Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Listening to “Bad” Students Can Make Us Better Pedagogues

| 1 Comment

Ok ok. I truly loathe the term “Bad” student. I don’t label my students like that. A more accurate description of what some people mean when they say “bad” student is either
A. A person who learns differently from the way the teacher would like to teach
B. A person who resists conformity to classroom/social “standards”
C. A person whom teachers have trouble getting through to or engaging

I know I know. It’s pretty difficult to concentrate all your efforts on that one person and ignore the rest when if you spent half as much energy on the rest you could get awesome results.

But who’s to say that concentrating on that one is “lowest common denominator” rather than a more equitable move that could potentially benefit all? (no guarantees).

I have written before about how most academics were/are nerds. We weren’t the typical student. We also (no matter how subversive we are now) managed to negotiate the educational systems we were placed in and succeeded. Face your inner conformist now (even historically) and count yourself VERY lucky if you were able to grow into a more rebellious/subversive (in a good way) person.

So here’s what triggered this post. I am known for resisting reading Deleuze & Guattari, have been against making it required reading in rhizo moocs (required? In a MOOC? No such nonsense… But still, making it central to discussion isn’t my favorite thing).

And yet, in the role of bad (read: resistant, subversive) student I came up with a brilliant idea (if I do say so myself..  I am so humble).

The idea came first from Ana Salter’s Prof Hacker piece on comics as scholarship in which she links to this article on books introducing Foucault and Derrida in comic form. (I bought both books and more!). Note: I was just part of a process of accepting a comic piece in a traditional peer-reviewed journal Journal of Pedagogic Development. Will share when published.

So I tweeted to some rhizoers a suggestion that we create a comic version of introducing D&G concepts as a #rhizo16 project. Looks like many people loved this idea. I hope it flies 🙂

As bad student, I may not contribute a lot of the quotes (i really should try reading that book A Thousand Plateaus again) but I can definitely help in saying whether what we come up with helps explain concepts to a newbie like me. Because the book I got introducing Foucault (that’s the one i started with) more reconfirms what I know of Foucault (which isn’t much but I do know a bit) so I don’t know how it feels to a total newbie.

One Comment

  1. Another great post, Maha! Of course I love to get positive feedback but it is usually the unhappy student who makes me grow the most. (That’s the label I use: unhappiness is the result of those factors you listed, plus others, too) … anyway, last semester I had a student who really hated my class. She never really explained why, so that made my task harder, and the result was that I made a TON of changes to my classes over winter break. Usually I wait until summer to make big changes, but I had a lot of ideas I had been thinking about, some of which I thought might (MIGHT) have helped this particular student get some value out of the class. I will never know if she would have gotten more out of the re-designed class… but her complete unhappiness is what made me put out the effort to change a lot of things for this semester, and I am getting happy feedback from students already about some of those changes. What’s really cool is having some returning students who were in my other class last semester who can see the “before-and-after” and give me feedback specifically about the changes. So, I still feel terrible for the bad experience that student had last semester, but there is some general karmic good here, benefiting other students anyway. I try to convey that message to students about the feedback they get on their writing also, since it is a very similar situation: the positive feedback is very sustaining, but it is the negative feedback that sometimes gives the greatest growth even when it can be really painful to hear, especially when you first encounter it and haven’t had time to process it as a message to grow from.

    And I am so glad there will be Rhiz16 BTW. I will have a real agenda this time; HumanMOOC raised a lot of questions for me that I need to explore with other people’s help!

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