Understanding ‘good’ students

Something Liam said resonated with me as I was doing the Phaedrus chat. We had been talking about the Learner Centred Project and he said ‘it is the traditional HD students who seem to be having the most trouble with grades at the beginning of the course’. There was something in what he was saying. Maybe some of you who are turned off by me have been HD students before this. If this possibility exists then I need to do some home work. And here is what I threw up.

I went looking for how can someone consistently get high grades through school and college. And if the net can help. It of course took me into schools – where you get high grades for doing what you are told. So here goes:

1. I found this web site: “One of the biggest challenges of getting good grades is how to make the large amount of schoolwork more manageable, and one of the longest sections of this guide explains in detail how to do that”. So this was about work management. The paper lantern was the exact opposite – it said the more time you spend on this the more rewarding it will be. ummm…. “Getting good grades in college is a challenge that is best conquered using proven methods of studying and a particular framework of attitudes.”

2. This site said ” The goal of this course is to design champions”. And what does being a champion learner in design school mean. I wonder!

3. This is a bit less strategy orientated – so maybe not as useful in the tricks department. “Times change. The definition of “student” once was “one who studies something”. Today it can mean merely “one who attends a school, college or university”.” And then what happens when you attend – you run into teachers who teach stuff the meaning of which is not clear or valuable?

No tips I can give you yet …

4. “Time to Narrow Down Your Extracurricular Activities” Interesting

5. “what you will wish you had known

6. “Good grades in high school have ‘halo effect’ that protects against smoking”

So the HD gives you a “Halo effect” in school. WOW!! Also in uni? Maybe.

But if people are not keen to get good grades – but are going for the pass, and not because they are not good but because they have chosen to “downshift” or consume less or do less or stress less or whatever, then does the “halo effect”(HE) disappear.

Does anyone seriously work to get the HE? And is this a way to make a statement or be noticed in the community?

What happnes if the teacher says all my students are equal – all are as good. It is just that some of them are preoccupied with relationships or have personality issues – and this is the place to go thru all these changes and so why should anyone be penalised for falling in love. Just be honest – no can do, am obsessing about someone. And that is fine. Privilege life over work. Good stuff – right ho!

My conundrum still is with the complexity of negotiating university. Can we get away with doing little? Yes. can we get good grades by doing a little,and a burst at the end? umm doubtful. Very little learning in this – very little dialogue. So good grades tough on this route. Can we get good grades by doing stuff our way and getting it approved by the teacher? Possible in exceptional cases.But again the learning is negotiated – and you may do but not learn – you will have an output, but without any significant substance. Good output – good manufacturable design. But that may not be the point of the studio at all. And you will be using stuff you have learned before – but not what is involved in the course.

So you see. Its complex tough and just like people – cussed.

Good night.

Oh This business of being a teacher!!

P: It was warm yesterday, and the days are longer. How goes your season of discontent.
S: It rages. Yesterday was yet another session that ended with a not so good taste. I sat down and counted how many in class hate me.

P: And is that a majority? Like halfway through in Israel?
S: No nothing like that. This is mild stuff; its hate but mild and only as a sort of disengagement. I am ok, and you (S) are not ok. And for this reason of low intensity. Its an unwillingness to spare time. Israel was ‘show us where we are going’ and the anger was associated with that. Of 35 a cool 20 were angry, and they were the ones who got the most out of it. But that was an anger of engagement – not one of withdrawal. And the 15 who didn’t get angry passed through the course – just passing thru – and didn’t get much from it. Nice people, still friends with them- but they didn’t get a lot. Or didn’t get it!

P: A bit like Pound’s heliodiplodocus story. And Prisig’s quality essay. And Koestler’s “ah!” is delayed in coming. But this is the way things have to be. If you got an enthusiastic student group that started working on themselves actively it would be catastrophic. It will seem like cynicism has died. And that would be fascism.
S: Thanks P. Letting me off the hook I see.

P: No privileging excellence and perfection. The Zen master will not stoop to mediocrity, neither will the poet – so why must you entertain it. But you are neither of those so it would be wrong for you to assume you have people in your class because they have come to get something from you, let alone transform themselves. I note that you gave out the ‘personal transformation’ stuff at the beginning – and have kept quiet about it. So let us say: ‘education’ is not about learning or capability development – as it ought to be – but about getting something extra. A little bit more- like a new shirt. You don’t need to have surgery, or do meditation to wear a shirt. So why do you have to give up all that you have learnt – what you(s) refer to as bad thinking habits – just because some teacher thinks so. It should be possible to design a lantern by just doing up a sketch, and executing it. But you don’t allow that – and so you cleave the class into those who can engage, and those who cannot. Have you spoken of Itten?
S: No, no I haven’t. As though the lantern is not bad enough. Anyway getting back to the hate climate, nay dislike, I am wondering how to reach out. To bring back into the fold the discontented – to talk to those who say ‘this is boring stuff’.

P: I have an idea. Rotate the peer evaluation and get a conversation going. The contented will speak to the discontented. Or better still ignore it. Just like a normal teacher – do your job and move on, play the game “I (s) am ok, you are not”. But you can’t and this is eating you up. Right, so look at it like this. You make four scenarios and choose from that. (a) You could have all the class feeling unhappy and hiding it from you. (b) You have a 50:50 split in happy versus unhappy. (c) You have a 30:70, or 40:60 split either way or both ways. (d) You have the whole class fully happy. Well you can’t have (d) because you are not teaching Karate and you don’t have (a). So take your pick. Why don’t you have a stakeholder session – participative democracy – get the class to engage and solve this problem. As problems go ‘soumitri’s unhappiness’ is a good one to work on. So what do you say?
S: Ummm. I will first blog this conversation. Then unload my anxieties – onto someone.

P: Tell me about your anxieties.
S: Nothing to tell. Just the usual. Am I doing a good job. Am I being effective. Am I setting up an effective learning context. Am I being too authoritative ( I am a bit authoritative, but over stepping the limits?). Am I alienating some because I am focused on other. Am I causing anxieties – and leading to disengagement of some from their work. Am I being too soft. Am I being too hard.

P: You will never know any of this. So why not step back.
S: Or stop wearing suits.

To get things started

on this new colloquium blog I have only this to offer – for now.

Lets talk

Watch this space …

Okay Ben here it is

Not been sleeping, not been sleeping at all. When does someone like me get the time to do a web site – not part of my job. So I steal time at night when the family sleeps.

All because some irate student (ben) got under my skin by moaning about my site being all crap.

So here it is all updated and extremely verbose.

A little bird said to me yesterday

“This Corporation Game lot – you know we have begun to notice something about some of them. They are thinking aggressively – and are quite fearless in thinking aloud.”

“Very interesting minds.”

So what is happening? Let us say that you have focussed upon your processes of thinking. You have realised that it is all arbitrary anyway – one good idea can be replaced with another. You arrive at good ideas with games and play – and these ideas are even better than those arrived at thru hard linear thinking. This is one thing you may have realised. But then you may not have realised this – but may have changed yourself in unknown ways. And this is more magical. Your boundaries may have shifted. You may be incapable now of getting angry with other dogmatic people – because you can accommoldate their views too; you have 8 categories.

But have you let go – of your old ways? A little bit – but you may have a long way to go. Your old ways require you to fit – to conform, and get into the groove, be cool, be awesome, be hot, – and these are the words all social collectives (communities of people, clans, tribes and basically all groups even in cities) use to make categories. These categories are boxes into which you must fit or else you will be hounded, ridiculed (oh so tasteless, or so gauche, oh so kitsch), and stones (with sneers). But that is not good for the radical is it? So what do we do?? Let us become the object beyond ridicule – let us be ridiculous. Let us wear a suit to class – and let everyone shake their head and say ‘ they are crazy’. What they mean is they do not have a box, category to put you in, and so you are free. Free to think beyond the frontier – designer sans frontiers!! (but if you do not wear a suit? Will we ridicule, maybe not but …. )

Welcome to the corporation game. This is Tarkovsky’s Zone in the Stalker. Here we are all pure minds. We are all free and fearless. We will hunt and pin down ways of thinking. And in this way we will value the thinking that minds can do – and in this we are thinking just like people in corporations. ( and so will use blogs like Dumbledore in Harry Potter – to pull things out of our heads, to empty our minds so that we can be free to move on, uncluttered)

And let go then atop the hot air ballon to the table that has been set out for us to have a cup of tea (and biscuits?) and gaze at the city below.

let us spare a moment and read Gertrude Stein. It may be time. We may be able to read that.

but again you may be ready to watch a bollywood film – and a deep texture – not as kitsch but as an arbitrary context. That is not trrying to be realistic, much less show you heroes. Or shall we start with a mixican soap.

Till next time then.

Dear Laura

You asked about the three categories: The Corporation, The Dissenters and the Designers. And you asked if you were still to be in these categories. You asked – what is the game.

And here is the answer:
1. On 11th July (seems like such a long time ago) we did a little thinking about these categories. Soumitri needed to demonstrate the existence of these categories – which is one more category than the conventional us (designer) and them (client). He also needed you to keep three categories. By the end of july the class was comfortable keeping up to 8 categories in their heads. Meaning was becoming complex. And complexity was becoming something to enjoy.

2. On 18th July the idea of the ‘enlightened corporation’ was proposed. This was done by frontally attacking the design Consultancy as a poor location for intellectual activity. This was also to show you that there exist ‘rogue corporations’ but these kinds of firms do not tend to make products. They usually are oil firms or arms manufacturers, or of course are in the food business. Maybe the corporations designers work with are truly ‘enlightened’.

3. Also in such corporations the designer is expected to have a real robust and resilient problem solving head. So how do you take a bunch of 20 first year studentsa nd make their heads ‘resilient’. Maybe by giving them techniques and tools for thinking. Maybe by opening their eyes (like clockwork orange by holding their eyes open with match sticks),a dn thei minds. Byt taking them away from mind numbing cinema (to thinking cinema). And so on. But basically by making them capable of handling ‘tough problems’. And this began to happen. We are into August now.

I apologise for not setting up one project that you could do through the semester. But then you may not have learnet anything in that way that would have been of value in the Corporation setting. But do remember I am HR and I have a stake in developing your capability, your abilities and your intellectual equipment, and that is my job. And if I goof up on that I will get sacked. And in this the Kinglake West Adventure Camp come alive.

And that is the game. The game is also in the SUITS! Because you need to play – to be a lateral thinker. And to be a good lateral thinker you need to give up your prejudices and your ‘ways’ which may not really be all that useful in the context of pure thinking.

The game also comes alive in the ‘games’. And in all this it is a bit like the swimming pool: do not walk on the pool side looking in. You have to jump in to learn.

See Ben’s Blog (he agonises about ‘what is going on’ and is a fantastic bit of rpose), and also see Carl’s blog (Carl is in Problem Kya Hai – and has written some beautiful stuff in recent days). And these are in your ‘your speak’ – and may be better ways of saying the same thing.

But again I am the last person who will insist you need to get a 110% out of the course. For the university is a place to grow up and we can all take it in our own ways. If you have other things on your mind, if you have other things to do – its okay. And in fact – so be it!!