Learning to change
Learning to change

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Learning to change

3.3.2 What problems might you have with this?

One way to think about the problems you might have with using academic theory on Learning to change is to think about the difference between getting personal feedback and using academic ideas. Academic theory about learning is unlikely to have considered your particular experiences or the story of your life. This may mean that some parts of theory may not seem to apply to you. Often theory is found written down in books or journal articles which are read by other academics; they are written in an academic style which has particular ‘rules’. Some of these rules can be seen if you read an article in an academic journal. They include using referencing to say where the information in the article comes from. Other rules can be less obvious, but they often include the need to avoid personal comments. For example, it would be seen as strange if an academic author were to say (in the middle of an article): ‘I don’t think I have explained that very well. It was because I was worried about my pet hamster.’ Why would this be seen as being outside the usual style of academic writing? There are two reasons:

  1. Personal issues and concerns are supposed to be separate from academic thinking, which is supposed to represent a sifting and filtering of the relevant information in a balanced and unbiased way.
  2. It would be unusual to own up to personal issues and then blame these for some problem with the writing.

An important aspect of this course is that it invites you to think about how you can bring together academic theory and personal experience. This is very apparent in writing assignments. They may have one part which asks you to use an academic approach to answer a set question. However, they may also ask you to reflect on your study. This means that you have to adopt a more personal style. The difference can be summed up by thinking about ‘I’. When you are asked to use an academic approach, it is likely that using ‘I’ will be less appropriate. However, it is acceptable to use ‘I’ when you engage in personal reflection. Indeed, it is almost impossible to reflect without using ‘I’. You may think that whether or not you use ‘I’ is only a small point. By itself, that would be true, but there are some wider effects. Using ‘I’ gives your writing a very personal ‘voice’. It also is likely to suggest that you are focusing on your own thoughts, feelings or actions. For example, you might write: ‘I felt confident about asking Joanna for feedback.’ In contrast, academic writing aims to develop a more detached view of what is being discussed. So you might write: ‘This assignment considers different ideas about learning.’ To put it simply, if you use ‘I’ in this context, it can make it harder to sound ‘academic’.

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