Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Tao of "isms"

(cross posted in shorter form to my Personal Learning Landscape)

It has been an educational weekend, to say the least.

While I've taken the opportunity to start reading my texts for the upcoming pre-residency, I was doing so without the context of a specific assignment or deliverable. I was okay with that. I ignored my good little educator voice and forged ahead, if for no other reason but to get myself into that academic frame of mind.

Saturday AM: my official reading requirements and initial assignment arrived.

To say that I was, after reading the assignment, well in the throes of cognitive dissonance would be a significant understatement.

The initial assignment is daunting in its simplicity: 1000-1500 words (suitably composed following the APA style guide) on my assumptions about learners and learning, and how those assumptions are reflected in the readings. I will, apparently, receive constructive feedback on the submission and we'll revisit it as the residency progresses.

(Sidebar: Hmmm....academic writing. Pretty much diametrically opposed to the business writing I've been doing for the past 10+ years. Even the practicum for my Adult Training & Development Certificate was pretty business-like. The last real academic piece I submitted was probably the better part of 12-13 yrs ago, and I don't think that my treatise on Bismarck's role in 19th Century European/German history would have much value here.)

As with most things, some of the reading was straightforward enough and some of it was like reading Greek. I found myself barraged by a slew of "-isms", "-ologies" and theories and approaches as I valiantly waded through the first (of two) required chapters in my Perspectives on Research text. I haven't seen this much brain theory this side of a Psychotherapists Convention. Everywhere I looked, there was a new term to research, which led to more research and linking. I mean, there was an "-ism" and an "-ology" for almost everything! I was absolutely surrounded and about to be overwhelmed. I'm certain that if I hadn't left a mental trail of bread crumbs I'd be basting nicely inside someone's oven. Just to make things interesting I still had this paper staring me in the face with no discernable starting point. In fact, I felt more lost than when I started.

However, if I may mix my metahpors, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. No, it was not the oncoming train. We were required to download a study paper which dealt with learning and professional practice. About 4 paragraphs in, I was hooked. I finally saw the connections. Meaning was given to my learning/learner assumptions, and I actually saw a starting point for my assignment paper. Associated reference papers were sought, found, and saved for future reading.

Eureka!*

The afternoon definitely went better than the morning. Yes, I still have to get through the research text, and I still have to re-read the first 2 chapters of Making Sense of Adult Learning but I feel a lot further ahead than I did yesterday morning.

I guess it illustrates one of the assumptions that I do make about learners: we need relevance and meaning in order for 'information' to become 'knowledge', and occasionally we need a push in the right direction.

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Translation: Holy crap, I might just have a chance at making this thing work!

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