13 SES 14, Notes in/on Education
Note making is probably one of the most archetypal practices people associate with education traditionally conceived: students gathered in a classroom, attentively (or not) listening to a teacher and laboring to take down her words, or at least to create a written account of the ideas and insights the teacher has tried to get across. From many angles, and especially from the perspective of constructivist learning theories, this practice is dismissed for being an old-fashioned and ineffective pedagogical method. It is either redundant, or something we still tolerate or support in anticipation of more efficient and stimulating pedagogical techniques. Note making is not seen as crucial to good teaching and learning. At the same time, as Gert Biesta (2017) remarks in his recent book The Rediscovery of Teaching, there is the deep irony that the currently most fashionable learning methods ´such as TED talks, MOOCs, and the numerous professional and amateur instructional videos on YouTube – are staged in “conventional” ways, that is with someone talking and explaining so that others can watch, listen and learn’ (p. 41)´.
In this symposium, we don´t want to defend conventional pedagogies over and against theories of learning, and we don´t want to enter into the debate about which methods, old or new ones, are the most effective and efficient. Rather, we want to take a particular existing practice at face value, i.e. as a practice that has a meaning which can only be (re)discovered by a careful analysis of what it is we exactly do when making notes in a ´traditional´ pedagogical context such as the lecture. This is, the educational value of this ‘mundane’ practice is to be found by engaging in a close phenomenological examination of the concrete things we do and experience as students and teachers in a classroom (Cf. Goffman 1981; Friesen 2017).
The practice on which we focus in this symposium, making notes, is a complex one and implies many different activities. First, there is the physical and motorial activity of just writing down stuff on a writable medium (paper, laptop), but at the same time ´noting´ also refers to students becoming attentive to something. This double dimension will be explored by the contributions of this symposium. Second, making notes in a classroom context involves the presence of someone who lectures. In this panel we consider lecturing to be itself a form of note-making, in the sense that the lecturer bases her teaching on the notes she has taken in preparation of the actual lecture. In other words, the lecturer invites students to note notes. Inescapably, the students´ notes and the lecturers´ notes are different. And this has to do with the many unintentional things students do whole taking notes, but which are nonetheless constitutive of the whole phenomenon. Hence, a third aspect we explore here is that what escapes direct control and what happens in the margins: making doodles while making notes.
The first paper discusses the practice of note-making in the lecture hall. With the help of the work of Vilem Flusser the specificity of this ‘gesture’ is analyzed in terms of creating possibilities for truly collective thinking. The second paper zooms in on the practice of lecturing as a pedagogical form in its own right, aimed at attention formation and world-disclosure. In the last contribution the focus is on the phenomenon of distraction during lectures, and more precisely on drawing doodles. These are analysed in terms of a unique educational experience: the experience of the potentiality for thinking.
Biesta, G. (2017) The Rediscovery of Teaching. London: Routledge. Friesen, N. (2017) The Textbook and the Lecture: Education in the Age of New Media. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press Goffman, E. (1981) Forms of Talk. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press
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