Adult Learning and Global Change

24th April, 2017.

Course registration in progress.

Interesting that the course director asks for confirmation of receipt of the email with joining instructions… in the past I wonder whether students have received the emails I send and I also ask for read receipts.

One student said he was away for 3 weeks and had 1600 emails in that time… the digital ‘noise’ (Shannon and Weaver 1949) created by those emails prevents communication from me to him and the feedback loop back to me.

Next steps: course registration completed, a registered letter with a password for the VLE to be sent in July. In the meantime – reading and thinking about previous students’ blogposts and projects internationally.

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12th April, 2017

Application to Linkoping – passport application sent off, when it returns I can send a copy to Sweden admissions (UCAS equivalent) and hopefully my application is then complete.

Three years later I have been admitted to this programme, and it begins with registration on September 13th. I wonder where this learning journey will take me….

Virtually to Canada, Australia, South Africa and Sweden I suppose….

The hermeneutics of semiotic materialism.

If you put together a semiotic materialism, trade union education, and a preferred hegemonic reading of a text you can get the following results:

When Word 1 = Meaning 1, and Word 2 is the student’s preferred Meaning…

in a discussion of trade union values, perhaps eight values are mentioned, but one of the values, mentioned most commonly is none of the above, but a modified meaning.

The symbolic meaning has failed to be mediated by the symbol, and the hegemonic meaning is modified by the learner’s own meanings: the actor has become an actant and an intermediary.

We say equality and they hear justice… but in some instances the hegemonic meaning (which is the counter-hegemonic meaning) is taken to be its antonym, and what is said is the exact opposite of what is heard: we say scab, and they hear strike-breaker.

Gramsci’s hegemony, and the neo-Gramscian counter-hegemonic hermeneutic, explain why the preferred semiotic meaning is modified, lost, or transmitted.

Exegesis tries to read the meaning from the text (and the text may be words, pictures, or symbols), whereas eisegesis reads meaning into the text from the experience and viewpoint of the reader. It’s like wearing tinted glasses – after a while you stop noticing that everything you see has that colour of tinting applied to it. We need to be aware of that bias, and being aware of it we need to try to read without reading into the text. Understanding the mindset of the text’s author is therefore a key part of understanding the meaning that the author intended the text to convey.

Bourdieu’s notion of doxa and his field theory explain why some readings of a text may not suggest themselves to us: there is heterodoxy and orthodoxy, but beyond these there is a range of readings that don’t even spring to mind – these are because of our social conditioning, the doxa in that field.

Freire’s culture of silence explains the same thing – society controls what we think and do, and only praxis can take us beyond orthopraxy and heteropraxy into a conscientisation which changes both us and the world in which we live.


Language and communication

I remember learning HTML, and being so proud when I learnt to take my first steps in the language. It wasn’t very useful for me, though there are still times when it’s helpful to look at the code for a webpage and look at the different coding elements in the page (usually server side scripts using PHP or javascript, occasionally Java).

I have learnt and forgotten quite a few languages, but I have the certificates to prove I retained them long enough to pass the test. In terms of academic languages my first language is theology, my second language is philosophy and social sciences, and my third language is industrial relations. Lagging behind is the language of education, and after that educational technology.

Each language has its own syntax, vocabulary, punctuation, structures for constructing arguments, as well as distinct dialects.

I think and dream in English (mostly, though I occasionally dream in Arabic), but I ratiocinate in the symbolic languages of theology and philosophy, then begins a long process of simplification and translation into the languages of education and educational technology – that’s what I mean by simplify.

Education is not my first academic language, and its conventions are not my natural ones, it’s much harder to express myself clearly in the academic conventions of education. I often turn to my friends to help understand the value and limitations of this language, a language which is designed as much to define and exclude from the academic community as to include. These friends include bell hooks, who had her own take on the language of higher education, and Paulo Freire who reinvented education for many.

What language do you speak most naturally?

Assessment and Pedagogy

Abstract: All organisations have values. We don’t always share those values. In this short video the author discusses his own values and how these affect assessment. The perspective is from Paulo Freire and Eric Mazur and focuses on respect for learners.

Ipsative assessment usually refers to the measurement of a student’s progress against themselves, not against any other. Here it is used to mean assessment by the student against their own aims for the course.

thesis know how – beware the quote dump

So it happens at doctoral level as well as undergraduate and taught masters? Fascinating.


I very often see first drafts of theses – and sometimes completed ones – which suffer from quote dumping. A quote dump is when the writer inserts a very large extract of someone else’s words into a text and then does nothing with it. The quote sits there, highly visible in its indented and italicised state, inert, unyielding, impenetrable.

The quote dump often occurs in literature chapters and/or when the thesis writer is discussing theoretical literatures. It’s sometimes used when people are explaining their methodology. It can happen when people genuinely attempt to engage with other people’s words and ideas and either challenge them, evaluate them or make them into foundations for their own research.

While quote dumping might have been the way to get good marks in essays in undergraduate and Masters work, it is a learned strategy that doesn’t fly so well in a doctoral thesis. Yes, the…

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Reflective Practice.

Paulo Freire describes a subject as one who acts and an object as that which is acted upon. In the banking model of education he describes in chapter two of Pedagogy of the Oppressed the teacher is the subject and the students are the objects – they are the ones acted upon as knowledge is poured into them rather like water is poured from the knowledge of the teacher into the empty heads of the students.

Brookfield’s critical lenses include learners or students, the point of which is that in a connectivist epistemology the teacher is a tutor-tutee (one who teaches but also learns) and the students are tutee-tutors (ones who learn but also teach). They are co-creators of knowledge.

I try to embed this kind of insight into my teaching, so that students are never objects, but always subjects, and all are learning together through a collaborative exploration of the subject matter.

Trade Union education is a collaborative discipline, it is not something that you can properly do in isolation – either from your colleagues in the workplace, from your fellow accredited representatives, or from the tutor.

As a tutor I learn a great deal from my students, for example about practices in their workplaces, how they approach problems, how they negotiate with management, what it is like to work in their industry / industrial sector.

Not to do so betrays a faulty epistemology, a lack of trust, and a lack of criticality (they are critical lenses after all). Above all not to learn from students suggests a lack of humility, and as a lifelong learner we are all learning all the time – I hope.