“The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein
I am Carl Dyke, a professor of History at Methodist University in Fayetteville, NC, USA. For years I’ve asked students to write journals in my classes. The idea, I tell them, is to leave a total reflective record of content, process and experience that would be a helpful primary source for historians of the future trying to understand life and education in the early 21st century.
The good ones help me a great deal to understand how my classes work for the students, to reflect on what we want to accomplish, and to further develop the ongoing experiment in social learning that all my classes are part of. And so I’ve always somewhat idly thought that I should keep such a journal myself, to fill in my perspectives as well. Until now, this project has always been the one more thing I didn’t quite have time and headspace for. But the pressures of formal evaluation and assessment are growing, and rather than get stuck with some kind of narrow, vacuous quantitative instrument, I’ve finally decided to keep this journal, aspiring to the sort of richly detailed qualitative account that might actually capture some of the complexity of the teaching and learning project as I see it.
Inevitably this journal will contain discussions of specific classes and sometimes specific students. I will mask these as best I’m able, recognizing that participants may well be able to reconstruct the identifying details. More to the point, I will write with all possible care and generosity toward everyone concerned. The project of this journal is understanding, not judgment. I welcome comment that keeps this basic ethic in mind.
Note: This blog began on 12/6/2012. All earlier posts are imported from my main blog, Dead Voles. And it should go without saying that these are my personal reflections, and may not represent the official policies of Methodist University – which I thank for including me in its diverse and vibrant teaching and learning community.