“I have expectations when I write.” — Melina Marchetta, author
I’ve grappled with the question of goals and outcomes that came up a few weeks ago. It seems a logical progression to begin with outcomes, decide how those outcomes will be measured, then what activities/experiences will be provided, and finally, actually follow-through with the assessments. But it seems too logical, too tidy for an open course or at least a graduate course that I hope to open up. How can such tidiness come from a purposefully ambiguous learning experience?
Stephen’s city tour in response to my grappling out loud during Friday’s Elluminate session was a breakthrough because I think that now I can devise a way to open up my outcomes so they leave the space for students to move in and make them their own.
I’ve always admired Mary Catherine Bateson’s lovely metaphor of “composing a life” and I think in the act of composing that we both plan and improvise. That’s how my course actually is and I want to make that clear upfront to students.
So inspired by Bateson’s composing metaphor, I’ll borrow author Marchetta’s term “expectations” to describe what I hope the course will enable students to learn with enough space that they can improvise to learn what’s really vital to them.
In a way having expectations gives us the ability to see or reach into the future. In a startling study (thanks CJ for the tweet), Bem (2010) has found that people can both reflect on the past while anticipating the future. Called the psi phenomena, the idea is that you can prime subjects to predict future events. The experiments are simple with images and words presented in sequences that demonstrate that people can pick up on patterns and use those to subconsciously make predictions.
I particularly appreciated this finding – “ . . .people high in stimulus seeking – an aspect of extraversion where people respond more favorably to novel stimuli – showed effect sizes nearly twice the size of the average person. This suggests that some people are more sensitive to psi effects than others” (Bem, 2010).
I’d like to think that people who thrive in an open course are those who are “high in stimulus seeking” and that I can model that and provide the space and time for students to take a purposeful tour begun with expectations but with an itinerary that invites exploration.