In this meeting we built on previous discussions about a set of purposes/values that might inform our decision making.
This is part of our work on noticing, awareness, on choosing to act. We are seeking a rationale for our choices, to be able to say, "I am going to do ______ , because ______". If nothing else it will give us some time to think in the moment.
In the post I will summarise the main points we discussed, and add some further ideas.
We used Gert Biesta's domains of educational purpose - qualification, socialisation and subjectification - to frame our discussion. We talked about that reality that qualification underlies all of our actions in the (A-level, maths) classroom.
Christian voiced his uneasiness about this a number of times. I suggested that a focus on qualification might not be a problem, and also that qualification was just one goal among others (such as working together), but Christian remained uneasy.
On reflection, might doing mathematics, or being mathematical, be a more useful way to consider the 'qualification' aspect of our practice? If so, should we describe in more detail what it means to be mathematical?
Following our previous discussion, we talked further about the extent to which our classrooms should be democratic, and the meaning of democracy.
I talked about democracy as, 'finding ways of being, and doing, that have (at least) listened to all of the students'. This listening might happen in public or private, it might happen sporadically (we talked about 'attempts at democracy'), and might allow those on the periphery to become more involved in deciding how things are done in the classroom.
Is this 'listening to students' sufficient for a democracy, or is it more accurately described by the terms inclusion and participation? The notions of inclusion and participation bring to mind previous discussions we have had about (not) 'skimming over', as well as Lave's 'legitimate peripheral participation' in communities of practice.
Might our classrooms become more democratic over time? An interesting test of the extent to which our classroom are (truly) democratic might be: 'Would we be happy to follow a course of action that we (initially) believed was not the best way to proceed?'
We also need to consider how democracy sits with Christian's need for a group goal, or my desire to 'bring people together, to have a uniformity of action', as Katy described it. I would like us to practice equity.
It felt as though the idea of responsibility - for self, and for others - resonated with all of us. Katy often asks herself whether her students are 'being responsible'. Pooja said her favourite learning community was when students 'automatically contribute to moving the group together'.
To me, responsibility has two meanings, that of moral responsibility and also the more literal meaning of being responsive, responding to others. I have a notion of the individual-in-community that might be useful here, that feels as though it is the intersection of Biesta's domains of socialisation and subjectification.
I talked about developing students' awareness of others, towards a 'de-centredness', but on reflection I think Nel Noddings' notion of a 'caring relation', an encounter between two people, might encapsulate this, and more.
In her book The Challenge to Care in Schools, Noddings talks of engrossment, an open receptivity, of being attentive, which 'may only last a few moments, but is full and essential in any caring encounter'. She also talks of motivational displacement in caring encounters: 'the sense that our motive energy is flowing towards others'.
I think we might be moving closer to our values and purposes. A tentative list might include:
- Finding ways of being and doing mathematics that have listened to the needs of all students, balanced with the desire for 'uniformity of action'
- Not skimming over - inclusion and participation
- Responsibility (for self and for others)
- Caring: engrossment (receptivity, attention) and motivational displacement
We have also talked about the idea of being good-enough, rather than excellent or outstanding, with regards to placing sustainable demands on ourselves and our students. I think this might be an idea we return to.
Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!