So far my research on chance-seeking and learning has been focusing on the learner’s side. I’ve noticed that this usually bugs a bit those who are on the other side, namely, teachers and scholars involved in educational sciences.
I must say that I haven’t been really into anything related to pedagogy and the like. This is not only related to my study background, but also my personal experience as a university student, which is very much the experience of an autodidact. I may even claim to be an autodidact in philosophy – the subject of my formal university training.
That being said, after I started my auto-ethnographical study, I realized that chance-seeking is not only about autodidactism, but it can also give some interesting hints to teachers. Although I haven’t dug into this yet, I have come up with some preliminary, tentative observations that I’d like to share here.
Firstly, if one takes the idea of chance-seeking to its extreme, one may claim that the chance-seeker is basically a person who just turns away from any direct help coming from other people. At best a chance-seeker might be then identified as a person ending up with re-inventing the wheel. And at worst?
I see here that the teacher can help the learner as a chance-seeker to fail on a survivable scale. What I mean by that is that errors are not intrinsically evil. They are, though, terribly bad, if they lead to a situation in which recovery is very unlikely to happen. A teacher, therefore, may help a student avoid, say, big and so unrecoverable mistakes.
Secondly, the teacher is potentially a chance-provider. By “chance-provider” I don’t mean anything related to being a facilitator – a bad choice of word to me, very bad. By chance provider I mean that a teacher may suggest the student to do something – whatever, from reading an article to doing an exercise, and that might turn out to be a chance for the student to learn or to improve his or her own understanding. Whether it will actually be a chance or not, the teacher cannot know beforehand. The activity of a teacher as a chance-provider is mostly conjectural and benefits from experience and practice, indeed.
There is a third idea that I’d like to mention here, which is in a way the most interesting for me at the moment. As a matter of fact, the current stage of technological development seems to afford better than before the active involvement of the learner in the learning process. Which means that – at least theoretically – the learner herself can become a source of chances for her peers – be a chance a blog post, a tweet, a post in Facebook, or even the simple fact of using a particular application or device to deal with a home assignment, for example.
It might be that in the future things will change, but as for now I see that students don’t really make use of chances coming from their peers. My claim is that the teacher can help try to bridge this gap. How? Let me take an example from my autoethnographical study.
As reported in this blog, while learning Estonian, I’ve developed the habit to picture with by iPod touch billboards and advertisements in the streets, and post some of them on Facebook along with a caption. This has eventually turned out to be a way to improve my vocabulary as well as a way to practice written Estonian.
Interestingly, after some time my Estonian language teacher noticed what I was doing in Facebook (she is among my contacts) and during one of our classes she informed my colleagues about what I was doing. This may exemplify what I’d call the uptake of a chance or “chance-uptake” (here I have to thank my colleague Kai Pata for introducing me to the concept of uptake). That is, what a teacher may do is to take up something done by a student so as to make it potentially available for the others.
Indeed, the uptake of a chance is not as simple as forwarding an email or sharing a post. First of all, the teacher doesn’t have direct access to the learner’s mind. Nor to the totality of what the learner does. So, the uptake of a chance has to inevitably rely on the teacher’s sensitivity to infer what is going on in the learner’s mind as well as in her/his “personal learning niche”. Although this is also a technical issue (i.e., how to have access to what the learner does), by “sensitivity” I mean the kind of attitude involving intellectual supervision as well as empathetic understanding and meta-communicative skills.
Last observation: the uptake of a chance inevitably involves losing a bit of the context in which it had originally popped out. This may induce the teacher to reframe and even modify a chance so as to make it more suitable for communication.