What’s Wrong With Responsibility?


Am I that dumb and stupid?; at least that is how you often feel as an intern while doing your utmost on activities at your work placement and getting zero in return.  Internships are harsh times most of the time (1). Despite being lauded as great work experience opportunities (especially by vocational education institutes who gain in this way partnerships with organizations), it is not often that full and bright as a learning experience (unless you count disappointments, failures and repetitive trail behavior as a learning experience). Actually there are a lot failed internships (2). It would be fair to acknowledge that most work experience opportunities are not mounted as learning experiences. Simply because organizations are not equipped to offer them, their style of mentoring is not prepared to deliver it, and available settings and tasks are not geared to it. So, again, most of the time (yes, there are exceptions) learners have to cope with exhausting work conditions, thriving on rare cases with real encounters of illuminative job events and get a chance to pick up something valuable for their professional preparation.

This gloomy but nonetheless realistic account can be distilled from a study done in two countries with excellent systems of vocational education reviewing how health care student experienced their internships. It turned out that their concerns were not responded to; they had frequent feelings of failure; their suggestions and tips were ignored, and overall they had felt being unsuccessful and insecure.

So much for professional development. There must be something wrong in the kingdom of work placement. When asking students what’s the holdup they would probably say (according to the study): ’Give us (at least) some responsibility’. Especially not being given the proper responsibility for doing the tasks that they were ordered to do was the demotion par excellence. Not too much, not too less seems to be the dividing point in a good guidance perception agreed upon in the partnerships between vocational institutions and workplace offering organizations. They simply have too wide apart views on how to prosper learning. Giving responsibility is: freedom, i.e, space to make your own decisions (in teaching terminology: dare to try).


Susanna Tella, Nancy-Jane Smith, Pirjo Partanen & Hannele Turunen (2016) Work placements as learning environments for patient safety: Finnish and British preregistration nursing students’ important learning events, Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 68:1, 51-69,

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13636820.2015.1104715



  1. https://www.quora.com/What-should-I-do-to-deal-with-a-failed-internship
  2. http://en.journals.sid.ir/ViewPaper.aspx?ID=51133
  3. http://www.slideshare.net/mutualforce/top-26-benefitsofworkplacementoringprogram



Lessons in Comprehension


Will we ever learn from each other even when we do not share the same opinions?  “Love thy neighbour” is a disturbing maxim (1) but still also IS the cornerstone of our human condition (2). Accepting the other as a person will protect us from ‘world alienation’. However, the public sphere, be it a football match or a school yard, not easily exhibits occurrences of the maxim. More likely we encounter group closure and exclusion, often disguised and highly implicit. To comprehend this inconsistency in our human condition one could speak of ‘the paradox of embedded hegemony’ (See article). By this it is referred to a process in which those who belong to the dominant group (i.e, culture) fall into the trap of regarding their way of thinking and beliefs as self-evident and ‘normal’  up to a point that diversions are not accepted any more. Ultimately, those in hegemony or power tend to push the ‘other’ out of the nest. It becomes a paradox for sure when those pushed away accept the exerted dominance as part of that ‘nest’ and typical of that public realm leading them to resistance and alienation. It would mean that sharing of opinion and interest would become almost impossible. And moreover: even wanting to learn from each other would evaporate.

To deconstruct the paradox a study was set up to develop empathic space. Synergic Inquiry (SI) was used as an action research strategy that helps people understand characteristics on which they differ.  SI sets Self-Knowing, Other-Knowing, Holding and Transcending Difference. Students participated in program for 6 months which was structured around the educator’s ‘hyperawareness’ of creating empathic space. The program had a substantial impact on “ultimately smoothing a path toward unifying participants’ perspectives”.

What is striking in the findings of the study though is the critical role of the educator in maintaining ‘unified perspectives’ ; suggesting that only an ‘Amor Mundi’ (3) can be reached temporary, and without surveillance will fall back in a Love of MY World. Can the paradox only be resolved in an enduring way by having a mediator, is a controller desired?  To learn to love the world as it is and accept thy neighbor is a hell of a job for an educator to accomplish. Probably lessons in comprehension will not do it on their own.


Do I Really Know You? Do You Really Know Me? Empathy amid Diversity in Differing Learning Contexts by Elizabeth Kasl and Lyle Yorks.  Adult Education Quarterly 2016, Vol. 66(1) 3–20

sagepub.com/journals Permissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0741713615606965



  1. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068096/
  2. http://isocracy.org/content/review-hannah-arendt-human-condition

Educy Awards


Amazing how many great web applications are available on the Internet, free and for the taking, even on education! Soon in May the 20th Webby Awards (1) will be granted. The Webby’s are a kind of Internet Oscars, honoring the best of exciting web tools on social media, online video, web sites and the like. The content cover a  wide range (from business to art design to community services). Education is also among them but, to say it mildly, circumscribed. Nevertheless great ones; See referencing section below (2).  We need great web tools that are educational to provide online curriculum or education services to capture our students’ attention who are far more ahead in online activity than thought of by educationalists. A prestigious prize on developing education web tools, something with a snappy label, say “Educy Award” would certainly put it on the ‘map’.  But let us flip the argument here. Great tools must be used, of course. And therein lies a problem.

A study on teacher education students’ deployment and use of web 2.0 tools during their internship revealed that their positive intentions were restricted by lack of resources at the teaching site, unwillingness of mentor teachers, and uneasiness to try out new tools in the classroom. Nevertheless, most of the students persevered in introducing web applications in the classroom.

Innovations will find their way somehow. But a catalyst, like some kind of credit, could speed up things. So, to move student teachers from intention to action an honoring, issued by the teacher education institute, could support them as early adopters. They set things in motion. Web applications take effect by the number of their users. VSCO, Flipagram or Blendle grow because of them. A catalyst in the process could make things work more easily; in education too.


An investigation of the factors that influence preservice teachers’ intentions and integration of Web 2.0 tools by Ayesha Sadaf, Timothy J. Newby & Peggy A. Ertmer. In: Education Tech Research Dev (2016) 64:37–64. Springer Publishers  DOI 10.1007/s11423-015-9410-9.



  1. https://entries.webbyawards.com/categories
  2. http://mathigon.org/ ; https://flipagram.com

and http://webbyawards.com/winners/2015/websites/general-website/education/wonderville/


Right From The Start


Practice based education has a lot of advocates. Training in the field, learning from practitioners, getting to know best practices, engagement with real work, understanding the workplace better, it all is considered highly desirable. Education has to prepare for life (sed vitea discimus); therefore, immersion into authentic, realistic conditions is called for to let students acquire competencies needed for their forthcoming professional life. Many partnerships between educational institutions and businesses are up-and-coming. But do they benefit students and their learning (1) ? It cannot hurt to pose this question from time to time to see if liaisons between schools and companies ‘work’. In essence the exchange between school and work when it comes to student learning revolves around the dilemma of preparation vs. participation. Should a student lay the groundwork first before starting to explore realistic settings; or is it better, more relevant, and wise to step right on into rich environments to learn the basics? During a course of study, normally, a kind of balanced and gradient relation is built-in. Leaving the how aside, the question remains: do student benefit.

An interesting study collected student experiences with immersion into the world of work. It turned out the relationship is full of fears and snags. Among the most worrisome to students is that the workplace is not fitted for inquiries and try out behavior. Workload is also too high to have time to learn. On top of that students have problems understanding the full context of a project in which they get involved. These were three of the main recurrent issues addressed by students .

The point is not to criticize partnerships between school and work; they may be desirable for a lot of reasons. It is more that the workplace is not necessarily a place of learning when it comes to student learning (2). The way work experiences are framed as learning experiences (by students) and how instructors interact with students to create such experiences is what is important here. And that is precisely often the weak part: i.e., to defend your learning agenda as a student against the priorities of work. True partnerships exist right from the start between school, work, AND student.

Source The Relevance of Problem-based Learning for Policy Development in University-Business CooperationSue Rossano, Arno Meerman, Tobias Kesting & Thomas Baaken European Journal of Education, Vol. 51, No. , 2016 DOI: 10.1111/ejed.12165



  1. https://www.vu.edu.au/transcript/student-examples-of-learning-in-the-workplace-and-community-transcript
  2. http://www.nursingtimes.net/roles/nurse-educators/skills-to-ensure-success-in-mentoring-and-other-workplace-learning-approaches/5010479.fullarticle

Making It Easy


Bright ideas that never were realized; stunning inventions that never left the drawing table, there are numerous ingenious projects that did not make it (1). Take the portable record player, the iron that could be tilted a little so it slides easily around shirt buttons, or even the hovercraft. They were designed and crafted to make life more easy, but never became handy. Fortunately there is no lack of bright ideas considering the popularity of Great Idea TV Shows (2). Unfortunate however is the failed attempt to create a solution to a recognized problem (referring to the examples above): listening to music everywhere, ironing soleplates that really are fit for ironing a shirt; and using air as a transportation medium. The world of education is no different. Numerous bright ideas (3) but hardly implemented successfully (and this is not because of sturdy management and strict school regulations). What to think of: making classroom walls of glass to create sense of openness; use of smartphones in the classroom as a learning device; or don’t require students to come to school. These examples may be a little too far off. But there are more appealing ideas that still, may be unexpectedly, are not working as they should. Luckily we have research that can prove their wrongdoing.

A study on use of podcasts in teaching has investigated the outcome effects on student learning. Podcasts are a popular device grabbed by educationalist to promote the digital world into the classroom. Podcasts are lecture video recordings to be studied afterwards by students to rehearse and go over the content of the lesson in their own way. Great idea. However, according to the study, it did not work, at least as far as the exams results are concerned. Pity for the idea.

Why is that? The idea was that the pace of the lesson is may be too fast and one-off for (some) students to get the gist. So when given a chance to reiteration it would make it easier for students to learn. Interesting detail is that female and Asian students made use of podcasts more often. There are many reasons why the idea did not work. For instance: it takes time to go over the lesson video recording again, better study instead. Or reviewing what has been taught does not necessarily help to understand better; questioning would be better. More importantly: offering lesson content easier does not necessary mean it is assimilated intelligently.

Adrienne E. Williams, Nancy M. Aguilar-Roca, Diane K. O’Dowd (2016) Lecture capture podcasts: differential student use and performance in a large introductory course . Education Tech Research Dev (2016) 64:1–12 By Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2015
DOI 10.1007/s11423-015-9406-5


1. http://weburbanist.com/2012/04/25/fantastic-failures-10-wacky-extinct-products-from-the-past/
2. https://scriptpipeline.com/shop/great-tv-show-idea-contest
3. http://educationtothecore.com/category/teacher-resources/bright-ideas/

Sit, Think, And Write





Preparing for a test is an activity everyone tackles differently. Some really go for it, well in advance of the date of an assessment, some keep on hesitating up till the last moment and then burst out in action. And there are those who keep on worrying when to start, how to avoid, or what precisely to do in preparing for the event. Others take in serious consideration what will bring them luck, what to wear, or which omen will forecast success. Preparing for an assessment is surrounded by all kinds of peculiar human behaviors. Simply because we do not know precisely what to expect! (1). The event of an assessment is veiled with unknowns. How hard will it be, how many question items, on what subjects in particular, and so forth. Of course as a student you have learned the topic, it was covered in the program, and assignment were rehearsed more than once, but still a full demonstration of your actual mastery level at the ‘moment supreme’ is hampered by indefinites. Would it help when students would know in advance much more about the circumstances of the event? For instance, can they ask for clarification in case of unclear test items; can they indicate confidence in their answer of an item; are they allowed to rephrase the question as they understand it; can they add items showing their excellence: “I also know about….” ?

Let’s be fair: an assessment is about showing ability – why not let the student in on how to show it? It cannot hurt to open our minds on how we capture attainments.
An article explored possible ways of assisting the learner in taking tests. The author took different perspectives originating from several disciplines. Optimal foraging theory stemming from ethology points to the issue of providing the learner with sufficient cues and resources to give an answer to a test item. Marginal value theory from economics would suggest the student not to overstay or dwell on one question too long. Prospect theory from decision management would be important in determining how well a learner plans an answer given what one knows, thinks one knows and actually writes down.

Assessments are not an assessors’ playground. It is an arrangement to demonstrate what is attained and what not – by the student. So why not arrange for the student to do his or her utmost? (2) It probably starts with having an open mind for the, in itself quite unnatural, environment we have created for our students to give their utmost, and begin by answering queries like: would it help, for instance, to vary on self-selected difficulty levels; to provide aid or support in case of mix-ups; to give hints on planning an answer? An advice of an examiner at the start of a test like ”sit, think, and write” could then be transformed into “ bring your stuff, ask for help, and go for it”

W. Brian Whalley (2016) Evaluating student assessments: the use of optimal foraging theory, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 41:2, 183-198link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2014.991909


1. http://www.edutopia.org/assessment-guide-importance
2. http://pearsonblueskies.com/2011/first-class-how-assessment-can-enhance-student-learning/

Santa Claustrophobia


At certain times of the year a kind of collective focus seems to narrow down all variation of interest. We collectively concentrate on and are occupied with one common issue. Thanksgiving, Christmas are among the most renowned of these periods, for sure. It looks like if everything and everyone is captured in a script of accepted thoughts, actions, and decisions. Do not dare to violate this script, for instance dressing Santa Claus in yellow or blue. It has to be red, green, and white, and definitely with a red nose somewhere. We like it that way. Of course, this observation is not meant to spoil the fun. It is part of how we look at things; it is our interest; why make it hard (1) .
Still, and just as a thought, could interest be challenged without causing uprising (Santa revisited, so to speak)? The question has meaning for education mainly. It points toward the issue whether teachers can break through individual interests of a student. Put differently: Can teachers support “wanting to know” , or even more philosophically: is there a true open-mindedness? One of the golden rules in teaching and instruction is to adapt to the individual interests of the learner. New learning has to be built on what is already available and in place. But what about raising curiosity by pulling down interest-dominated preferences? It seems like tearing down walls in vain, just like breaking through a Santa Clause script.

However: a thoroughly conducted study looked at how situational interest (SI) can be raised and what its effects would be. SI refers the impact external factors (presented ideas, events, situations) can have on raising curiosity and maintaining attention of the learner. It is characterized by a stage of catch & hold. The study used varying teaching activities to raise students’ interest in learning a subject. It turned out that raising SI as an influencing teaching tactic was situation specific but eventually reached consistency in maintaining attention when connected to (embedded in) individual interest.

The outcome of this study is important in the sense that one (a student, but why not everyone?) can be pulled out of the ordinary space of regular awareness and concern. The outer world, be it in the form of a teacher or a special kind of event, can “set your soul on fire”. It is a warming thought, especially for those involved in schooling, but it comes with a warning. The study indicates how fragile, that is context specific and embedded, induction from outside in is. Teachers know this: it takes time and lots of rehearsal to get things really going (2). But it is a comforting to know that students’ motivational response can be promoted by teachers and that students are sensitive to the learning environment set up for them. The cure for Santa Claustrophobia must be to get situational.

How situational is situational interest? Investigating the longitudinal structure of situational interest by Maximilian Knogler ,, Judith M. Harackiewicz , Andreas Gegenfurtner , Doris & Lewalter in Contemporary Educational Psychology 43 (2015) 39–50
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2015.08.004 0361-476X/© 2015 Elsevier Inc.


1. http://www.tomkins.org/what-tomkins-said/introduction/what-we-learn-through-affects-becomes-programmed-as-scripts-which-govern-our-behavior/

Give It To Me


Receiving a present or a gift (be it a donut, a tablet computer or whatever..) is a moment of joy and excitement. Not so in education. Receiving something (be it a new book, a new course… ) does not come unconditional and unrestricted. There is always a twist. The giver (mostly the teacher or the ‘program’) wants you to do or achieve something with it. The gift is not yours. To be more precise, look at the numerous initiatives of ‘giving away’ tablet computers or cell phones to students, often already at early stages of schooling (1). The idea behind it is that children will grasp the benefits of the Internet World to the full. And they will, often quicker and more skillful than their educators can foresee (2). But the gift is a mixed blessing; it comes with all kinds of limitations of use and often as a stripped version. Kids will immediately notice it is not the full monty.
This is not to question the benefits of wide spread dissemination of information technology tools in education. It is the widespread educational urge of limiting an unreserved use of the tools (for all kinds of reasons and motives). The cited study (below) dived into what children think and say about their use of cell phones that were distributed to them for educational purposes. It turns out that, first of all, the kids were not at all pleased with the gift, once discovering its potentials, but were disappointed actually. Also, the expected use of the tool turned out to be highly overrated by educator since children gradually confined to what was asked of them. A generative and learning intensifying deployment was not achieved. Even frustration occurred in that students thought teachers would invade their privacy.

A great idea turning into a mischance. Education is not unfamiliar with crashed implementations of great ideas; and, certainly, there have been well thought over explanations for this. But still it remains striking to see how students will evaluate the opportunity offered to them as authentic or not; and based on that may simply dissolve an educational intention. It is more than having a better Information ”teach”nology . It is about ownership of learning, meaning “it is not you but me that is taking the gift”.

Schooling Mobile Phones: Assumptions About Proximal Benefits, the Challenges of Shifting Meanings, and the Politics of Teaching by Thomas M. Philip and Antero Garcia
Educational Policy 2015, Vol. 29(4) 676–707
www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav ; DOI: 10.1177/0895904813518105


1. http://www.editlib.org/
2. http://www.kidsource.com/education/computers.children.html

Positive Connections


“I can do…; I will do …” These two considerations indicate quite nicely how we make a tradeoff in our decision to start an activity or not. And most of the time it works quite well; that is, to keep away our fear of failure and our sense of mastery high. But what if we have low self-esteem in our own abilities and a ‘learned helplessness’ relationship with the environment in which we live. Certainly there will be a big chance we land at the bottom of our expectations. It is a kind of downhill race: faster and faster we are going to believe: I cannot do; therefore I will not do…. In education this regression is disastrous. And some of our students are experiencing precisely this; low expectations, low self-esteem. The downhill race is called marginalization.

David, the boy from the cited study, was such a marginalized student with quite a history of ‘behavior problems’ while staying in normal schools. Following his learning trajectory at an alternative school it was quite remarkable to see how positive connections worked. Teachers who believe in David, addressing his needs, and providing support so that David could master educational tasks were critical, as well as peer contacts who were not negatively shaping his sense of worth and ability but connected to him on an equal basis . Drawing from expectancy value theory (1) the study shows that positive connection with teachers and peers facilitates interest in learning and openness to instruction, thus “shaping David’s subjective task values”.

More or less, we know the entailed message already, of course. What is so striking from the study is David’s voice in the matter (2). Not just the quote in the title of the study “Go over there and look at the pictures…” but other locations in the article as well express the pupil’ s eagerness and willingness to act. “With some help I can, and then I will do“ seems to be what he is saying. ‘Knowing you can’ is a stronghold position in teaching and learning so quintessential that it has probably been overlooked too many times (See Page Observation no. 1)

Marnie Best, Deborah Price & Faye McCallum (2015), ‘Go over there and look at the pictures in the book’: an investigation of educational marginalisation, social interactions and achievement motivation in an alternative middle school setting
International Journal of Inclusive Education, 19:4, 422-434,
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13603116.2014.935815


1. http://www.teacherstoolbox.co.uk/T_Expectancy-value.html
2. http://studentvoicei.org/