In a collaborative learning environment, the roles of "student" and "teacher" are blurry. At various times, and often simultaneously, teachers are students and students are teachers. If such roles are artificially separated, problems can ensue, not the least of which is the insidious seduction of power and control by "teachers" over "students".
For active, experiential learning to occur, emerging scholars should be permitted and encouraged to engage in constructive nonconformism; in so doing, they are likely to transcend the constrained, "industrial" passive student role.
This pages explores these concepts by suggesting more emancipatory nomenclature for roles played by those participating in collaboratively organised learning environments.
Alternative terms for student
This page has arisen out of dissatisfaction with common use of the term "student" in institutionalised teaching and learning, and a search for more empowering language. Some alternative terms that have been suggested are "emerging scholar", "learner", "participant", and "future leader".
What other terms can you suggest? When you are a learner, how would like to be described and thought of by others?
"Emerging scholar" (or "emerging academic") offers an alternative the student-teacher dichotomy. Emerging scholar is an emancipatory term which emphasises scholarly study as an ongoing act of collaboration and collegiality. An emerging scholar engages in scholarship through knowledge-sharing communities such as learning institutions to help learn about and pursue the tasks of academia.
The notion of an emerging scholar offers a more empowering, equitable, and developmental conception of a learner's role and potential.
The "emerging scholar" term was used in this tweet by Kelly Matthews, University of Queensland (https://twitter.com/UQkelly/status/786725549553045504).
"Learner" is an active term, emphasising the act and process of developing skills and knowledge. A student can sit through school and "learn nothing" - but can a learner? Conceptualising a person's role as learner suggest belief in the person's capacity for development.
Another useful, non-provocative, term is "participants". Everyone who participates in a learning activity can play different roles at different times in terms of leading, guiding, responding etcetera.
Often developing sufficient knowledge and skills to then be able to lead others is an educational goal. In such contexts, "future leaders" can be used to "forward-think" the role and purpose of the educational program. For example, UniJobs' University of Canberra Lecturer of the Year (2011-2012), Michael DePercy explains that:
|“||“The attitude you have towards your students is important, I don’t refer to them as kids, I refer to them as future leaders, because that’s what they can be. I try to build them up to be future leaders of their community.”||”|
Alternative terms for teacher
The notion of a "student" also implies that there is a "teacher". Used in institutionalised education, these terms tend to be used to set and reinforce distinct hierarchical roles. But in collaborative learning and discovery, the teacher role can usually be better described using alternative terms such as "facilitator". "instructor", "leader", or "academic".
What other terms can you suggest?
- Cook-Sather, A. (2016). Creating brave spaces within and through student-faculty pedagogical partnerships, 18.
- Waller, R. (2006). “I don’t feel like ‘a student’, I feel like ‘me!’: The oversimplification of mature learners’ experience(s). Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 11, 115- 130.