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Once upon a time . . .

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013

May 24th, 2011

Years ago, when I was teaching at Carnegie Mellon, I was working with my writing students to help them understand their writing process more fully (or at all). At first, they had no idea what I meant and were not aware that they HAD a writing process. As we worked over a week in discussion and then a paper about the issue, the students in my course almost universally decided that their writing process was to procrastinate until the last minute and then the fear of missing the deadline would drive them to write. At the time I found it mildly interesting but mostly discouraging.

Now that I look back on that experience, I now wonder if they had actually found their best antidote to the bleak work that writing to a teacher really is. The assignment of writing an essay to the teacher could not motivate them at all, but the adrenaline of nearly missing the deadline could. Their response, it could be argued, was a perfectly reasonable response to an unreasonable assignment.

Though we as a community of practice would characterize our commitment to eportoflios, most likely, as also a commitment to a focus on student *learning* as opposed to the traditional focus on teaching. The word "pedagogy," however, mean studying how teachers teach. It is a study of teaching. The literal meaning is "to lead a child." In other words, pedagogy carries baggage we may not be aware of: it's common use comes from the culture of teaching -- and is evokes behaviorism in which students are objects to be acted on.

Instead of "pedagogy," we should be talking about our theory of learning. We should be talking about "designing for learning," or our "learning theory," and other ways to make it clear our work is distinct from the teaching-centered practices that are still common. Pedagogy envisions a passive student; eportfolios envision an active student. Our words have great power. We must attend to them.

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