Today, an epiphany about this PhD land my friends and I find ourselves in. We are given a test, to find a question worth answering, and do so in a reasonable amount of time with limited resources and nothing but your fire to guide you. It occurred to me that ‘question’, has the word ‘quest’ built into it. So my job really, is to go on a quest, in the search for knowledge and truth (in some form). This makes thinking about what I have to do much easier.
A great read for Environmental Educators
I recently read this amazing journal article titled, Environmental Education and Curriculum Theory, calling for a breakdown in the Cartesian dualities of us and them, human and nature, and generally asking for an end to the “armchair” student and teacher syndrome common to much of educational practice today. This quote from the article says it well:
“There is also a deeper worldview issue encapsulated in the above curriculum’s characterization as an education for being for the environment. The hyphens reflect the aim of phenomenologists to reconstruct the mutually constituting human-environment duality while deconstructing the Cartesianinspired self-world separation and disconnection. Cartesian thinking, allegedly, invokes major epistemological and methodological assumptions about the nature of reality, knowledge, and truth upon which much of the positivist and postpositivist curriculum development and research in EE has proceeded and been legitimized (e.g., Robottom & Hart, 1993). Critiques of its dominance have contributed to the current vitality in EE research, in particular, the emergence of a range of interpretive approaches within qualitative approaches to inquiry. Moreover, many environmental philosophers and ecofeminists, in particular, are critical of the dualisms, binary logics, and values of hierarchical thinking that they associate with the positivist and patriarchal worldviews of Western science and philosophy and their associations with the ecological crisis (Merchant, 1980; Plumwood, 1993).”
Payne, P. (2006). Environmental Education and Curriculum Theory. The Journal of Environmental Education, 37, 25–35. http://doi.org/10.3200/JOEE.37.2.25-35
Embedded Learning is Vital
We know that engaged and embedded experiences are vital to learning, but they are treated more like gravy than the protein and potatoes they should be. There are hundreds of examples attesting to this, but the glut of poor understandings of how to integrate these experiences into learning without stretching already stretched budgets gets in the way of skillful implementation.
A take up from this article is that creating a dynamic of interplay between student and teacher, as part of a process of self-questioning, can provide this embedded, affective experience within the limitations of typical classroom environments. From experience as a teacher, I agree fully, though not to replace practical exposure to the “real world” through projects and field trips, but to capture a low-hanging-fruit that can dramatically augment learning.
I am becoming more convinced that students and teachers must be the cultivars of learning, with the students as the center-points of the process. The article offers 9 questions* for “Questioning for Being for the Environment” that can invoke these experiences, especially if the dualistic barrier is removed from what do you think? to what does this mean for us?
* If you would like the questions and cannot access them in the article, feel free to email me, as good ‘ol copyright laws do not permit me to repost.
As a graduate student it is vital to take your time and enjoy reading texts, journals, books, and popular articles in a wide variety of fields. One of the big challenges that can quickly emerge is a desire to take in everything. This is a formula for difficulties, especially when crunch time hits and you get that eagerness to “just get it done.”
This is an unfortunate, especially when you’re like me and want to have fun learning! Several strategies can assist you in overcoming these hurdles.
The first is remember to read with a purpose. Before you sit down to an article, remember to ask yourself why you are reading, is it to learn something new? Expand your understanding of the field? Answer a particular research question? Having an idea to begin with is a great start.
Secondly, you might find that taking brief notes along the way or in the margins can help you out. If you prefer using digital tools, I love Mendeley, a great reference organizer that works on iOS and Android as well as desktops, and has some excellent note taking tools. The key here is taking brief notes, do not let your reflections get in the way of the reading flow unless some section really grabs you. You can always mark it down and come back for a review.
A third strategy is to summarize what you’ve learned after going through one or several articles. This is a key to academic writing. In noting what you’re learned and why it is important to your arguments, you will find that when it comes time to synthesize, you will have an excellent resource to draw on. This can provide particular benefit if you read several texts at once, and notice patterns that might help you later on.
Here are 5 additional resources with excellently detailed follow-ups to help you discover further methods for reading and writing well for academia:
- Reading Strategies | Academic Success Center | Oregon State University
- Academic Reading Strategies – The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill
- 7 Critical Reading Strategies – Salisbury University
- Managing Academic Reading – University of Reading
- Scientific Speed Reading: How to Read 300% Faster in 20 Minutes | The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss <- a bonus for those of you interested in quickening your pace (not the same as better understanding!) through a great life-hacking method.