File spoon-archives/bourdieu.archive/bourdieu_2000/bourdieu.0004, message 35

Subject: Re: Habitus and learning styles...
Date: Sun, 16 Apr 2000 14:51:29 +0100


>>What IS a learning style?
>>I think 'learning syle' is as slippery an animal as 'habitus' and 'field'.
>>With  these I just begin to think I have some ideas of what they are when
>>the meanings seem to slip away, but I am learning. After a very
>>entertaining discussion about habitus last year I realised it is in a
>>sense a heuristic device not to be reified. Learning styles may have to be
>>treated in the same way.

>OH YES.  Somehow, the term "learning style" leads me to think of some
>characteristic that is relatively enduring, but I think after reading your
>comments that learning style depends on what the situation calls for.
>Otherwise, we Bourdieu listers would be awful cocktail party companions.

I don't see how you can pursue your questions unless you get clear about the
idea of a learning style, perhaps distinguishing between specific techniques
that can be picked up or taught and those aspects that are more engrained
(i.e. "enduring charactistics"). Can you give an example of a distinct
learning style? Unless you can identify one of these creatures, surely you
won't be able to consider how "students' learning styles are in opposition
to an instructors' teaching style". From the mere fact that a student's
learning style (if it could somehow be described) is different to a
teacher's, it doesn't necessarily follow that they are in opposition -- they
might complement each other in some way.

Another difficulty, so it seems to me, is in distinguishing those
elements in a teaching style which could be characterised as belonging to
the mode of instruction -- e.g  techniques for putting across concepts, with
or without concrete examples, use of drill and repetition (at least as
school level), etc -- and those which are necessary to practising as a
teacher. As Deborah pointed out, taking the stance of Socratic ignorance
rarely goes down well with students at any level, and it is probably true
that you can't effectively practise as teacher unless you assume some
authority. Yet these two sides to teaching might not be easily separated.
And on top of this it may not always be possible to establish your
pedagogical authority on the basis of scientific truth or bona fide
knowledge in the humanities. Presumably teachers draw their authority in
part from the truth of what they are saying -- if this is not the case, one
wonders why teachers (at any level) become so agitated on the rare occasions
when a student questions the validity of what they say. I found the chapter
in Academic Discourse on "Student Rhetoric in Exams" exceptionally
interesting. One could object to the book as a whole that it was too sparing
in its discussion of Teacher Rhetoric.

Learning style as a concept can't be used as a heuristic device (as
opposed to a genuine description term) if it cannot be said to refer to
something (and something which can be individuated), no matter how unreified
it remains.




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