Week 6: Mother’s Verbal Nudges

Since I’m not teaching this semester, I decided to focus on how efficient I am as a parent. I aimed to count how many times I need to say something to make my 5-year old girl do something that I want (verbal nudges). All in all, I tried to track all my action-encouraging requests/demands/orders/hints for 4 days, around 2-3 hours a day. I based my visualization on the game of darts, imagining myself a player who aims to hit a bull’s-eye as quickly as possible. However, sometimes it takes too many attempts to reach the target. If you have kids, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

My speculations:

  1. Unlike with learning, it makes little sense to consider teaching in isolation from learning. Even though the tendency to assess educators’ efficiency based on their students’ performance is not impeccable (Williamson 2019), conceiving of successful teachers we first off conceive of their successful students. For a similar reason, my data collection involves my kid’s reactions to my verbal stimuli.
  2. In the automated version of this visualization, the conclusions drawn from the data would depend on pedagogical benchmarks, social values or political aims inbuilt in the algorithm. As Jasanoff (2018) argues, ’data do not simply represent the reality of the world independent from human thought but are constructions about the world that have been assembled for specific purposes’. In my case, if my mom looked at my data, she would claim that I’m a poor parent, since I often have to repeat many times before my daughter does what I request. At the same time, some of my friends would label me as a very demanding mother based on their own experience with their kids and beliefs about happy parenting. So who will decide what it means to be a good teacher/parent? Anyway, most parents suffer from the ‘bad mother complex’, so any tracking system like this will risk to increase their anxiety level.
  3. This is a very simplistic way to visualize mother-child or learner-teacher relationships. Even in terms of requests/tasks, they are so versatile, sometimes not formulated as asks at all. Besides, there is a plethora of non-verbal communication between people. Moreover, there’s so much context in any conversation that technology will never be able to grasp and properly relate, and thus will leave it out. Teaching as a ‘gift’ that a teacher is granting to students, as Biesta described it, seems to be too challenging to quantify and represent as a graph. In the same vein, my daughter is not a board that is predictably responsive to darts…
  4. Data collection can be intrusive and surveillance is annoying. Understanding very little what I’m doing, my daughter felt irritated every time I wrote things down about her. Thinking of students, they would probably feel the same if the data systems did their tracking in a more explicit way. However, if we don’t notice them, it doesn’t mean that data collection is not taking place.

2 thoughts on “Week 6: Mother’s Verbal Nudges

  1. This data visualization made me smile. A lovely idea. And powerful reflections too, especially your comment drawing on Biesta about the ‘gift’ of teaching, and how tracking, surveillance and ‘nudging’ can be ‘annoying’. Sometimes, of course, it may be more than annoying, and maybe especially if it’s not noticed, as you’ve observed. I’m wondering how a teacher might react to a similar representation of their own instructions to students linked to students’ subsequent actions. Without context, as you say, such data might be almost meaningless, and yet teacher performance is so often related to student performance that these data could become the source of consequential judgment and appraisal. A lot of learning analytics vendors would claim the data can be used by teachers to ‘improve’, ‘enhance’ or even ‘optimize’ their teaching.

  2. Happy to hear you found my visualization interesting, Ben!
    Your questions helped me remember that teachers’ instructions/talking (TTT) are now easily monitored and measured through learning platforms. I can’t say that this indicator is absolutely useless. In the age of ‘learnification’ and within the communicative approach, students are expected to do most of the talking and the teachers to encourage and facilitate their attempts. Nevertheless, there are language instructors who speak too much in a lesson and never notice it. So these data can be meaningful and enable the teacher to enhance their practices, but still should be treated with a pinch of salt. Learners are different, lessons have various aims, teachers pursue their own teaching goals and use their methods. Hence, establishing teaching standards for all, something that learning platforms are trying to achieve, seems to be a mirage.

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