Hi! My name is Merri Dowell. I’m 26, an undergrad at Chico State University, a proud pet parent, and unapologetic fangirl. My majors are English Studies, History, and Humanities, and I plan to use those degrees to teach high school and eventually college. My specific area of interest is in early modern England (1485-ish to 1715-ish), but I’m always looking into new and different topics. I’m an avid reader and love movies and television. I love a good adventure, and it doesn’t matter that story comes from a book or a visual source, I am there.
I’m in this class because of the recommendation from Kim Jaxon who seemed really excited about the course. With this class, I’m hoping to get some practical teaching/tutoring experience that I can use in future endeavors. I like working as a “learner” in the beginning because it leaves me in the position where I can ask questions and make mistakes; I’ve found that’s a little bit more difficult when you are the “professional”.
In the Wenger article, the passage that most stood out to me was:
“Similarly, if we believe that productive people in organizations are the diligent implementers of organization processes and that the key to organizational performance is therefore the definition of increasingly more efficient and detailed processes by which people’s actions are prescribed, then it makes sense to engineer and re-engineer these processes in abstract ways and then roll them out for implementation.
But if we believe that people in organizations contribute to organizational goals by participating inventively in practices that can never be fully captured by institutionalized processes, then we will minimize prescription, suspecting that too much of it discourages the very inventiveness that makes practices effective.” Wenger 10.
I found this to be interesting because it started me thinking about a couple of things. The first thing I started thinking about was traditional classrooms where learning takes place. We sit children (and adults) in classrooms where people aren’t allowed to talk to each other and then must do individual work for an individual grade in a certain way that does not allow for creativity or deviation from the lesson plan. In recent years, mainly due to classes taught by professors who require group participation and work, the light bulb has come on and I’ve understood that if we don’t do activities outside of the classroom as an individual, then why are we forcing people to learn individually?
This led me to my next thought. Well, more of a memory, really. I taught gymnastics for ten years, and at the gym that I worked at, when we got a new instructor we would put them with one of the senior coaches so they could work with them. We did just like what we’re going to do in our internships: first they observed, then we showed them and let them have some supervised hands-on experience, and then we let them lead classes on their own with a supervised coach, and then you let people work on their own and eventually teach other coaches the same thing.
Not a single second of the “learning process” is individual. The whole time you are with other coaches who have been teaching longer or have been in gymnastics longer, and those who teach more advanced classes. Every single job I’ve had has been this way. Thinking about it, everything I do is with a group. Myself, brother and stepdad work as a group to help my mom with her health issues and I still occasionally train coaches at the gym I used to work at with the coordination of other coaches. There are dozens of things I can think of that has required learning in some way that has always involved several other people and learning as I do. In fact, I learn best when I’m learning on the fly, or forced into situations where I “learn as I go”. It’s a big reason I’m a firm believer in “fake it ‘till you make it;” it always seems to work best for me.
That thought led me another thought, which was a little startling and a little funny at the same time. I’m used to working with other people for a common goal and I’m used to working with other people to learn a new task. Do you know what I struggle with more than anything else?
Group projects for school.
Reading Wenger, and his idea that learning should be a hands-on experience and that learning doesn’t happen in institutionalized situations that are removed from the activities you are going to use that learning for, made me laugh a little. I can work with others in a bunch of situations, even ones that I know I am actively learning in, but in the last couple of years, I’ve had to really work on working in groups for class projects. I think it’s a little ironic that the place you go specifically to learn and work with other people has so ingrained individuality to people that those of us who grew up in the age of standardization and individual work without the help of others instinctively pull away when told we have to work with others towards a common goal because of the idea that learning not only has a beginning and end, but must necessarily be done only in specific places, and by oneself.
None of this necessarily holds the answers to the universe, but it was something I’ve been working on, so I found it fascinating that the research has been done that actively disproves the idea that “learning individually” works, rather than learning together and participating in activities that utilize the concepts that are being taught.
Maybe that will help me out a little bit as I try to improve my ability to work with others.