Re: Re[6]: Re-examining our practice

Bob King (kingbx@HAMLET.UNCG.EDU)
Sun, 11 Feb 1996 13:42:11 -0500

On Sun, 11 Feb 1996, Greg Ritter wrote:

> in the face-to-face discussions I'm aware
> that the discussion is often more teacher-centered than I like,
> and that when the class discussion turns into a debate with a
> student who's challenging me then it becomes unreasonably and
> unproductively teacher-centred.

My bit is to promote an idea of conversation-centered rather than either
teacher-centered or student-centered. A conversation between a student
and a teacher will inevitably carry contextual (i.e., authority) junk
with it that won't be erasable, just as any conversation carries it's
own set of parameters. That doesn't mean though that it's not still a
conversation, as opposed to a challenge and defend sort of interaction.

I agree that it is sometimes students who initiate the
challenge-and-response type of interaction. My experience is that it
takes time for students to get comfortable with conversation-centered
education because they've had so much authoritarian treatment prior to
getting to college -- and then for the most part the authoritarianism
just keeps on coming in many of their college classes.

One thing that my teaching partner and I found helpful was to "go
explicit" with a theory of conversational learning (we used John
Shotter's _Conversational Realities_) so that the strangeness of a non
authoritarian approach, which was neither student-centered nor
teacher-centered, could me mitigated. We learned this the hard way, the
practitioner-way, when we realized halfway through a semester that we
hadn't bothered to explain to class participants, as clearly as we could,
what we were up to and excited about!

Bob King