Monday, November 29, 2010

Sweeter carrots and SHOW IT

Dont forget to drop by the gallery and see how things are going for "SHOW IT".  And make sure to attend the opening at 4-6pm.  NEXUS credit and a great talk from the juror.

When I was a student in undergraduate school I had a class that changed my life called WARP. (Many students and others have heard my stories of this class, if you are not one of these and want to hear some just ask. But this is not the venue for those stories.)  The professors I had in that class in combination with a printmaking professor (Robert Mueller) made me want to be a college professor.  Growing up in a military family where my whole life changed every two years I was scared to live somewhere for to long, but the idea of higher education with its constant reinvention and re-populous was something that appealed to be more like home. The thing I never took into account was that not only would my students faces and stories change but so would their desires and styles of learning.  To some degree I knew this but I always thought it would be like a bathtub changing temperature (slower) and could be changed by new water. But I have recently seen a rapid dramatic shift in student culture not only within our institution but in other art institutions and their students.
    I am often a challenge to my wife since my memory is not the best and I often repeat myself (usually I meet all new people every few years and I have known her for over 7 years so she had heard every story at least 3 times). The other challenge I present to her is the habit of having a revelation that I have had before and thinking it is something new.  This trait often comes in handy however since the motivation of try try again can wear, and the notion of trying for the first time (even if it is not) brings a different kind of energy and focus which brings up the social science study of motivation.
   I have always held the belief that grades can be a stumbling block for students if viewing incorrectly. So often in academia we are challenged with a struggle against "checking boxes".  How to create an
environment of education that is bred from purpose and not from requirement. There is a student mentality that sees the requirements of their general education as a list of "I-have-to's" rather than opportunity to try or a listing of things that we think are things of value that should be experienced within their education.
   Recent studies in social and behavioral sciences in combination with analysis through the lens of a business model mentality have come up with some interesting finding about motivation (please see link below for more information on this research).  I have found this to be of viable interest to the role of teaching and what some would call a lack of motivation within a student body for the tasks that we give them to accomplish.  The summation of the research presented was that incentive or reward was actually a hindrance in the area of creativity and morale. The model presented refers to an operating system of business built off of autonomy, mastery, and purpose rather than a sweeter carrot or a sharper stick (incentives or demands).  I found this model to be of value and in reflecting it was what was used in the classes I enjoyed so much in college.  I have always believed that what is needed for students is the creation of a place where is opportunity is presented without demand, or requirement.  I worry though that as the landscape of student mentality has shifted this model will revel much of student that may lead to a larger percentage of loss than engagement.  I am now realizing and sobering up to the notion that the student of the now is not interested in mastery (as I assumed, and of course this is a blanket that does not fall on all) many are not interested in purpose and quite a few are satisfied with dependency. Where this places me as an educator is at a place of reinvention.  A challenge to reinvent a space where things are being created not out misaligned intention or misplaced desire but rather a space made out of the fulfillment of autonomy, mastery, and purpose will not disregarding students that are disengaged.  I don't know quite what this will look like but it is defiantly something that will be on my workbench for a while.
Let me know what you think (especially students) and if you wanted the video. I think the dialog with you can help further define the direction of effective engagement.

1 comment:

Earl Grey said...

Daniel, I'd love to talk to the students about their conception of higher education and its environment. Maybe an Art for Lunch? Or, if Devon and Shawn's presentation starts late this week or ends early.....