I’ve just finished an online tutorial for the Open University course I’m studying – H800: technology-enhanced learning, practices and debates (of course tutorials are online!). We were discussing Richardson’s paper “Students’ Approaches to Learning and Learners’ Approaches to Teaching in Higher Education“. Despite our geographical dispersal, the power of the internet brought us together in the realisation that teachers of all hues aren’t that great at changing how they teach to adapt to the way their learners like to learn.
This got me thinking about the recurring topic of resistance to change, something which I have written about in my posts on the clinical audit blog Audit Jumble (Domestication or Liberation and Quality Trumps Resistance: 2 Lessons from History). We could just as easily substitute doctors for teachers and patients for students in this discussion. Is the aspiration for a move towards student-led learning all that different from the change to patient-focused care?
For me, the answer is not really. It all comes down to how we approach the change. Both student-led teaching and patient-centred care demand an ideological change that we may believe we subscribe to but in reality don’t enact. This isn’t a deliberate act of subversion: I think it has more to do with our attitude towards the barriers that have to be overcome: securing resources, breaking down preconceptions, speaking a common language and moving beyond hierarchies. When you consider these obstacles, it’s easy to see that change means effort and time. Hardly surprising that the common response to change is resistance.
In previous posts I’ve talked about the dialogic approach to managing resistance to change, which I first encountered through the fabulous School for Health and Care Radicals. Overcoming resistance by mandating a course of action or providing the most user-friendly packages of teaching/ care may involve time and effort, but they are nevertheless easier to implement than a productive discussion to negotiate common purpose and shared goals. These conversations don’t happen overnight: they involve bringing our values, beliefs and assumptions into the spotlight (sometimes kicking and screaming), exposing our collective and individual vulnerabilities. As if that wasn’t painful enough, we then have to give something of them up to the other party or parties and hope they will do the same back. Imagine, then, how this might feel for a vulnerable group of learners or ill people?
But if we don’t do that, how can we truly be putting the learner or the patient at the centre of the enterprise? How do we know where the lines that cannot be crossed are? And how can we be sure we are building on safe, secure and common ground? How can we start working together to get where we want to be instead of pulling in different directions and getting nowhere?