Comments on: Can We, Should We Democratize the Classroom? UvA Staff for a New University Mon, 20 May 2019 17:11:38 +0000 hourly 1 By: Jochen Riester Wed, 01 Jul 2015 10:16:12 +0000 Can We, Should We Democratize the Classroom?

To my opinion, as a teacher, this question will become irrelevant over time. The classroom itself is changing, very slowly, but change is coming. Institutions will fall, collaboration has the future. So yes, learning will become super democratic, but not in a classroom setting, powered by technology.

Especially the classroom aspect of learning and it’s one to many situation in a physical space on a scheduled moment in time. The internet will make learning space and time independent. As it did with so many things already. The internet didn’t change schools already because they are organized in bureaucratic hierarchies paid with tax money. Static laws are the reference. Economic principles, student and teacher needs or new technologies as change drivers are minimal in the current learning institution.

The use of internet technology will make learning individual again: a highly specialized teacher and a single student relationship powered by technology. The mentor-protege situation, the way crafts were learned for so many years will come back. Selecting a topic, a teacher and a learning speed will all become super flexible. Learn what you like to learn, from the teacher you like the most. Learn where and when you like. Schedule an face to face exam with your teacher whenever the student is ready for it. Meet teachers and students issue based and motivated, not because it’s in a schedule. There will be a huge responsibility on the shoulders of the students to be willing to learn and to select courses that have value.

I can see that knowledge, teachers, exams and certificates will become super available. Classrooms inside institutions, with teachers in front of classes are a pre-internet concept. About exams: wisdom will be more in the crowds, so it’s not up to one teacher to judge if you score a sufficient for a test, but the group will have more of the last say, as they are collaborating they are smarter and more able to do valuable test.

For those with technology fear: fear the institution, the schedule, the teacher with outdated knowledge, the unmotivated student, over technology. Fear the diploma valued by the reputation of the institution, especially because institution are always by definition outdated. Future and the newest insights should be what makes your education valuable. Technology will just empower this. Students will always meet and help other students to succeed, and meeting teachers for exams will always be part of education.

By: Tijmen Lansdaal Mon, 08 Jun 2015 17:43:22 +0000 I, as a student, often feel at ease with teaching methods, power balances etc., *in class*. I don’t know if the following suggestion addresses your question sufficiently, but I would simply like more time with my fellows (be they teachers or students). It’s a problematic demand because money is short in today’s humanities. To avoid such problems, I want to suggest people meet more outside of class. The heightened awareness of our place in an academic community at the UvA nowadays has resulted in many gatherings in which I got to speak to a lot of people not just on the topics of the academic crisis. It wasn’t just to ‘socialize’ and ‘network’. Such moments sometimes provided me with more communication overall and consequently more knowledge on issues bordering the stuff I should know in class, simply because I got the opportunity to ask more.

Some teachers have given up time in class to talk about the current issues of academia and I felt even those talks greatly improved interaction in class, though it didn’t really help for the class discussions that day. That could be done outside of class, if people commit themselves to do it.

I always go to class with the feeling that I need to ask the most pertinent questions. That approach is helpful, but at some point you *also* want to ask questions not tied to predetermined topics, and meetings that leave some time open provide a place to do so.

On a sidenote: I think lectures help in a similar manner and maybe the community should organize and/or attend more.

By: Jitske Jasperse Fri, 05 Jun 2015 07:34:06 +0000 Hello there, this is a topic that’s certainly worth a workshop with concrete examples and a more general debate in order to come to a better understanding why would want or need to democratize the class rooms and how teachers and students feel about this. Some students in Art History (Art History Present) are currently (re)thinking how they envision their first year. They are writing a position paper and will present this in the last week of June before an audience of students and teachers. Although this might not be an immediate democratization, it offers the great opportunity to find out what students think, what they want and to what extent it meets the ideas and ideals of teaching staff.

By: Krisztina Lajosi Fri, 05 Jun 2015 07:02:12 +0000 Learning can be perceived as a form of positive liberty in which students choose freely to develop by accepting a hierarchy implicit in a social situation in which the teacher is understood to possess more knowledge about a certain field than the student. It is a contract between two parties in which one commits to convey the knowledge and has the necessary qualifications and experience to teach, while the other agrees to accept the teacher’s guiding role and actively engages in the process of learning. Learning is an empowering activity that leads to understanding and mastering a certain professional competence designed to put the student in a position equal – or even superior – to that of the teacher. Teaching facilitates democracy because it does not aim to maintain hierarchical structures, but on the contrary, it enables individuals to fully explore their potential, leads to social mobility, and promotes equality. Therefore the hierarchy of the classroom is necessary for learning. The teacher must know what the student needs to learn in order to master a subject. The job of the teacher is granted precisely on the grounds of possessing this superior knowledge in a certain field. In this sense the teacher and the student are not equals. Students should trust the teacher to know what they need in order to become educated and empowered individuals. If this fundamental trust is missing, the relationship between the teacher and the student is doomed to failure. Acceptance and trust in the teacher’s professional skills and abilities, and a willing eagerness to do the work required by learning are vital for the success of education. This form of conscious choice (for positive liberty) and the free participation in the process of teaching and learning are essentially democratic values which secure the future of a democratic society.

By: Josef Fruchtl Thu, 04 Jun 2015 17:48:00 +0000 The first association that comes into my mind: I – as a teacher – would love to talk not that much. I would love to lean back (and smoke a cigarette – in my mind – , and have a glass of wine – in my mind) and raise my finger or only my voice from time to time when we discuss a text like Heidegger’s “Was heißt Denken?” (“What Is Called Thinking?”, or – also this translation is correct – “What Calls For Thinking?”).
But I guess that there is one necessary precondition: students would need much more time for preparing such a difficult text. (And a text that isn’t difficult isn’t worth reading in class.)

By: Arjen Noordhof Thu, 04 Jun 2015 16:30:58 +0000 Very interesting topic!
I think in terms of hierarchical differences there are clear advantages of teaching over management. First, management is quite often aimed at keeping the difference and if possible enlarge it. Teaching generally aims at reducing the gap. Second, in teaching (and research) the object of study has authority over both teacher and student. Hence, the power-balance between teacher and student is unstable and may shift depending on who is more able to understand the subject. If both really want to understand the subject (i.e. they have freely chose to study it) and accept each others freedom in how to accomplish this understanding, there is not a lack of democracy.

Of course there are practical issues and obstacles (exams, diplomas, teaching hours, authority in the classroom, deadlines, etc.). Democratization of education might first of all mean that such secondary concerns do not overshadow the primary aim of understanding.