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Emotions, past experiences, strategic interests, fears or hopes can drive our priorities. To achieve the goal, some go to the extent of cheating, amphetamines or bribes. When it comes down to it, an examination of priorities is required.

A thesis advisor may be interested in the success of his or her student but also in his or her own interests. A student may well be passionate about one subject, but choose another by simple calculation for his or her future employment.  When we look at some thesis subjects, we wonder whose priorities were at play: those of taking a "safe" subject, which will be well received, or those of advancing knowledge?

On a more personal scale, one can study to learn or to get good grades. When the subject is imposed, it is almost always the second option that defines the priority. "Will it be on the exam?" is the most common question heard from teachers. Grades then become more important than the subject. But what is the system that comes to cause this kind of behavior? The one that does not involve the student in either choice or regulation.

To really learn something, no arbitrariness enters the equation: knowledge works and one should be able to apply it.  It is a matter of transforming the obligation to learn into personal interest, which not everyone develops to the same intensity. Consequently, we do not have to expect the same level of involvement from everyone, nor do we have to blindly sanction it; we have the right to choose our priorities and it is healthy to be able to do so.

In research, in learning, in teaching, the priorities are similar: to find a solution, to validate a hypothesis, to go around a subject, to acquire a broad or detailed point of view; external considerations to the subject will be before or after, but not during. Priorities have been defined. One learns to overcome periods of discouragement and overwhelm, one will get there, with or without help, but one will get there.  Priorities are clear, they direct efforts.

The order of priorities matters. In research the results differ depending on the priorities set. In education, if the student's interest and required abilities are there, other priorities may follow. The institution, the teacher and the student may have different priorities, each at their own level, but compatible. To achieve this, involving everyone in the decisions is part...of the priorities.

Denys Lamontagne - [email protected]

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