Thursday, 2 August 2007

Experience and goal – irreconcilably different?

I have reflected elsewhere on this blog that my experience of writing in formal education has been something of a curate’s egg. When I really get stuck into a topic and am motivated to a lot of research, I often find that the finished assignment doesn’t receive as high a grade as one where my interest hasn’t been as acutely piqued. Now I’m getting a bit of insight into the reasons for this. I feel it’s all about muddying the waters with too much breadth. For me, goal and process are a bit of a trade-off.

In the case of this essay, the assessor’s final comment that the assignment,“…could be improved by having a clearer focus and a stronger take-home message, which could perhaps be achieved by interpreting the title in a narrower way…”, lends weight to this. I feel that in this case (and in some others!) I slipped away from my main task which is usually identified by a thorough question analysis. Looking back, instead of presenting the strengths and weaknesses of Freud’s theory of personality as measured against the yardstick of evidential science I decided at too early a point to become an advocate for it. I tried also to question the appropriateness of the paradigm often used to assess Freud when it might have profited me (in terms of more marks) to stick with it. It may have helped me achieve the stronger take-home message counselled by the assessor. And interestingly, in this case I carried out my question analysis belatedly.

The vexing thing is that for me, writing from a very objective position, one which seems to bag me better marks, isn’t half as intense or rewarding. So I’m in search of a way to keep that close connection with my material whilst keeping my eyes fixed on my goal. I wonder if full expression and excellent marks can coexist in the same piece of writing? If my opinion muddies the waters and possibly takes me away from the zeitgeist of my discipline should I refrain from expressing it? Or maybe it's just about expressing it better.

As ever, your opinions and suggestions will be gratefully received.