3260 Professional Practice Blog (Week 5): Understanding and Responding to Student’s Resistance to Learning
“As teachers we see clearly the value of learning and we all too easily assume students can see this too. The reason that certain understandings or skills are important is so obvious to us that we may feel they need minimal justification” (Brookfield, 2015, p. 234).
I am relieved that Stephen Brookfield expresses this sentiment. I have experienced firsthand similar frustration when I delegate a ‘duty’ to my learners, and they respond with apprehension: “I don’t feel comfortable performing that duty,” or “I don’t know what to do.” I take full responsibility in these circumstances: did I not place sufficient VALUE on the instruction of said duty? Is my learner EXPECTANCY unjustified?
I want to go slightly off topic and talk about my mentor and recently retired coworker, Marjorie Dunahoo. Marjie drove me crazy over the years trying to infuse me with all the knowledge, wisdom, and skills that she was driven to convey following decades of experience, and a work ethic that few possess. It was easy to dismiss her directives if I was uncomfortable with a task, OR, if I did not place value in her instruction. [Silly me]. ‘Reinventing the wheel’ is a waste of energy. I am not saying that discovering new and more efficient ways of doing the same thing is not important, but, there is a reason why ‘tried and true’ systems exist.
That said, “a common reason for resisting learning is misdiagnosing where students are in their command of skills and knowledge,” translates into: know your audience and do not ‘preach to the choir’ and do not “[push] them into a task before they feel they’ve been adequately prepared” (Brookfield, 2015, p. 224).
All I know is that some learners want to learn and others do not; you cannot convince people otherwise. Why someone would choose a vocation, or register in a course that they don’t care about is not my concern, and it’s a waste of my precious time trying to figure out how to engage these learners. I have experienced learners who refuse to write things down after I specifically tell them, “you need to write this down.”
I digress. Back to Marjie. Marjie cared, and as annoying as that was at times when she would tell me stuff that I already knew, she knew her stuff, and perhaps she recognized a discrepancy in me that warranted her harping.
So, I’m going to continue to harp, like Marjie did: unapologetically. After all, there’s a reason why Marjie was a dental assistant for over four decades; it’s because she was good at it. And, as annoying as her direction was at times, and as equally as recalcitrant as I was, I learned an immeasurable amount of valuable material from her, as much I (at times) resisted.
Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher (3rded.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Wikipedia. (2018, February 14). Expectancy-value theory. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expectancy-value_theory
The above photo depicts an incredibly difficult X-ray to capture, and one in which, Marjie mastered (aka ‘nailed’). The face-shield, lead apron, and ‘thumbs up’ are directives for future discussion 😉