My Scholarly Reflections

This is where I tell what I think, so that I see what I say

Archive for the ‘pedagogy’ Category

The importance of teaching failure

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Written by Amer Khan

September 9, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Posted in pedagogy

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What if a student wants to go from textbook to facebook?!

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Students (still in my class, not former students) sometime send me a facebook friendship request. What should I do? Accept it, giving out the signal that that student is now a relation beyond the supposedly, arms-length and hallowed confines of the classroom? Is the relationship now going from transactional (“you give me education, I give you money) to affective (“lets be friends because I like you!”)…or is it just a knee jerk reaction of the students bumping into my profile matched by facebook through some esoteric algorithm….and I just accept the reality of extreme connectedness through social media? One feasible option is to add them to the ‘acquiantance’ category of my facebook connections which allow them restricted access to my facebook life (e.g. no access to personal info and pictures).

But then on the other hand, the fact that students reach out to engage on an informal platform such as  facebook also signals that the students want to  learn more from my experiences and knowledge! This possibility also shows breaking down of walls between our different social worlds and their attendant interactions, mediated by the new technologies. One screen on facebook engaged in light banter with a friend, another screen in deep discussion on some topic on, say finance or economics, with a fellow student or facilitator. These roles may also metamorph depending on the scenario.

Still not sure whether ‘confirm’ the latest friendship request that I have recieved from a student or ignore!  (In fact this whole process of mechanically confirming or ignoring friendship overtures appear to absurd to me, to say the least! As if friendship is like an on-off switch….)

Written by Amer Khan

May 14, 2012 at 10:16 pm

How do I know when I fail (or do I really want to know!)

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Managers in the corporate world often know when they fail: Products not sold, revenue targets not met etc. Feedback systems get into action: Outcomes are often visible and often quanitifiable, consequences are often immediate, the ‘bottom line’ is hit. When this does not happen, consequences are disastrous: Enron and Global Financial Crisis. More dramatically, I love to give the example of driving a car, or learning to drive a car. One wrong move, and the outcomes are visible and often disastrous. Success or failure is  often clear cut.

When I fail in class, things are not often so clear cut. It is often not clear what is success or failure! Feedback systems are not efficient. Feedback is often verbal, based on what students say, and that comes too late. Self assessment of success or failure is also problematic, given the subjective (and emotional) connotations of failure, as a senior professor muses on her experience in an article titled ‘Failure and learning’, on the higher education portal ‘Faculty Focus’ here. Failure is private, painful and failure becomes “a measure of our inherent worth as human beings…”

Nature of content may contribute to problems in measuring success or failure. Accounting, finance and similar ‘quantitative’ units are somewhat less problematic. There are clear cut heuristics that students need to master; visually identifiable steps leading to whether assessments conform to a standard template of structured answers.Other more messy domains such as HRM, entrepreneurship and the like are not so amenable to clear rule based structured problem solving. In many ways, arguably, learning to drive is closer to learning accounting; learning HRM is probably not.

Written by Amer Khan

May 13, 2012 at 9:56 pm