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First, students resist bodies of knowledge that they see as unimportant. This is painfully obvious to anyone who has taught an introductory level history course.
We regularly confront students who find the idea of learning history intrinsically unimportant for their future as managers, occupational therapists, engineers, or nurses. Many question the values of the liberal arts in our contemporary economy. It is hardly a shock that students find this ruse disingenuous no matter how much passion faculty muster for the elegance of a transferred skill or a critical thought.
Teaching, Learning, and Resistance | The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World
Students are justified in resisting this disjuncture between disciplinary knowledge, educational goals, and their future plans. If history is merely a vessel for these other kinds of skills, then students should have a say over the medium in which learning happens. The displacement of empty learning goals for disciplinary knowledge authorizes this critique and mocks our pained attempts to reduce disciplinary knowledge to mere method.
Second, students resist approaches to teaching that they see as trivializing learning. Much of learner-centered teaching involves slight of hand. Faculty engage the students in co-authoring their learning environments with the hope that such coauthoring will help the students master a set of faculty-dictated learning goals that invariably include methods, processes, and content.
Again we see a strategic displacement.
Understanding Student Resistance to Active Learning
The course goals and teaching methods are set by a faculty member who then, within rigorously defined limits, allows students pick their own path through the course. The most common example of this comes in the simple question from the student to the teacher: This subversion of learning-centered teaching approach both announces to the teacher that the limits of student authority are known, and questions the legitimacy of a technique designed to obscure authority in order to co-opt student energy for the goals of the class.
Finally, students resist approaches that run counter to the practice of deskilling faculty and disciplinary knowledge. From the standpoint of management, this turn against disciplinary knowledge parallels the rise in Taylorism and scientific management principles. The goal is to transform faculty from engine that drives higher eduction, to interchangeable cogs in a machine.
By emphasizing the universal character of teaching and learning, faculty become interchangeable and the university trades disciplinary knowledge for the teaching of skills as I have argued in point one. In other words the displacement of authority grounded in disciplinary knowledge to that grounded in terms of employment authorizes students to act as consumers and to defend their rights.
In this context, student resistance represents both a recognition of their authority in the classroom as well as the displacement of faculty authority from particular, specialized knowledge to teaching skill. In this place, student resistance supports the growing power of the assessocracy and metadisciplines like SoTL Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. While I am tempted, in my most cynical moments, to see student resistance in this context as anti-faculty, when I critically reflect, I tend to see student behavior as part of the larger transformation of higher education away from artisnal practice and toward a model of 20th century efficiency.
For my blog post today, I am more interested in recognizing that student resistance developed along the rifts created by the displacement of authority grounded in disciplinary, academic knowledge for that grounded in our position — however tenuous — on the assembly line.
What is student resistance and is it widespread? From a practical standpoint, student resistance can be defined as any observable student behavior that makes an instructor less likely to use an instructional strategy.
My continued musings on archaeology, technology, teaching, and history.
Resistance-related behaviors include passively refusing to participate in an activity, actively complaining or disrupting groups during an activity, or giving low course evaluations to the instructors who use active learning. Some authors define resistance as an affective outcome, describing it in terms of student motivation or whether students like or value the activity.
It might therefore be more accurate to think of student attitudes as a mediator of resistant behavior. How much do students actually resist active learning strategies in practice? Active learning is not a single technique but an umbrella term that encompasses a wide variety of instructional practices. On the other hand, active learning approaches like problem-based learning that significantly increase expectations for student ownership of their learning generate more resistance Woods,