What part(s) do I play in learning?

Ramona is as confused as I am

I can’t fathom learning being static. Learning can not be acquired and then finished, it is a process, a way of being, not something that can end. From a phenomenological perspective I’ve always (well as far as I can remember, or as I’ve always thought that I) corrected my thinking and changed what I believed to be true. For instance, when confronted with a new idea that fills me with tension, or that I want to explore, others have told me I can be argumentative. This is not my desire, but I want to deconstruct that idea, and sometimes I ask questions a little passionately, in order to make sure I fully understand their ideas. During my Master’s courses one of my fellow learners suggest I paid more attention to my “dark side”. She argued that by understanding the ideas I didn’t want to explore I would be able to more effectively argue what I believed. We had a passionate conversation where I tried to deconstruct her thought process in order to understand the benefits. After hearing her arguments, I decided that her way of thinking could be very beneficial to my work. When we talked about it afterwards she thought I was being far too aggressive in my arguments, so after that day I tried to change both my thinking and my practice. Just because I have a way of being now, my ontology is one that can change (and should change) in order for me to continue learning and growing. As this example illustrates, I believe I may be a constructivist with my thinking. When working with others, or on my own I reflect on my beliefs and why I believe something. After thought and conversations I am able to rebuild or remodel my thinking in order to become a (hopefully) more effective learner and person.

Going through this course has been an eye-opener for a number of reasons. While I’ve always considered myself more of a dynamic learner and a teacher, it was interesting for me to see what aspects of behaviourism, situated cognition and expert knowledge resonated with me. Certain aspects of constructivism have also irked me in some way, and as a result, I’ve been feeling this tension to be better able to describe my own epistemology and ontology as well as inquire into how this relates to my dissertation. 

As mentioned, Vygotsky’s ideas surrounding socio-constructivism have always resonated with me. I don’t believe (and I find it hard to understand that others believe) things are isolated.  As an environmental educator, I believe things are connected. I look for systems and wonder how they work. My undergraduate degree was in anthropology and history and from his perspective it is hard for me to understand how things can be constructed in a silo. 

In particular the “outside – in” (Lourenço 2012, p. 287) model is one I can relate to. As both an environmental educator, and someone who believes in God I see most knowledge being situated outside of myself. I try to pay close attention to the things going around me and work with others to create an understanding of what may be happening and what truths can be understood through our observations. Since the knowledge was and is never really mine, I don’t believe I can transmit it to someone else. I believe I can share my thinking and that may resonate with other people, or perhaps their thinking can influence or change mine. When I think of where most things are (physical, knowledge-based or meta-physical) I can’t see them as residing in me, or being at home in me. If this is true then, most knowledge must come from the outside and (briefly?) rest with me as I continue to wonder and wander.

Like both Piaget and Vygotsky I believe knowing is a way of organising your thinking and understanding the world around you. I do not believe that we can reduce knowledge to simple facts, or break learning down into specific chunks that we can transfer to others. We make sense of the world by understanding how things are working in a moment, we react differently to a variety of teaching styles, content and people. If learning were just items of knowledge to be delivered and we could find an optimal delivery method, then it would make sense if we were all able to learn most things. However our understandings of the world change how we approach the world. This means although we are all capable of learning, we don’t all learn the same way, or express our knowledge in the same fashion.  As teachers we need to make sure we are understanding what the students are expressing and providing opportunities to change how the classroom is working in order to meet the needs of all learners.

One of the tensions that I am exploring in this course is I can believe that knowledge comes from outside in, but real construction comes from the meaning making I do internally. If I really believed in social constructivism, I wonder if I would never have left Canada. What gave me the ability to walk away from my society and culture if I really am a product of the things around me? What developed my questioning ability if the people I grew up with seemed satisfied in my hometown? Exploring this difference in social construction is one aspect I need to explore. More than this I wonder what else is involved in social constructivism. I mean, where does motivation play a part, what about the content, how are more than humans involved? While I thought I believed fully in constructivism, I can’t figure out where these things play a part. 

I need to focus a little more on these tensions, the more I understand about my ontological view regarding these aspects, the more I am able to grow as a learner (and hopefully teacher and researcher).

6 Replies to “What part(s) do I play in learning?”

  1. You have excellent comments. As I get older, I tend to move from the thinking aspect, though I know I’m thinking. What I mean is we’ve been so focused on learning that many have forgotten, or never knew, what life is all about. The times I learned a lot, I wasn’t thinking I was learning. I was just living, doing this and that, working. It wasn’t until later, upon reflection, that I realized I had learned something important, often when the information was needed. When I watch kids and teens learning, often I see one who doesn’t seem to be “thinking”, but is figuring things out, in a natural way, if that makes any sense. **In my youth, America was #1 in the world, and we did pretty good. But when I was involved in hobbies, not thinking I was doing a hobby, or learning something, not thinking I was learning, later I realized how much I had gained. At times, I approached things in this way. Like teaching someone horseback riding. An instinct told me it would happen, and wallah, they learned quickly. Same as when a friend and I trained a horse, having never trained one ever, and without ever being taught ourselves. We just knew. **I think what has happened in America is due to all the changes, the increases in technology, and the problems children are having with learning, we’ve focused so much on “learning” rather than just doing. Play. Build a dog house. Start a small business in the garage (kid style). Go to museums and zoos. Whatever. The interest leads. And learning happens.

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  2. Thanks, doing is a big part of learning. My new job is taking people out of their school, taking them outside, and (hopefully) learning like you suggest learning should be. At our school we try to make sure we take action based on our learning, we need to do something, but we need to figure out what. Sometimes when we do things, we slowly figure it out. By participating in a peripheral way, we can learn. Thanks for these thoughts!

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      1. It’s very important for families: parents have dialogues with their kids, let them listen to the adults talk, and for families to do things together. Close, responsible families are the key for children to have an identity in the family, but also develop their own identities in what they understand. Whether at home, in private, charter, or public, or anything else, know your children and be close: have talks so they can share and feel safe in family, growing up able to share what they learn. Then you’ll know.

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