Tuesday, January 25, 2005

From "management" to "open management": semantics and learning outcomes

One way to think of semantics is as the study of the larger system of meaning created by words, which as why I think the dialogue on the term learning "management" among James Farmer (and here), Aaron Campbell, and others is important as well as interesting. Words have power...what larger system of meaning do we refer to when we use the word "management"?

On the one hand management connotes rigidly stifling, top-down, centralized control from an authority (think: Mordor). On the other hand, it connotes goal-setting, resource gathering and allocation, task planning, and interim results monitoring....approaches that are empowering for both learners and teachers. But how can we speak of the latter good stuff without the Saurons of the former overpowering us with their orc-driven connotations? (Which would make WebCT and Blackboard...Saruman? the benign wizard that due to an inherent character flaw is seduced by power and becomes an evil minion?...)

In a wonderful comment to my previous post, Omar Johnstone offers an alternative for when we refer to the Good Stuff:

Expropriating a word is often a labor of Sisyphus, but the only alternative that comes to mind is 'husband' as a verb, and rather than conjure up the whole Herstory thing, I'd prefer to address your ultimate point...

...So what can a teacher do? My role, as I see it, is to facilitate a natural process. To help learning along by offering prudent advice, by revealing resources, and by constant encouragement. I cannot teach anyone anything, but I can help people in lots of other ways.

This, I think, is husbanding. It is what the Arabs call "tarbiyyah", the act of helping something to grow.
(I've distorted the comment by quoting selectively, so please go read it.)

With a nudge from Omar, I've been thinking about this and have decided that -provisionally- I'm going to hijack the term "open management" when referring to the Good Stuff. I think it conveys much of what we're going to do with our English360 application, while the qualifier "open" slays the orcs. So for learning platforms (which could be OLEs or purely analog learning infrastructures) open management refers to structures and processes that promote:
  • self-management skills that foster learner independence and accountability
  • self-directed inquiry - independent and/or collaborative
  • multiple assessment approaches with a focus on introspection/self-assessment
  • transparency: system and data are open to all stakeholders
  • learner-driven ("bottom-up") orientation
  • recognition and validation of all stakeholders (although traditional roles may change)

Over the next few weeks, I'll be adding, subtracting and fleshing out how I feel the open management term applies to language learning OLEs, and the larger system of meaning it entails for learner outcomes. Remember, I'm coming from the corporate language training space, and as always please help me out with your comments.


4 Comments:

At January 25, 2005 at 6:57 PM, Blogger aaron said...

Cleve...'open management' seems like a fitting term to me. I think I might start using it, thanks. How might we use it as a verb, though: 'open mangage'?

As for the criteria you list, I see ways for structuring our classrooms with the help of blogs and online support tools that approach open management processes. Learners can set their own learning goals at the beginning, can choose the direction and path, can choose to change that direction and path, can undergo periodic and final self and peer evaluations, etc. The teacher can also play the role of learner. Everyone helps one another along the way can contributes knowledge and expertise. These are ideals I try to approach in my own classrooms, even in the context of an institution that does not outwardly encourage it. I think other teachers can do the same if they strive to take a few risks.

I look forward to seeing if and how this topic develops. I know little about corporate training methods and mentalities, and would welcome more dialogue between practicioners in corporate and academic contexts. We have much to learn from one another.

 
At January 25, 2005 at 9:23 PM, Blogger Cleve said...

Right on with "learners can set their own learning goals at the beginning, can choose the direction and path, can choose to change that direction and path". Within English360 we call that the "Roadmap" and it's for learners to define with teacher guidance. And I agree that more collaboration between our specializations will be great...looking forward to it.

 
At January 25, 2005 at 10:24 PM, Blogger James said...

"Which would make WebCT and Blackboard...Saruman? the benign wizard that due to an inherent character flaw is seduced by power and becomes an evil minion?"

ROTFL

"orc centred"

hahohahoahaohaoha

 
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