I am inspired to expand further on a question I have posed in a previous post. I asked the question:
Based on the assumption that I am not too much different to the average joe-academic, am I not alone in this perpetual state of confusion and bewilderment around eduspeak? How exposed are academics to this language by curriculum designers (now known as edunerds – pronounced ed-u-nerds)? Do they soften the language as many (but not all) technonerds do? Do they soften it better than technonerds? Fellow Curriculum Designers, please share your experiences.
The inspiration comes from my colleague Nona and her blog post titled “Education buzzwords or legitimate language of discipline?” I appreciate you taking the time to reflect on my comments Nona. 🙂
Nona makes many interesting points on which I have reflected and make the following observations from my perspective. In Nona’s post, she says:
Upon reading Damien’s blog, I too couldn’t help but reflect on the difficulties I faced almost daily with the language of other disciplines, more recently the technical language in auditing, accounting, economics and finance as I engage in curriculum design work in business education. But the fact remains that I am very comfortable with the language of my discipline, as the academics I have been working with are comfortable with their respective discipline language.
I agree wholeheartedly that there is great comfort in using your “first language” versus a “second language” in the literal sense of general communication and of a disciplinary context. This would explain my initial disassociation with Jocene’s comments about “nerd speak”. That would be my first disciplinary language.
A curriculum designer discussing curriculum with an academic can be a threatening situation. The academic naturally will retreat to their comfort blanket through their disciplinary language as part of the conversation. I can see this from both sides. Stepping back into the past in my days as an academic, I would too – especially if the discussion was not invited. They (academic) too could simply be inept at breaking this language down for a layperson. More on this later.
In my initial post, I made reference to another colleagues frustration with discipline specific dialogue from the IT field. I am reminded of a comment by VR Bones in relation to this post by my colleague where he states:
Concerning acronyms, I think it’s just language specialization. I’m positive if I walk into a mechanic shop or a top chef kitchen or a banking back room I would have a hard time listening in on the conversation because the terminologies are so specialized. The terminologies are specialized because it’s more efficient communication; you know the other person will know what you mean when you say “LME”.
This I totally agree with and it makes sense. It doesn’t just apply to professional communication. It is also why Australians for example have such a rich vernacular around shortening of words such as telly for television or brekky for breakfast, or if your daughter is named Elizabeth, why her friends call her Liz. Education draws greatly from theories around cognition (oh yes my favourite word at the moment) for obvious reasons. If you look at the field of psychology and sociology for example, there too is a sea of freaky terms and acronyms that describe sometimes complex ideas. “The child with ADD” is easier to say than “the child with the behavioural problems associated with a deficit in attention”. So I can see there are many many reasons why these languages form. This is why I made the point: “In any case, if I am going to be able to walk the walk, I need to be able to talk the talk.” To be effective and efficient in my field, I need the eduspeak. But I also believe I need more than that.
VR Bones goes on to say:
I don’t see tech speak as intentionally elitist, but ignorance of someone else’s ability to be a part of the conversation is.
This last passage is more specifically what I was referring to in my post when I said:
How exposed are academics to this language by curriculum designers (now known as edunerds – pronounced ed-u-nerds)? Do they soften the language as many (but not all) technonerds do? Do they soften it better than technonerds? Fellow Curriculum Designers, please share your experiences.
Softening the language such that the layperson can be part of the conversation. Especially when the layperson’s learning design is the conversation. Not just verbal, but written communication too. Don’t get me wrong; this is not an accusation against curriculum designers, but a question. How well do curriculum designers do this? What strategies do they employ to allow academics to see the picture without feeling intimidated? Bare in mind that academics understanding of eduspeak would also vary depending on their experience and engagement in formal learning design. While it is probably okay to allow academics to indulge somewhat in their security blanket of their discipline language, for curriculum designers, perhaps not so. I see it that we are a service provider to academics and indirectly to the students. It’s all about getting the job done, and so if the language we use with academics is inappropriate, then we are not being effective communicators – a recipe for disaster in any circumstances. So for me, it’s not just about learning eduspeak, but also being able to translate it into a comprehensible form for digestion by academics for instance. Curriculum design does not occur in a vacuum.
My tongue in cheek vent around my frustrations with eduspeak was not to say that it is illegitimate. Only that it is indeed very frustrating to grapple with and to convey relief that thankfully it is not just me who feels this way. I guess the issue of legitimacy is only questionable when it’s used inappropriately such as when the intended audience is not part of the discipline as described by illinoisloop.org. This applies to all disciplinary languages.
I am inspired by Nona’s following comments:
On that note, I would like to share an interesting observation about the transformation of an academic who was totally “non-edunerd” when our curriculum renewal project began a year or so ago. She now finds herself proposing a PhD research on education-related topic. The language spoken in her PhD proposal was not one coming from a Finance expert but one who has developed an interest in educational practice. Sure, it is her second language, and she is finding it a challenge, but her decision to acculturate no doubt will alleviate many of her initial difficulties.
I believe congratulations are in order for the transformative academic. It is inspiring to see that eduspeak is by no means unconquerable. They have obviously caught the fever that draws us into the big questions about learning and teaching, and was motivated by this. No doubt, they have benefited from Nona’s expertise and mentorship throughout the curriculum renewal project and ensuing research. I only hope that they remain mindful of their intended audience for their PhD. Are their examiners finance people or education people? This should inform what language is appropriate for the thesis. Perhaps I am reading this wrong and their proposal is not related to finance but only to education?
I am coming to realise that many of these buzzwords that I am encountering sound scary and complicated, but in reality aren’t that way at all. In fact many I had adopted previously in my own teaching practices without actually knowing it had a label. Things that seem to make sense from a pragmatic perspective, and at the time it was good enough for me. Sometimes its actually fun now to make these connections. “So that’s what I was doing!”
I provided an initial list of eduspeak buzzwords in my post, to which Nona had the following comment:
Damien then provides “an initial list of eduspeak buzzwords”, some of which are technical language within the education domain, others are newly coined educational terms arising from the trends of information age and influences of new technology.
I think Nona makes a good point here in that some of the initial buzzwords I have highlighted are derived and motivated by technology trends in the education landscape. Or perhaps educational trends in the technology landscape depending on your perspective. 🙂 This is a result of the recent buzzword activity going on around me at the time I was crafting this list – perhaps not a true representation of the hardcore eduspeak linguist. Have to ease into these things. 🙂 The list is a start for me and I’ll be adding to it as I am baffled and bemused with further pearlers of this language. Perhaps as a craftsman of eduspeak, you might like to contribute to my list Nona? 🙂
What an interesting post. I think we communicate in different ways for different reasons. Much of the time, we hope to be understood and inclusive of others. My earlier comments about the alienating acronyms of technicians may say more about me than it does them – UNLESS they avoid plain English in an effort to be deliberately exclusive. But who would do that?