On the way home tonight, we encountered substantial delays – 40 minutes to get out of the carpark due to a broken down car (not ours), a further 50 minutes to crawl the 5km home. Yes, that’s 90 minutes for 5km… (we drove today to save time. 🙂 )
I’ve spoken before about hurdles (activities or assignments that must be met before proceeding) and we had an interesting discussion in and around the comments regarding the potential fear factor associated with hurdles but also that hurdles must be chosen well. Pre-requisite courses function as hurdles – you must complete course A to attempt course B. In terms of course design, therefore, we must make sure that we set up our hurdles so that they are framed in a way that they are neither frustrating or fear-inducing. However, they must also be seen as necessary, which (of course) means that they must actually be necessary.
We can underestimate the importance of sharing information with our students so that they understand the reasons behind what we have asked them to do. If we don’t, we run the risk of the students trying to work out why we’re doing what we’re doing and, if they get it wrong, then they may take actions based on intentions that we don’t have. Worse, if uninformed, unengaged and under performing, then a sufficiently frustrated student will just slip away and leave our course.
Today, on the drive home, I only managed to find out what had happened in the car park just as I left. After spending 40 minutes crawling down 1.5 floors, having to negotiate to back out, having no idea what was happening and while I was watching a fuel gauge that was not giving me reassuringly full signs. Then, thinking I’d dealt with that hurdle, I leapt out into traffic, started moving again and then hit a patch of road that crawled for the next 40 minutes.
What’s interesting about this is that I can see notionally live traffic updates on my maps overlay on my phone (or, because I was driving, my wife could see it on her phone). Now this would have been great, except that it was completely and utterly inaccurate for the bad patch of road I was on. “Green! No obstacles!” So I could not depend upon the map application to give me guidance because what it was saying was quite obviously not reflecting the situation I was experiencing.
This is exactly what some of our students feel like – trapped along a path that they have to follow, not knowing where and when they can make change, not necessarily getting the information that they need to make an informed choice. If, like me, they were also watching the gas needle head towards Empty (as both a measure of their resources or their dedication), then they may have had to make a choice to turn off the path and come back later.
Except, as we know, a University career is easier to walk away from than a car – despite costing several times more!
Today, after an international flight home yesterday, and a longish day, I spent 1.5 hours in a car for reasons that I don’t understand, powerless, uninformed and arriving home none the wiser as to why it all happened. Tomorrow, although I was going to drive, I’m now going to walk because, unless I break a leg, I will only take an hour in either direction. Today, too much frustration is leading me to question the utility of driving – fairly or not – because I have a very dim view of the drive home at the moment.
Today, the hurdles were set too hard, opaquely and were of no use to me. So, tomorrow, I won’t repeat the activity. That’s a pretty simple lesson.