Amber from Online Universities Weblog sent this link to 10 Incredibly Inspiring Self Taught Scholars this afternoon.
It made me think about how we as adult learners/teachers fail to engage with what we're learning/teaching and we underestimate the role of self-teaching. I gave a guest lecture yesterday at QUT for pre-service teachers. It was in one of those gigantic lecture theatres (you know the ones that are kind-of cost-effective because they fit all your first years, but don't really allow you to really connect?).
What I noticed though, is that the majority of the students were sitting up the back of the theatre and there were many not even present. What I wondered today as I was reflecting on yesterday, is "what kind of teachers will these learner make?"
If you're learning something because you "have to", because the university is "making you do it", then that's one heck of an uninspiring place to engage.
I've been guilty in the past of prefacing an upcoming lecture with a 'you just have to learn this because the course outline says you have to' statement. Thinking about that today, I can't believe that I would say something like that. How dare I influence another person's engagement with a topic simply because I've not bothered or had the energy to find a point of engagement.
I think that's the task - find a POINT OF ENGAGEMENT. A place where you can connect with the subject.
When I was teaching Indigenous Art, Protocols and Practices at Queensland College of Art, I would have many international students in my class struggling to understand concepts of appropriation of Aboriginal iconography and cultural knowledge. But I tried to relate it to their own culture. Many of the "Asian" students could understand cultural appropriation because they could see it in every second Hollywood blockbuster - where every leading man is a martial arts expert who had appropriated the surface of the art, removed it from its context and altered it.
This, relating the learning to your context is a POINT OF ENGAGEMENT. The students, many of whom would return to their countries and more than likely never engage with Indigenous Australians again, were able to connect with the course.
We can take a lesson from the inspiring self-taught scholars - find a POINT OF ENGAGEMENT. Something that draws you in to a subject and allows you to develop an intrinsic motivation to learn.
That's the kind of learner-teacher I'm trying to be.