Connecting the Dots: Culture of Vulnerability, Possibility Thinking & Resilience
Friday thoughts in three dots
I am currently working on a couple of projects and research ideas. Some of the conceptual considerations came (more or less) together this morning. Mind you this post is the mind-mappingly drafting of a draft in an attempted linear form.
The First Dot
A Culture of Vulnerability
The current edition of Times Higher Education runs an opinion piece ‘The feel-bad factor’ by Prof Ecclestone. This article highlights that the boundaries between actual vulnerability and ‘trivial’ vulnerability have become blurred. The author highlights, that education itself does not make vulnerable—yes! Thank you. True engagement with a learning process certainly has elements of risk taking (by both the learner and the teacher), because inevitably it impacts on identity negotiation and asks to leave comfort zones behind. This is a vulnerability of sorts. But then should universities not be safe spaces for risk taking in that sense?
I don’t want to go into the discussion about vulnerability, its definition and forms, in this post. However, the topic has bothered me for a while, maybe because I feel guilty when I put my foot down with my students and force them to take responsibility for their work—no I am not doing your work for you. And yes, I was asked: what then I am here for—because my students don’t know off Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development? Whatever the form, vulnerability is an issue that needs addressing.
The Second Dot
This morning I watched a small report on resilience research in Germany. A key aspect of the research mentioned in this report was significance of establishing trust between a teacher and the children—having a reliable person in the teaching role. More about this research and other research into poverty and resilience by M. Zander here.
Now I am wondering how this translates into higher education. We still have a duty of care.
The Third Dot
Possibility Thinking and Making Connections
Possibility thinking plays, in my opinion, a significant part in the vulnerability and resilience discussion. Possibility thinking is a literacy, that is crucial in making informed life-decisions, in taking ownership and control of one’s life. Possibility thinking can enable us to avoid simply reiterating life-decisions we experience within our narrow social environment, and help to cross boundaries. In my doctoral research the lack of possibility thinking was expressed in such a way that the children did not even think: I am not good enough to go to university. The mere thought of university as an entity, even an inaccessible one, was not even within their frame of mind.
A fairly simple adaptation of possibility thinking to help students with mental health issues and stress, is the scenario technique. When students were too stressed to engage with the worst case scenario of failing an exam or a paper, sometimes a whole year, exploring feet forward in that case, and then taking it from there, step by step (second worst case, third worst case, not to shabby, best outcome) and identifying tangible next steps for each possible outcome took a lot of pressure out situations that were initially too scary to face.