[教育時評] 什麼是模糊性 (ambiguity),為什麼學生需要它?

朗文當代辭典將「ambiguity 」的概念定義為「不清楚、令人困惑或不確定的狀態或產生這種效果的事物」。我個人認為該定義有點 「ambiguous」,並更傾向牛津字典提出的更具字源性的 定義:接受多種詮釋的特性。
Ambiguity is defined by LDOCE as “the state of being unclear, confusing, or not certain, or things that produce this effect.” I personally find that definition a bit ambiguous and prefer the more etymological one given by Oxford: “The quality of being open to more than one interpretation."
 
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我們的教育體系極其缺乏教導學生如何應付模糊性 (ambiguous)*,即對多種解釋持開放態度的特性,或者說是駕馭不確定性 (uncertainty) 的能力。學生慣於是與否、對與錯的二分法 (dichotomy),這在他們的成長階段至關重要,並為所有學科,尤其是數學和科學學科,奠定了基礎。

Ambiguity, the quality of being open to more than one interpretation, or rather the ability to manage uncertainty, is sorely lacking in our education system. Students are accustomed to yes-no, right-wrong dichotomies, which are essential in their formative years and lay the foundations for all disciplines, especially those of mathematics and science.
 
*模糊性(ambiguity)、不確定性(uncertainty)、複雜性(complexity)和快變性(changeability)
 
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儘管如此,當學生面對含糊不清的問題而沒有具體答案時,常常會感到困惑;當他們遇到不一致的資訊時則會感到焦慮。然而,在數位時代,掌管這些模糊性所需的策略批判性思考和靈活性比以往任何時候都更為關鍵。

Nevertheless, students are often confused when presented with vague questions without concrete answers and distressed when they encounter inconsistent information. Yet, the strategic critical thinking and flexibility needed to manage these ambiguities are more crucial than ever in the digital era.
 
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例如,在個人自由和法治之間,在多數統治與少數人權利之間,甚至在政策與實際執行之間,皆存在著固有的理論張力。由於這些拉扯總是不斷發展和變化,因此沒有確切的答案。
There are, for example, inherent theoretical tensions between individual liberties and the rule of law, between the rule of the majority and minority rights, and even between policies and actual practice. There are no definite answers to these tensions as they are ever-evolving and changing directions.
 
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以解決模糊性與複雜問題為教學目標,可使學生在職場更為出色。這可以協助學生以創造性的方式參與,並具備解決抽象問題的能力。雇主也更喜歡與想法不同又能解決複雜問題的畢業生合作。

Teaching ambiguity may make students more competent in the workplace as it may help them engage and tackle abstract issues in creative ways. Employers also prefer graduates who can collaborate with people who are not like them to address complex problems.
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對解決模糊性的意願也有助於學生保持社會和政治參與。我們的社會如今是文化與族群多元化的 ,但在政治上卻更加分裂。在民主國家中,觀點間常會發生衝突和爭執,民主合作需要以不同觀點來了解多元化的問題。雖然我們不需要接受所有出現的想法,但我們必須準備好面對具有挑戰性的討論,並願意在某些情況下重新協商我們的自我認同 。

The willingness to tackle ambiguity also helps students stay socially and politically engaged. Our society today is culturally and ethnically diverse, but even more politically divided. Understanding multifaceted issues with different viewpoints is needed for collaboration in a democracy, where views often conflict and disputes arise. While we do not need to embrace every idea that comes our way, we must be ready to face challenging discussions and be willing to renegotiate our self-identities in some instances.
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幫助學生理解模糊性並不意味著教育工作者應該指導一個缺乏事實的課堂或讓學生成為懷疑所有存在的憤世嫉俗之人。

事實很重要,我們也應當在總體上對事情保持疑問。然而,也必須取得平衡。僅教授事實而未提及未知的複雜情境,可能會使我們的學生與世隔絕,並對世事漠不關心。我們可以選擇在課堂上避免爭議性議題,但這便犧牲了學習的機會。避免問題也不會使之消失,而會使問題加劇,因而使學生缺乏能力去面對這些問題。

Helping students understand ambiguity does not mean educators should instruct a class devoid of facts or have students develop into cynics who doubt the very fabric of their existence. Facts are important, and we should question things in general. However, a balance must be struck. Teaching only facts without the complex contexts of the unknown, may leave our students more disengaged and apathetic in the world. We could simply choose to avoid controversial issues in the classroom, but this sacrifices opportunities to learn. Avoidance of issues also do not make them disappear, but rather exacerbate them as it leaves students ill-equipped to face them.
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問題在於我們如何在高等教育中教授下一代歧義性。以下是一些需要考慮的準則:
The question is how we can teach the next generation ambiguity in higher education. Here are some guidelines to consider.
 
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1. 大學需要建立一個多元化的學習者社區。各行各業的人們反映了我們的工作場域和全球化的社會。
Universities need to assemble a diverse community of learners. People from all walks of life reflect our workplace and our globalized society.
 
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2. 進行公開的,有時可以是艱難的對話。學生需要被訓練使其能夠容忍差異和模糊性,與之共存。他們知道自己可以處理和管理資訊,這讓他們更願意立即處理難題。
Have open and sometimes difficult conversations. Students need to be trained to live with a tolerance for differences and ambiguity. It allows them to immediately approach difficult issues with more wiliness, knowing that they can process and manage the information.
 
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3. 教育者不該是獨裁的領導者,而應是學生可以學習的學術和道德的榜樣。而這是一個,透明且雙向的過程,教育者因材施教,並參考學生的回饋調整自身的行為和策略。簡而言之,教育者必須是學生可以討論問題和採取適當反應的對象。
Educators should not be authoritarian figures but intellectual and ethical role models who students can approach. We must make student concerns transparent and alter behavior and policies when given input. In short, we must be figures they can speak to about their problems.
 
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4. 我們必須創建一個安全和支持的校園環境。教育工作者應提供一種讓學生可以分享想法、回應、恐懼、焦慮和痛苦的氛圍。他們可以從這個安全地帶大膽地進入陌生而不舒適的領域,但總會回到這裡尋求支持、回饋和指導。
We must create a campus environment that is safe and supportive. Educators ought to provide an atmosphere where students can share ideas, responses, fears, anxieties, and pains. From this safe zone, they can venture out into unfamiliar and uncomfortable territories but always return here to find support, feedback, and guidance.
 
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由於缺乏對模糊性的接觸和如何處理歧義性的指導,一旦學生遇到挑戰性的想法就會退縮。我們必須教導學生如何處理這些問題,透過指導他們進行批判性思考,反思甚至採取行動,同時提供一個安全和支持的學習框架,讓他們可以放膽去處理複雜的議題。
 
什麼是批判性思考?
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Without exposure to ambiguity, and guidance on how to manage it, students retreat as soon as they encounter challenging ideas. We must teach students to deal with these problems by guiding them to critical thinking, reflection, and even action, all at the same time providing a safe and supportive home base in which they can venture out to deal with complex issues.
 
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References
 
Bowen, J. A. (2016). Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved April 29, 2020, from https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2016/12/07/educating-students-ambiguity-and-discomfort-essay
 
Chung, H. M. (2016). 當批判式教學碰上新世代青年:文化研究、社會運動與大學教育研討會.
 
Eisinger, R. M. (2011). Teaching Ambiguity. Retrieved April 29, 2020, from https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2011/02/21/teaching-ambiguity
 
Frenette, A. (2013). Making the intern economy: Role and career challenges of the music industry intern. Work and Occupations, 40(4), 364-397.
 
Tallent, R. J. (2016). Being ambiguous: problem solving through teaching ambiguity in IMC classrooms. Review of Journalism and Mass Communication, 4 (1), 1-18
 
 
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