about.

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