Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wake Up and Smell the New Epistemology

Wake Up and Smell the New Epistemology

I am not ashamed to say this is a heinous bit of cross-posting but this article is definitely worth it. Besides the kicking good title, Tim Clydesdale accurately and insightfully nails down the current mind set of students entering into college and how to approach teaching/working with them as professors and, at least from my stance, librarians. I deeply appreciate how Clydesdale focuses on the need for good, solid and imaginative pedgagogical approaches without falling into the trap of entertainment replacing teaching. His use of the "we" to understand our joint position in requiring change is also appreciated.
Also, I think Clydesdale nails down exactly where the mis-communication may be happening between postmodern students and, as yet, modern teachers. "...this new epistemology does not imply that our students have become skilled arbiters of information and interpretation. It simply means that they arrive at college with well-established methods of sorting, doubting, or ignoring the same." This position is not unique to Clydesdale, though he does articulate it quite well. Instead of the location of information to form the foundation of scholarship/learning, students require the tools to evaluate the information at hand. What is the best way of equipping these students with these evaluatory tools? Through good pedagogical practice; sharing how we evaluate information and breaking out of the methods of speaking at students in hopes they respond.
Good, successful libraries are constantly re-evaluating how/what they are doing. UofPitt library service utilizes student focus groups to help the library determine what tools and item are necessary to best serve the students while moving the library forward. As a result of this, the UofPitt library system is excellent. (This is slightly biased as I currently attend the school and it's the biggest library I've ever used so this may simply be my ignorance talking.)
I'm not sure how to incorporate this approach into my attempt to "teach" information literacy. Clydesdale does give an extremely helpful hint that I will be pondering with intensity.
"We need to teach as if our students were colleagues from another department. That means determining what our colleagues may already know, building from that shared knowledge, adapting pre-existing analytic skills, then connecting those fledgling skills and knowledge to a deeper understanding of the discipline we love. In other words, we need to approach our classrooms as public intellectuals eager to share our insights graciously with a wide audience of fellow citizens."

This is not to say this article has all the answers. While it presents good ground rules from the chalkboard side of the lectern, there is the underlying assumption that students will respond to this new approach. Educators cannot force students to care about learning; it's simply impossible. Even with excellent pedagogical methods, there are still students who will refuse, for various reasons that will blow the educator's mind, to want to learn. Does these students simply get bounced out of the school? Are we able to reach these students? What needs to be done before hitting college so that there is a foundation of learning/growth?

I do have the answer. Homeschool.

(This link was originally posted on Library Juice by Mr. Ron Litwin. Library Juice is in the top 5 of my current library blogs. It is excellent, informative and all-around brilliant!)

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