affective or effective teaching: is there a conflict?

Crowther, J., K. Maclachlan, and L. Tett. 2010. Adult literacy, learning identities and pedagogic practice. International Journal of Lifelong Education 29 (6):651-664.


Ecclestone, K., and D. Hayes. 2008. The dangerous rise of therapeutic education: Taylor & Francis.


I recognise much of the pedagogic situation Crowther et al is analysing here.  Given the context this paper emerges from i.e. Scotland with its very different policy framing of literacy – there is a sense in this paper that the tensions that define it are centred almost exclusively around how to help learners.
I have a reluctance when reading it – this may emerge from a sense that ‘this is so familiar to my experience that it does it feel like research or even valuable knowledge’ but  it also has another source. Namely, I draw in Ecclestone’s idea critique of certain educational encounters were learners are constructed as fundamentally human beings in need of help. I suspect that she does not have this sort of encounter in mind – adults of addictions, homelessness and lives that have spiralled out of control. But while the writers evidence damaged learning identities by how learners think and feel about themselves, that lurking suspicion I have that the statement in my experience that many learners utter – ‘I want to feel more confident when reading and writing’ rather than ‘I want to improve reading and writing’, is taken at its word and too much attention is placed on the affective aspects of learning.
There is a sense that perhaps what we explore are affective pedagogies rather than effective pedagogies.
The learners in the text – which resists deficit models and recognises the inherent limitations of literacy as skills, non-the-less offer little insight into the survivalist strengths of their learners.
I am interested in this idea that low literacy does not necessarily translate into incompetence; rather a range of skills (such as social interactions) can be leveraged to meet needs competently. This is an idea of explore.
It maps on the idea if teaching literacies as an example of the role of a teacher as being more that a conveyer of curricular content.  Placing literacies and language in the context of a narrated life history, a community, a sociality changes what is expected of us. This is not to defend therapy (in place of pedagogy) – nor is it to decry therapy (it’s life saving).  It is to ask and answer the question that is raised by one interviewee in Managing Quality:  how much genuine challenge and progression an integral part of the teaching, is this more than cozy and comfortable, a great way to spend time with people. 

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