Black Mountain College

Black Mountain College compelled me to continue my education. It’s pedagogy and process is what drives my research today. How to not acculturate oneself to the contours of the academy today*, when alternative learning spaces (vastly different than white washed rooms with desks neatly aligned) were (and are) the venues where I began to learn the art of inquiry and research is a problem I struggle with during each class period. As a learner outside of the traditional classroom (form, setting, construct) I became what Paulo Freire calls the subject. What does this look like within a traditional institute today?

Music - Lee Hall - BMC  


*As students ask me what will be on the exam, I feel their pressure. I immediately consider the losses if they do not feel satisfied with the assessment of their knowledge– if something beyond true/false and multiple choice answers is sought– will students feel practicing critical thinking and creation of knowledge over memorization is not adequate? I push these thoughts aside. The questions are why we are here– where is Appalachia, who is Appalachian, what is extraction, how to we imagine alternatives, rewrite history, deconstruct stereotypes, and create new knowledge–we are here, together to seek and in doing so we will grow.





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2 Responses to Black Mountain College

  1. Miko says:

    Hello Jordan,

    I agree with you. Sometimes students simply focus on the assessments or the grades. As a teacher, it is important to make remarks about the importance of the whole learning process and not necessarily just focusing on the grade.

    In order to achieve this, learning objectives need also to change. Teachers interested in breaking patterns and paradigms should start by stating learning objectives that are more aligned to innovative assessments. In that way, students will be more aware of acquiring other skills instead of simple memorization.


  2. filot says:

    I hear you, and understand your anxieties about how to shift students’ thinking away from obsessing over grading and towards more critical inquiry. I hope that, through trial and error, you find ways of introducing the changes you wish to see. Try not to let yourself waiver from your pedagogical commitments; one way of staying the path might be to simply begin more conversations with other teachers. Ask them what they’ve tried, in what settings, to what success, and so on.

    One issue, though, is the difference between teaching as a TA that has responsibilities for a subset of the material and/or class, on the one hand, and teaching as the lecturer leading the class, on the other. In the former situation, you’re stuck having to negotiate between enacting the kind of learning environment you aspire to and enacting the rules or guidelines of the instructor you’re assigned to work with–however rigid, inflexible, outdated, traditional they may be. In that case, I can only suggest that you do what you can to keep the boss relatively happy (usually this means doing whatever you can get away with that does not create more work for the prof down the line), and not lose hope that once you are given a course of your own to lead, that you must still perform those same old, mind-numbing practices. So don’t lose hope about the pedagogical possibilities in your future! And, of course, good luck in the meantime.

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