I don’t do a lot of Twitter. I use it for advertising my blogs, and occasionally make pronouncements, retweet things or comment briefly on other posts. I certainly don’t normally do “Twitter Battles” as I find them clumsy, and – well frankly – I’m not that obsessed with convincing people of my opinion.
I did have an interesting Twitter discussion this weekend though, following my last post, and – despite my open desire from the outset to take the discussion to my blog page, where I could have given a much more satisfying expansion on my thoughts – it evolved in a frustratingly Twitter way.
The person I was discussing things with [let’s call them ‘Mr X’, as I’m not seeking to demean them] seemed largely to get strung-up on my endorsement of Educational Evolutionary Psychology. Now, as might be apparent from my comments on David Didau’s blog [the blog of a person who has been actively criticised by X], I have some reservations about how we best take forward this theoretical area, but – essentially – I think it is a hugely powerful theoretical framework from which we should start to orientate other aspects of our educational philosophy, theory, and … in time… practice.
What was particularly irksome to me however was two things: Firstly, Mr X seemed oblivious to the main point of my post which was that – however powerful EEP, CLT et. al. appear to be, there is still a huge ocean of psychological processes which are going on around them – contaminating or potentially accentuating our efforts as teachers. Perhaps Mr X got this, but couldn’t stand that I was nevertheless weakening myself by giving endorsement to EEP.
Nevertheless, the big point for me which came across from this discussion was the following:
Namely, in his mind, comments regarding things such as insights into how scientific findings should be applied pedagogically, should only come directly from the researchers in the originating area. In other words, the researcher should also be the philosophical and applicational guru.
Now, on inspection, I did see that the person involved had put a lot of time, effort and intellect into disputing David Didau’s expertise in pushing such areas in recent months, and was clearly very good at being the ‘Devil’s Advocate’ regarding matters on their blog. Furthermore, the ‘Devil’s Advocate’ is of course a hugely useful position, and we all need people who can do this for us if we are to improve in any particular area. I think my thoughts about my post are now sharper because of them. Therefore – full kudos to ‘Mr X’ for being so skilled in such a mode. (However, I haven’t detected anything other than this approach from their blogs up to this point….nothing constructive whatsoever… ok, niggle over).
Nevertheless, there is a massive area to be discussed here. WHO exactly has the right/responsibility to make authoritative pronouncements on how the ‘big picture’ of educational theory should really go together..?
- The professional psychologists who study specific aspects of learning?
- The professional teachers who directly experience the impact of trying to teach?
- The professional philosophers who look at how education needs to fit-in to the bigger picture of the human experience?
- The professional educationalists who try to draw upon the previous three areas, whilst losing contact with their primary area of experience, and whilst not necessarily having real expertise in any of the other areas?
- The professional politicians who are tasked (for a brief period of time) with bringing together all the perspectives in a way which seems palatable with the electorate and the overriding philosophy of their party
- The Electorate……………?
The bottom line is that there is NO ONE who is the pre-ordained expert in how things might completely fit together, whilst being an expert on all of the areas themselves.
So where does this leave us…?
In all of the pre-mentioned areas, the closer you get to your specialism, then the further you potentially get from being a ‘big picture integrationalist’. It is no secret that the world of academia is becoming more and more specialised and fragmented. “If you want to become a leader in your field, find a specialism so narrow that you’re the only person working within it.”
The reason that I started this blog was because I wanted to project a ‘big picture’ through stepping back from the situation and seeing how things could be integrated. I happen to believe that I have a good mix of qualifications, experiences and attributes to make this fruitful. For what it’s worth, I personally do have an expansive experience of the practice of teaching now (17 years-worth – and teaching people aged 5 to adult across different subjects), I have significant qualifications in academic psychology, I have quite an obsession with the philosophies of education, science, epistemology (and pretty-much everything else of ‘ultimate significance’), and I do also have a contrasting and provocative mixture of fairly dramatic career background experiences prior to entering teaching.
Similarly, people such as David Didau – who started-off (as far as I’m aware) from the quite narrow position of being “the Secondary English Teacher”, might well nevertheless, through years of reading, writing and presenting, have become far more of an all-round expert than many of the specialists working in the areas upon which he commentates.
Furthermore, whilst I myself might find fault with some of the things which David writes (as he graciously permits and encourages on his blog), I have to say that his eclectic “outreach” plays an incredibly invaluable role in both bringing to the public attention hitherto unknown research, but – more importantly – pushing-out to us speculative propositions which could well be pie-in-the-sky, but which nevertheless really help to push the dialogue forward. In essence, he is the epitome of the ‘risk-taking’ learner. Over the long term he’s also shown himself to have quite a ‘growth mindset’ (though whether he still has one remains to be seen 😀 )
So… definitely do keep tracing back pronouncements to their original sources, and perhaps only trust things from the horses mouth. However, when thinking about how things fit together, keep an open mind regarding where the real ‘all-round’ experts might just come from, and for goodness sake don’t wait for the original researchers to give you permission to start seeing how their research could be utilised. That’s not specifically what they are paid to do.