Monday, 7 September 2015

Giving help

There is power in learning, and much of it is in building independent thinking. The process is hard, painful and challenging. Learning is change, and change is not comfortable.

In an academic context, I would define 'giving help' as encouraging students to think for themselves by asking them questions, directing them to appropriate and enlightening readings, texts, articles or video, and suggesting activities designed to form or generate new ideas. 'Giving help' to a learner would definitely not constitute 'giving the answer'.

A fellow student, Andrew, commented on a recent course I participated in that when he was "paying an arm and a leg for tuition, then I should be able to ask for as much help as I think I need. There should be no end to the amount of help I am allowed to pursue during the work day. 'Help' is what I am paying for. There should be no 'allowable' limit to the 'help' I am seeking to complete my assignments. Learning to feel comfortable getting/demanding help during college will pay dividends later in life and career".

In replying to Andrew, I told him that, while I know there are some lecturers who treat student requests as if students are just being annoying and should just be able to intuit what the lecturer wants, that I knew of very few like that. The team I work with are - in general - very helpful, supportive lecturers. Additionally, we need to remember that as students we are paying to LEARN. We are not paying for our lecturers to tell us the answer: we learn nothing that way (or at least, I don't learn that way).

I understand that everyone's end and instrumental values (and the mix) differ. In my view, the academics I work with prize instrumental values (ie, learning) over the end values (certification) (Daft, 2015). Some students reflect instrumental values behaviour: others end values.
As students we are paying to build the body of professional knowledge, not to undermine it by short-cutting and being given the answer. There is a balance when 'giving help', that needs to fit well with lecturers' academic professionalism and that of their institutions.

  • Reference: Daft, Richard L. (2015). The Leadership Experience (5th Edition). USA: Cengage