Academic journal article Research & Teaching in Developmental Education

Response to Dominic Voge's Endnote Article, "Discovering Students' Beliefs about Meaning May Be Key to Understanding Their Resistance to Adopting Active Approaches to Learning" (RTDE, 2006)

Academic journal article Research & Teaching in Developmental Education

Response to Dominic Voge's Endnote Article, "Discovering Students' Beliefs about Meaning May Be Key to Understanding Their Resistance to Adopting Active Approaches to Learning" (RTDE, 2006)

Article excerpt

I agree with Dominic Voge that we must examine our assumptions about students' attitudes and beliefs toward their courses. As Voge's case study illustrates, contrary to our assumption that they will try in good faith to apply what we teach them, some students refuse to play the game. Instead, they explain their lack of comprehension as, "the reason the professor doesn't make sense. . .is because he's senile" (p. 96). According to such students, the language used by professors and textbooks is "to scare you off the topic," or "to confuse the public and amuse anthropologists" (p. 97).

In the implications section of his article, Voge points out that if we want students to take their place in the collegial conversation of academia, "we must prompt an epistemological shift. We must help students. . .view knowledge as constructed and meaning as created in interaction" (p. 99). I wholeheartedly agree.

However, I would like to admit another point of view along with Voge's constructivist interpretation of his students' experience. While much of academic "verbiage" (one student's adjective) exists in the service of "precise, effective communication" (Voge's words), a critical view would also entertain the possibility that some of the language of academia is there-albeit unconsciously-precisely "to confuse the public" and, thus, perpetuate the economic security of the academic profession by "producing] the need for its own services and its own products" (Bourdieu, 1991, p. 61). While we all hope and expect that language is used to construct meaning, "we are also aware that language is an integral part of social life, with all its ruses and iniquities" (Thompson, 1991, p. 1). Sadly, Voge's students' jaded comments may come from the all too familiar experience of being "confused" or "scared. . .off the topic" by self-important academia and its unnecessarily dense "verbiage" that is both a badge of belonging for those who understand and a reminder/barrier to those who haven't yet been admitted into the inner circle. …

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