151/365 Something more than students of studenthood

Experience Design Consultant Laura Keller has an interesting column over on uxmatters. Drawing a comparison between the medical field and user experience design, Keller walks through an argument similar to those I’ve heard relevant to education in recent years.

In the ed sector, the argument is more about an approach to patient care as it could influence teacher practice. If, like doctors, teachers were to build a profile of practice that relies on a set of symptoms (indicators of learning), they would be able to design a treatment (teaching) that leads to improved health (learning). Such is the usual comparison of teaching and medical practice.

This, however, isn’t the overlap Keller is seeking to establish between experience design and medicine. Instead, she asks readers to play along with the following thought experiment:

Doctors and staff come in to see you and go out. They’re polite, but answer your questions curtly, and you don’t know exactly what’s going on. You wonder, What is wrong with me? What are they testing for? Will I be okay? When will I go home? When they discharge you and you’re ready to leave, the staff finally give you your diagnosis, along with written instructions explaining what you need to do. As the hospital staff proceed to treat other patients, they leave you to figure it out on your own, and you head home.

Keller, points out that this would (or at least should) be an inappropriate exchange that perhaps solves the problem in the short term, but opens the foor to a repeat development and does nothing to empower patients to own their own health and wellness.

She points to three possible approaches to improving client and consultant relationships:

  • Client as team member
  • Client as student
  • Client as colleague

Ironically, Keller wraps her argument in a need for greater education of both patients and clients in working toward the improvement of these relationships.

When we do school we think about teaching and learning, but we rarely think of educating our students as to what we are doing, why we are making the choices we are making, or helping them to learn to make choices on their own.

If anything, we will talk about data or explain our actions as preparing students for the next grade or school level or the more-distant-still work world.

While it might seem these reasons, this well-leveraged use of data, align with Keller’s suggested approaches, they do not.

Educating students in my English classroom toward building relations as team members, students, or colleagues meant walking through the choices I was making and hoping to help them make as readers, writers, speakers, and listeners.

It meant working with them as students of communication, letters, stories, and understanding. It did not mean working with them as students of studenthood. Saying things like, “You’re going to need this next year,” or having “data chats” with kids eliminates any last vestiges of the real world lingering in neo-modern classrooms.

I approach teaching English as a writer, reader, and thinker. While it took several years to choke back the teacher voice I thought I was supposed to have, I was eventually able to respond to students as a fellow writer, and talk to them about books as a fellow reader. When we discussed current events or the big ideas of life, it was as fellow travelers on the path to thinking more deeply.

While all of this is wrapped within my experience within a given discipline, it was also how I saw my colleagues in science, history, etc. approaching their practice as well.

There is overlap between education and the medical field. While a portion of it may lie within the role of diagnostician, the bigger, more exciting, more important portion lies in helping to be curious explainers of the world in which we live and through which we move.

Image via Claremont Colleges Digital Library

Leave a Reply

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