TEACHING-LEARNING: The Power of Consultation

The day our students could feel a locomotive vibrate, smell it’s engines breathe and admire the courage of people — not just the quality of models. #locomotives #trains #highereducation #iphonephotography

Students come and go, some linger longer and retain my attention as longer term teachers. They read more, explore further and seek to ascend their initial state and tell you all about it. This is an exciting experience, learning from a former candidate that you resonate with. Many candidates tend to miss this space with academics, especially at undergraduate level. Somehow we could impose the idea that these kids don’t get it — although they do. Just in a unique way, on a different path, with unique twists and turns. Does that intimidate some intellectuals? Well probably those who want to be right all the time, instead of absorbing a different view and deadlocking in disagreement. Undergraduate education needs an urgent shift in my view. I’m imagining student groups reading various materials ranging from humanities to advanced sciences beyond the scope of their curriculum just out of sheer curiosity.

Perhaps focusing deliberately on how a candidate considers a problem over what the problem actually is could spark that curiosity. Cultivating learning is an unusual profession because in a world where the cost of information is nearly zero, knowledge economies seem obsolete. The traditional process of rote and banking knowledge in students and extracting like punching an ATM or typing on google just hasn’t ever worked. Since being exposed to The Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire I’ve always been looking for that little sliver to fill. That room to open up a structured chaos of enquiry that has a lot to do with cultivating a sense of citizenship by loosening the silk in the system and watch each worm sew itself something worth sowing. Tidjane Thiam’s commentary still strikes me as obvious even when looking at Patrick Awaua’s pulling point that “every society must be intentional about how it educates it’s leaders”. How extraordinary is that in the early 2000s? Is this even relevant for the undergraduates? After reading Ilyayambwa Mwanawina’s argument I can’t help but consider the cognitive depths of responsibility academics actually have.

“If a two-prong response, coming from both basic and higher education departments is not forthcoming, this will be a typical case of throwing tax money at a brewing national crisis and hoping the challenge will disappear.”– Prof Ilyayambwa Mwanawina

The contact point between teaching and learning is in consultation and contact sessions. That’s where the cross pollination of energy and ideas takes place and ideas manifest. It’s the place where inspiration is formulated, nurtured and maintained. But it’s not always where it comes from–it could well be part of where it takes form.

With the right type of academicians, consultation is an essential part of undergraduate life. It’s an area for brainstorming and bending the linearity of meaning between the textbook, evidence and intuition. Sometimes it’s a lesson in formulating an angle, articulating an honest narrative. Other times it’s the best place to project into the future, although the present seems implausible.

In an era of participatory governance, hyper-participants could range from being prosumers to absolute consumers. Prosumers participate in order to contribute to an item, idea, system or product– they are not only part of the value chain. They are the tribe within which the chains of value thrive. Absolute consumers absorb it all, exhibit preferences but choose from the available alternatives, refuse to be different and enjoy being somewhat similar to. There are so many in betweens, but neither of them are truly convinced about their satisfaction. Instead, they tell themselves that they are. I imagine that through a conducive curriculum, that voice from within may have the power to emerge. Not in class, or during the degree process, but later, as part of the on going consultations we get into and experience. More on this another day.

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