I didn’t expect to encounter such feelings of strangeness during the first ‘connecting week’ of ONL212. We had two group meetings this week. There are nine members in my group including two facilitators. Two group members (including myself) are from Singapore and others are from Europe (Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Italy).
Our group assignment for this week: 1. Discuss and adopt group collaboration guidelines; 2. Prepare something as a group “to present [our] group to the wider ONL community in any way you like”.
I kid you not. No other instructions. Just prepare a presentation of our group “in any way you like”. We had two group meetings. Both started off slow with most of us (me definitely) groping in the dark.
It was difficult being patient and present throughout all the uncertainty and unfamiliarity I was feeling.
It seems we are to complete a task as a group for each topic of the course. At some point in our group meeting, I asked our facilitator when we would know the exact group tasks. He explained that each task would only be “revealed” at the start of each topic. Wow! I had to stop myself from asking for more details.
I felt a bit better after reading the blog post of my groupmate Sven, where he openly shares about his discomfort. Reading his blog post also made me think about the importance of honesty. Being honest with myself and others about my discomfort and impatience is difficult. As an educator and a student, I am used to courses with detailed topic descriptions, assessment methods, and reading lists all set out in advance. After experiencing the strange interestingness of my first group meeting, I tried to find some anchor by going through the recommended course readings for this week.
In their paper on problem-based learning, Kek and Huijser explain:
“The ability to quickly get accustomed to change or ‘way of being’ might also be seen as adaptive expertise, a term coined by Hatano and Inagaki (1984) to contrast it with routine expertise. They posited that expertise comprises, at its base, both subject-level knowledge, and the ability to perform efficiently and effectively in familiar situations. However, when an individual encounters a novel or unfamiliar situation, i.e. the task, method or desired results are not known in advance, the individual with routine expertise struggles. By contrast, adaptive expertise would allow for that individual to easily overcome the constraining effects of novelty and unfamiliarity, both on an affective and cognitive level, and this in turn would allow sufficient flexibility to respond appropriately (Schwartz, Bransford, & Sears, 2005).”
“In other words, in the age of supercomplexity, human beings function in complex ecosystems that are characterized by various intersecting layers, which impact on each other. To function successfully in such ecosystems requires knowledge, skills, abilities, and dispositions, and as we argue, a particular way-of-being that allows people to deal in productive and creative ways with uncertainty.”
I like their reference to a new “way of being”, though this also means unlearning old ways of being. I reminded myself of this throughout our second group meeting which ended with some jokes, smiles, and laughs. We also managed to agree on the presentation we would make, and most importantly, we agreed on having fun.