• Maheen Awan

Life As I Know It

The first brief of my Research & Communication module, and my Master’s degree. I must say it seemed a bit daunting because of the title – International Pedagogy. First, let’s dive into what the tutor has asked us to do:


Requirements of the brief:

  • You are required to present members of your new cohort with succinct information to teach them what ‘you’ think they need to know about where you are from. It should be seen from a personal perspective, NOT a tourist’s perspective.

  • Your outcome could include for example; key words and phrases, cultural considerations, etiquette and how to be streetwise. Think of the ‘place’ you come from and not necessarily the country.


How do I sum up everything about my country and myself in a small 10-minute presentation? Is it even fair to do so? A country just 73 years old, but whose rich culture, heritage and history dates back centuries pre-partition. Its complex people, traditions, beliefs and customs. If I think hard about it, even I don’t know all aspects of it. Pakistan being a former colony of the British Empire, there is a certain amount of being “whitewashed”, as we have a pretty heavy western influence in our day to day lives, or as my friend likes to call it “Post-Colonial Hangover”. This just further complicates our actual culture and my take on our culture. Just like anything and everything else, it has the good and the bad, but should I really highlight the bad? Don’t I want everyone to think how “perfect” my country and its people are? How perfect I am? Sure, I do. We all do, but touching upon the bad is necessary in order to paint a true picture of what it’s really like.

Okay now that I have decided that I’m going all in with an honest view of myself, my country and its intricacies, how do I go about starting it? Maybe I should start by dissecting the topic first. What does “Pedagogy” refer to? Google says it’s the method and practice of teaching. Seems very straightforward. A further dive into the fundamentals to explore what effective pedagogies include had me come across a study by the National College for School Leadership. It covered nine claims regarding what makes great pedagogy. The ones most relevant to my work are as follows:

  1. Effective pedagogies give serious consideration to pupil voice.

  2. Effective pedagogies depend on behaviour, knowledge and understanding, and beliefs.

  3. Effective pedagogies involve clear thinking about longer term learning outcomes as well as short-term goals.

  4. Effective pedagogies build on pupils’ prior learning and experience.

  5. Effective pedagogies involve a range of techniques, including whole-class and structured group work, guided learning and individual activity.

  6. Effective pedagogies focus on developing higher order thinking and metacognition, and make good use of dialogue and questioning in order to do so.

This offered me valuable insight regarding how to streamline my research process, so that I can better deliver what’s relevant and what’s not. Hoping it’ll keep me sane and not overwhelm me throughout the process. Pipe dream, I guess.


Another thing that I had to keep in mind were some key points in the brief that helped structure and shape my research as well. These included:

  • Personal Perspective: What I think? Why I think? How I think? My experiences as an individual?

  • Cultural Considerations: What pushes our limits? Are the stereotypes true? How our individual personalities shine in a collectivistic society? How prominent the log kya kahain gai (what will people say) mindset is which stops our generation from pursuing our dreams?

  • Streetwise: Our lingo? Our need to be resilient indoors and outdoors? How to navigate in a male-dominated society?


As I said, the good and the bad.


I decided to start by asking my friends and family how they portrayed us. That proved to be a decent starting point as an effective pedagogy does make use of dialogue and questioning. This task concluded that even though everyone has the same outlook about the place we live in, everyone has a different perception about how it has affected their personality and grooming. I mean it definitely varied between genders and social classes. Then I decided to reflect internally. After all the brief does ask for a personal perspective. How has my culture shaped me? Are there any external influences that have shaped my personality and how I perceive life? How does it compare to my friend’s and family’s experiences? These ended up being very heavy questions for me, for someone who has never really been impressed by her own country and credits her grooming to the exposure she has received during her travels. Took a while to get out of that mindset and realize that it has only added to my identity as an individual, and, in fact, I owe whatever I am today to my country. Why is this getting so emotional? Is this also what this brief was supposed to bring out?


Anyway, moving on. Now that I have developed a persona, I should start painting a picture of where I hail from. Now, how to condense centuries worth of history and culture in a few slides? Should I focus on quality or quantity? A better solution that’s always a sure shot answer for all scenarios: strike a balance between the two. So, what’s worth telling my peers? I believe anything that they can just google is off the table. They don’t want to know about our national dish being Biryani. Though what’s interesting and worth being a part of my presentation is that there are so many types of Biryanis special to each region that we, Pakistanis, have literal fights over which city’s Biryani is the best. It’s like each type has its own cult. In the end, the answer always remains the same though: Ammi kai hath ki (The one my mom makes). Should I tell them that Pakistanis are so passionate about cricket that it’s borderline aggressive? Yeah, that’s a must tell.


Okay, I’ve decided on all the elements that should be a part of the response to the brief.


My Persona + My People + My Pakistan = My Pride


I shall call these the 4 P’s of My National Identity.


Now that I’ve finalized the what and who of the brief, let’s move onto to how I will present the brief. Let’s examine what my tutor has said relating to this:


Presentation:

  • You will present this project on 30 November in the form of a succinct 10-minute presentation supported by your Learning Journal/Blog. The work could be in the form of an oral presentation, printed leaflet, PowerPoint, blog, app, website, polemic, spreadsheet etc. Whatever is the best mode to relay the information.


A slide deck seems like the un-innovative answer, but what if I pair it up with handwritten cards with everyone’s name on it in my native language – Urdu, along with a traditional Pakistani snack – Pakoray.*


Captivating an audience, some of which is online, can prove a bit troublesome; considering we’ve all got the attention span of a 3 year-old. The tried and tested method is that of story-telling – an unmatched tool for persuasion. Sprinkle a few anecdotes here and there to grab attention when the audience’s mind drifts off. According to a blog by Rob Biesenbach, named 6 keys to Delivering a Knockout Presentation, I, as a speaker, have a responsibility towards my audience to not waste their time and keep them entertained. The presentation I prepare needs to be focused, compelling and visual. If I’m passionate and excited about what I’m presenting, then it should definitely show via my emotions and energy. Ultimately, it should be an interactive experience to ensure my peers are constantly engaged in the personal journey that I am going to share with them, or, at least, that’s what I believe.


Alas, all done and dusted now. As I’ve come to the end of this, a last leaving thought - The academic purpose of this brief aside, being away from my home country – in a foreign land, really makes me appreciate the little things that were just so easy and accessible back home; but, at the same time, makes me wonder about the things that weren’t attainable because of which I decided to leave my country to pursue my higher education and possibly a future career in the UK.


*Unable to do so due to classes shifting online.


Bibliography:

Biesenbach, R. (2015) 6 Keys to Delivering a Knockout Presentation. [online] www.linkedIn.com. At: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/6-keys-delivering-knockout-presentation-pt-3-rob-biesenbach/ (Accessed 15 November 2020).


Husbands, C. and Pearce, J. (2012) What makes great pedagogy? Nine claims from research. [online] assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/. At: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/ (Accessed 16 November 2020).

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