"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Themes in my research project-1-power relationship

Due to my poor time management, I was not able to present my discussion about the findings and how I may deal with the blog assignment in the future. Although we have got a lot of great discoveries in our discussion, I would like to share with you my ideas as an insider in the program, and hope that you can give me some feedback. Thanks!

The first and most obvious theme I see in the assignment is Power. Both in the written blog and in the interviews, all the stakeholders show how power relationship, to some degree, decide what they do and how they feel about the blog. As pointed out by many educators, including Freire, and discussed in our class, not literacy is neutral. Power is always embedded in literacy, and affect how people react to it. Usually, the party who has to power tailors the goal and the process of the literacy to match with their beliefs, while those who lack power receive the literacy as it is and try to work with it. Here, the knowledge of the powerful counts. They know what is right what is necessary, and they direct others to  do what they believe will make their life better. 

The power relationship in my study is very apparent, where the instructors are in the high level and the students are the dominated, whether they agree with the system or not. Some students are very direct about their subordination to the instructor when they say they "should" do it or they "have to" post because it is required by the instructor. But some others, such as student O, who says that he does like the rules created by the instructor, but still wants the instrutor to tell him what is the goal of learning and if he has reached it or not. Subconsciously, he still respect and agree with the power of the instructor. In term of the instructors, the apparent symptoms of their dominant power is that they decide the rules. They choose the assignment, design the goal and the guidelines of it, and grade students based on how well they follow the instruction. FI is a learner-centered program, so that the instructors are relatively cautious about they domination of the classroom. Although they have done a lot to empower the students, they still have the power over them because they are rule-setter and evaluators. 

This makes me think to what degree a instructor should intervene in a learner's learning process. Surely we do not want the banking model of education, where students follows the rigid rules and becomes the results of mass production. However, we should not devaluate the guidance from instructors in one's learning experience. Instructors are usually those who have expertise in the area and can help students achieve their goals by sharing knowledge with them. It is crucial to keep the balance between the two parties. I think that one solution is to always incorporate students' voice in the decision-making process and promote commitment to the final decision. Since students may be ignorant in certain areas and may make bad choice, it is instructors job to bridge students with the new knowledge and present them the whole picture of different choices they have. Eventually, it should students' well-informed free choices.


  1. Annie:

    I really liked your presentation. I think it's great that you have a relationship with your students that allows you to have the feedback you did. The student's voices are important in creating assignments and curriculum, but having said that, I still think there's an aspect of the blog that the students aren't seeing. Sometimes in college we do things because they're required, not necessarily because we want to or think they're interesting. Isn't part of college classes learning to think about things other than those we want to? This semester I've branched out into thinking about literacies I hadn't considered before. Yes, the power of the professor is enormous, but theoretically, he is taking fresh minds and teaching them to think conceptually. Either way, I think you did a great job.

    Joyce M.

  2. Hi Annie - your study was very interesting to me because I wonder if I am imposing too much on the students I work with. Since they do not usually have the English skills to say otherwise, I think about the teacher-student power balance you describe in your analysis when I don't get the desired outcome in something I try.

    I agree with you about giving students a voice in the learning process, especially if it is "learner-centered!" Their voice can be in the classroom, like "O," or maybe in their freedom to choose writing topics, which they didn't have on their blog. We can see from our experiences with this blog how it gives students (us) a voice in the process and a way to create a community of practice. Too bad it didn't seem to be successful for "J" in this case.

    We started a class discussion about danah boyd and networked publics, how 'forcing' a group of people, who would not otherwise have come together, to form a CoP may not be effective. People will not coalesce into a CoP just because "mama says" (love that from Holly). On the other hand, since it was a requirement for a class students willingly signed up for, there was something to build on.

    I think it would be fascinating to study educational blogging practices to see what types of CoPs are created (or not), delve into the perspective of the teacher as well as students, discover how power issues play out (or not) on the blog, who determines if it was a "success."

    Sorry to ramble on, but your project really sparked my interest. Thanks so much for sharing it with us again here! Susan

  3. Annie, clearly to have gotten so many candid responses from your students, you have done something wonderful in your relationship building with them. I am inclined to think that they would blog for you, yet they are resisting the power professor that does not evoke the same candidness. If the professor were to put more buy-in value on the blog, the result would probably be more blogs. It may seem simplistic, but the adult learner needs to see the value of what they are learning. If it is to be mandated and not valued in print then the point value probably needs to increase so the result of inactivity on the blog is punishing - not that I support this strategy. Which leads me to ask about the environment in the classroom? Are students coming together to learn or are they coming to get the credits only? I am inclined to lean toward the "community" feeling that we share on this blog. It is very fulfilling to receive responses when the responses come from our "community".

  4. Very nice thread you guys. I do hope, Annie, that you will find a forum to bring faculty and students together to problem solve your excellent paradox of a question: how to value student directed learning and teacher guidance too? From the rich insights your inquiry revealed, I think the biggest resistance might be the faculty, not the students: will the faculty be willing to join in the blog? keep their finger on the pulse in order to know when to inject a truly provocative prompt and when to back off and let the students go? wrestle with letting an off-course conversation run to its conclusion or nip it in the bud? Etc...


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.