58 Particularly Complex Work

Elisabeth Johnston

Summer 2019

Originally posted on Pedagogy, Play, & Practice on August 23, 2019

I started this blog as a way to communicate my thinking as I worked with colleagues as part of the Cluster Pedagogy Learning Community (CPLC). We have spent the summer learning together about interdisciplinary, project-based learning, and open education or what we are calling Cluster Pedagogy. We met four times face-to-face as a group and also spent time reading, writing, creating, and thinking in between our meetings. At our last face-to-face session we were asked to write about our work. Here is the prompt:

Please discuss your key takeaways from the CPLC experience so far, and explore how you hope they will inform your work at Plymouth State over the upcoming academic year.

I have thought about what I wanted to write about and I am not sure really where to begin. First, I can’t really put everything down about this experience. There is so much to consider. Second, this “homework” comes as a time when my focus is getting ready for the semester that it is truly difficult to focus on this thinking. So, I will try my best to capture my participation in the CPLC to this point.

When I think back over the last three months, many different emotions come to mind. I have had times of excitement, confusion, frustration, anxiety, and hopefulness. Learning is challenging work in any context and I find examining my teaching practice to particularly complex work. Let me see if I can unpack these thoughts.

Excitement- Spending time reading about pedagogy and having time to think and talk about these ideas is something I truly enjoy. My whole career I have focused on thinking about teaching. First as a student learning about teaching, next as a primary grades teacher, then as a PhD student, and now as a professor. Often in the midst of the semester, I find myself in a rush and I don’t have much time to spend on this complex work. Having a summer to really break apart my teaching and ask important questions was something I enjoyed doing. My colleagues in the CPLC provided me the opportunity to share my thinking and hear their thoughts about similar ideas.

Confusion- With learning often there comes confusion. As I mentioned in my post CAMT & Tackling a Wicked Problem, every learner has the right to be confused, as this is part of the process. There were times during the summer that I was unsure if I was heading in the right direction or I was unsure about the meaning of a new idea. I appreciate having this experience as I think about my teaching because I think it helps me to consider what students might face in my courses when encountering truly challenging work.

Frustration– The semester begins on Monday and I have to admit that I feel some frustration. This stems from the excitement that I mentioned before. Early in the summer, I had many big ideas about changes and created plans of what I would do this semester. This type of change and work takes time to do well and I am realizing that I need to take a step back and really think what is feasible for me at this moment in time. This is frustrating because I can see the potential of much of my learning this summer and how it could benefit my students, however, I know that I need to use a critical eye as I implement. This means that I will need to go more slowly, so I can really focus on a couple of key elements and try to do these really well, instead of trying too much and failing my students.

Anxiety- I didn’t really consider this emotion until this past week. I think that as I refocus my work to something feasible, I started to feel more anxious. I didn’t realize the pressure I felt from reading about my CPLC colleague’s work. I have had the opportunity to learn from so many amazing people this summer. I have to admit it is a little intimidating. How will I measure up? Am I doing enough for my students?

Hopefulness- What I realized is that I also feel very hopeful as I think about the work I accomplished this summer. I am amazed at the work my colleagues and I engaged in this summer and how this will have a positive impact on student learning at Plymouth State University. This hopefulness informs my work for the year as l bring the work of the CPLC into the academic year.

  • I plan to continue to engage in the CPLC by writing my blog and participating in reflective practice. These opportunities will provide me the space and time to think about my teaching in midst of the busy semester.
  • I am going to use ungrading in two of my classes in the hopes that this will give my students the opportunity to focus on the learning of the course.
  • I am revising my syllabi to make them more student friendly.
  • I am considering ways to provide more voice and choice to my students in my classes as it connects to both open pedagogy and project-based learning.
  • I am going to be patient with myself as I try to grow as a professor and implement these new ideas.
  • I am going to be patient with my students as I implement these new ideas.

I am going into the new academic year excited, a little confused, frustrated, and anxious as well as hopeful. All of these emotions will be with me as I continue this work and I am okay with that. I am looking forward to this new semester and all the possibilities.


zine collage page of chapter

Share This Book


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *