Learning Skills

Assessment: Learning to Negotiate Possibility


Web Resources for This Assignment

For General Education 110

The Teaching and Learning Goals Inventory, by Eric Miraglia and Doug Winther, SALC, Washington State University

Learning as Negotiation   Learning in a course is about a delicate negotiation between your goals and expectations and the goals and expectations of the teacher and institution. It's never about one side or the other, that is, it's never about the teacher's goals alone nor about the student's goals alone. Learning how to negotiate your interests, desires, goals, and beliefs with productive goals set for you by someone else is one of the most important professional skills that you can learn. Too often students default to one or the other extreme. Some students do everything they're told and never question anything or fit any of their work or learning into their larger life projects. Other students will engage in no work or learning that doesn't somehow fit their interests or goals. Both types are headed for disaster.The student who can't negotiate with the goals set by an institution or curriculum does poorly. The student who becomes a slave to the expectations, goals, and evaluations of the institution often does well in school, but usually doesn't learn much. The grades are high, but the quality is low.
   In order to take a first step in negotiating your interests and goals with the goals that I'm setting for you, I'd like you to take a modified version of the Teaching and Learning Goals Inventory developed by the Student Advising and Learning Center at Washington State University. On this go-around, I want you to simply fill in your own personal goals for any class you take whatsoever, that is, what your generic goals are whenever you take a course. After you've filled in the fields, you will be shown the difference between your goals and the goals that I have for you; if you're a human being, many of these will be different.
   That's what I want to deal with. Normally I hate tests and inventories like this. When I took some crapola interest test in college (the big one that everyone takes), it told me that I should be a scientist. So I dutifully signed up for science courses and, lo and behold, I would rather have my head set on fire and have the fire put out with a brick than spend my life doing science or sitting in science courses. I drew cartoons in physics, broke a gajillion dollars of equipment in chemistry lab, and started a fire in organic chemistry lab. In a class of over one hundred students, most of whom were grasping, predatory pre-meds who would sell their eyeballs to talk to the professor, the organic chemistry professor scheduled a meeting with me personally to beg me to consider some other field besides laboratory science. So much for pscyhometrics. This inventory, however, could be useful. After you've filled it out, you'll get these fancy old graphics indicating the difference between your goals and my goals along several categories. These are, in my humble opinion, not monumentally useful. What is useful is what you do with this information.


Narrating Possibility   Here's an insight that can serve you all your days: the most successful people, in school, careers, marriage, and all around living, are people who can imagine possibilities and options. Where other people see "either/or" situations, these people see "both/and" situations. For instance, I've often heard students say, "I can't study well for this class because the material doesn't interest me." That's an "either/or" statement: "either I'm not interested in the class, or I study hard." A person who thinks in terms of "both/and," however, would say, "I'm not interested in the class and I study hard." In other words, "both/and" people make possibilities and options where "either/or" people don't see them.
   If you look at the results of your assessment, you'll find that there are many areas where you and I are in disagreement, sometimes in fundamental agreement. What I want to achieve and what you want to achieve are at odds. In this exercise, I'd like you to take the area where we disagree the most in terms of expectations, and I want you to put together a narrative where you make both of our expectations possible, that is, where you achieve what you want to achieve and you achieve what I want you to achieve. I want you to compose this in the form of a story, that is, I don't want you to tell me how you're going to make it happen, but rather tell me what it would look like if it were actually happening.

Richard Hooker



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