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The gap between what it taught and what is learnt

HSBurke's picture

I find it very interesting that, in regards to voice in education, we've read two pieces by women who have backgrounds in film. Ellsworth's work, Teaching Positions, brought to light the true organic nature of teaching in that it is impossible to know what will arise from the act of giving a lesson. Thinking back on classes I've taken with Anne and Jody, I've realized that I rarely left the classroom having learnt what I expected to learn at the beginning. Teaching and learning, it seems, are not necessarily directly related. Teachers have no guarantee of knowing what will be learnt by the students they teach, and that is because each learner has different experiences which allow them to learn and process the classroom curriculum differently – deciding for themselves what is important. Instead, Ellsworth notes, it is perhaps the gap in what is being taught and what has been "learned" ("a surprising 'return of difference'") that points to true learning. This student-centric view reaffirms the idea that what the student takes from a lesson is perhaps more important than the lesson itself. This, for me, harkens back to Deveare-Smith's idea of the informative nature of the "gaps" while performing others.

 I wonder, then, how this idea fits in with traditional high school classrooms. Here, thanks to the ever-growing popularity of standardized texts, students are expected to learn a very specific "testable" base of knowledge, and teachers are expected to teach to this exam. I appreciate tremendously the notion that the paradox of pedagogy Ellsworth suggests is a necessity for true learning to take place and I agree that this unplanned learning is a product of even the most traditional classroom. However, I do not see this visionary side-effect of the teaching process being appreciated or acknowledged in the majority of US school systems, nor do I see this as a possibility in the near future. This reason is why I struggle with many pedagogical approaches we have learned and continue to learn -- I have nowhere to witness them in practice. The exception to that would be TLI, the Teaching Learning Initiative. Ellsworth notes that education invites "particular positions" that are "problematic". TLI, which encourages students and faculty to be both teachers and learners in classroom, shakes up these set roles. As a part of the program, I benefit greatly from seeing theory in action, and it encourages me to think that elsewhere, in other places of learning, other novel pedagogical approaches are being put into action with the same amount of dedication and success.