Pedagogy and Time
23 January 2022
Discovering multiple overlaps in our respective trajectories as artist/researchers and PhD students—Victoria exploring dialogue-as-performance, Stacey investigating collaboration research—it made sense to be reading, reflecting, and talking together about dialogue as collaboration. Through an embodied practice of being in conversation around readings with which we are engaged, we are instigating a performative process of making-through-cooperative-thinking, a dialogue between ourselves and the text through which the reading process (the material of the text itself) and our discussion of it (a collaborative reflection) become the basis of our performative dialogue.
Collaboration, as a foundational element of our collective work, causes us to slow down and spend more time reflecting on and discussing our values, in this case as teachers. This intentional deceleration and commitment to a slower approach, which is important to both of our practices, allows us to focus on the process of making rather than the production of an end product. Through our dialogues, an encounter with the other emerges and our individual practices become one. Our dialogue about our pedagogical practices is salient in our thoughts about collaboration and dialogue more generally. Can the classroom become a place of dialogue or collaboration, a place where we become both learner and teacher simultaneously? The Bureau of Noncompetitive Research wants to create space for our teaching practices, and to think about them through the lens of our ongoing exchanges on slowness. The text below highlights some of our main preoccupations.
We are both interested in giving our students a say in the structure of class time, and carving out the kinds of expectations that are placed on their learning (class content) and learning outcomes (both their expectations for themselves and our expectations of them). How would students’ sense of responsibility for their learning increase if they contributed more actively to determining these outcomes? The notion of a “contract”—a document drafted via collective discussions between the students and the instructor—could create a space for greater accountability. But, this of course means slowing down the process and taking time out of an already charged program of learning to prioritize this kind of discussion. Is there a way to make the process of contract-building a meaningful (and relevant) activity that in its way becomes part of the curriculum of the course in question?
Similarly, when we encounter flights of interest that spontaneously take us off the track of our curriculum or course outline, how can we take our students’ needs and desires into account in these situations? We have both encountered pressures to fill our course with as much content as possible without leaving room for the unexpected. How can we rethink this and create space, both physically and mentally, for students to process, integrate, and rework what we are teaching them? When do we decide to follow these flights and when do we reroute the discussion back to our (and the university’s) stated purpose for the class? How do we create balance in these desires?
Can the orientation of the classroom space itself be a factor that creates and makes possible these desires? What if students as a group decided how they want to “design” their learning space? Would it affect how we use this space? Different styles of learning could benefit from the intentional consideration of one’s physical occupation of the classroom, and how it impacts the way a student receives information (this is something we have each experienced first-hand in the classroom). It could be as simple as inviting students to walk around during a lecture or sitting/lying down on the floor. While on the surface it seems potentially disruptive, this invitation can also give students an opportunity to think about how they learn; how a body/mind is learning (and not just a mindbrain, separated from its body). A dialogue around these facets of learning can open a space for deeper reflection on the learning environment—not just as produced by the instructor but by the space itself. The location of the instructor within this space also changes the dynamics of the classroom. Do you position yourself at the front of the class, or within it?
Thinking about art making as a process rather than a product allows both of us to relax into the idea of students creating unfinished projects, and rather focus on ideas of engagement with concepts and materials. This flexibility allows students to concentrate on specific parts of larger works, or take smaller projects to completion. As artists who both take several months—if not years—to work on a project, giving students time to think and create in ways that don’t end in a product in a few weeks seems natural but also creates questions regarding assessment. Experimentation and collaboration take time and trust, things that do not fit easily into the framework of a 13-week class. How do we create space and time for these activities within an institution that does not always value them?
As such, these decisions always seem to come back to authority, and who is teaching versus who is learning. We both attempt to create a space of shared learning where we are not the sole authority, and recognize the importance of different experiences and knowledge that our groups bring. As much as the traditional classroom instructor exerts their control on the students, the university exerts its control and expectations on the instructor. These pressures—both the expectations of the students and the university—limit our ability to explore learning together in the classroom. With this as the general reality, we ask: what would it mean to radically challenge the university class?
The above reflections demonstrate the ways in which we’re considering the value of a more open structure in the classroom. Thinking about pedagogy and time, for us, means reflecting back on both the learning and teaching experiences we’ve each had and, in a sense, unlearning some of the goals that have been deeply inculcated in us.
23 January 2022
The Bureau of Noncompetitive Research consists of Victorian Stanton and Stacey Cann.
Contributed as part of Symposium: Making Sense of the High-Speed Society