Block mode teaching hits the headlines

Andrea ChesterUncategorized1 Comment

Earlier this week Rick Bennett from the School of Communication and Design at RMIT Vietnam spoke to an engaged gathering about the successes and challenges of their recent pilot of block mode teaching in the Bachelor of Design Studies. Students take one course at a time, attending seminars/workshops for three hours a day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for four weeks. Much of the assessment is marked in class, incorporating peer feedback.

Hot on the heels of Rick’s presentation VU announced its decision to extend its block mode First Year Model across the year levels of all UG and PG programs, citing positive student outcomes compared to the same courses taught the previous year in the more traditional mode.

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Source: The Australian

I know many SoE staff and students already enjoy intensive mode teaching. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about block mode and how you read the evidence in this area.

For more details see:
VU website: Innovative approach to tertiary education
The Australian: Victoria Uni’s big reform bet pays off
Campus Morning Mail: Victoria U extends transformative first-year model to all students


One Comment on “Block mode teaching hits the headlines”

  1. Hi – there’s a lot to think about here – will focus on what I think about 1 aspect of this from the perspective of social justice work in education.

    The VU blocks have been well liked I hear – project based – multi-disciplinary – group based tasks – involving more than 1 course – focusing on 1st year students – with the aim of supporting them to transition into tertiary space. I like elements of this. VU has a high ‘equity’ intake and working in different ways is good.

    However If I think about this from another angle – social justice and ‘affect’ (an angle where I know more of the literature) I have different feelings – different feelings about ‘block’ (intensive) delivery.

    Part of what people do in courses aiming to support social justice is engage with sensations/affect (as well as ideas). If changing or challenging thinking is a necessary part of what social justice teaching is about (and a lot of the time it is) – then moving through courses quickly might work against those aims.

    Some writers – in the social justice space – concentrate on affect and education – they say that – when we experience sensations we often assign these in normative ways – and that we do this quickly. They say that if we want to move influence people’s attitudes towards social justice that one of the things we can do is to try to stall such processes. That we can support people to sit with the discomfort of inhabiting an unusual affective space. Social justice education works in this space – the space of interrupting normative experiences – and writers suggest that this takes time.

    So – for these sorts of reasons – I don’t favour quick courses that take on social justice concerns (similar to my reasons for not favouring training approaches to the achievement of attitudinal change). There’s more to it – but – marking today – so have done this quickly.

    Some references that are in this space include (can only do this because Mic and I have done a paper on this sort of thing):

    Berlant, L. (2011). Cruel Optimism. Duke University Press, Durham, NC.
    Cramer, S. & Harding, L. (2017). Call of the Avant-Garde: Constructivism and Australian Art. Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne.
    Donelan, K. (2002). ‘Engaging with the Other: Drama, and intercultural education.’ Melbourne Studies in Education, Vol. 43 No 2, pp. 26-38
    Fawaz, R. (2016). How to Make a Queer Scene, or Notes toward a Practice of Affective Curation. Feminist Studies, 42 No. 3, pp. 757-768
    Halberstam, J. (2011). The Queer Arts of Failure. Duke University Press, Durham and London.
    Zihan, L. (2016). Queer Objects: An archive for the future. Exhibition Installation, 12th Feb – 13th April, Earl Lu Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Singapore.

    Some relevant footnotes from a paper with mic Emslie

    In Cruel Optimism Berlant (2011) suggests that affect (what we will think of as sensations) is the sensory space that precedes identification. The space before the subject identifies and names a sensory experience. Berlant suggests that the subjects’ relationships with the sensory are typically unconscious and often produce normative identifications – that sensory experiences are quickly made sense of so that they align with that which is normative. In the interests of difference and expansion Berlant calls for a conscious stalling of normative identifications – a stalling of the tendency to identify and name the sensory in usual ways – whether those usual ways are comfortable or uncomfortable.

    PS – if anyone would like to read the paper – happy to chat about it – but – it’s in-progress – so we’re keen to wait to distribute until it’s finished

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