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).

Asking questions


This is how I felt today

First day back after two weeks of holidays, most of it went pretty well. The work with the kids was pretty amazing. We talked about the power of stories and metaphor. We did some math games and learned how to connect our order of operations into something meaningful (I hope).

Everyday I’m reading, mostly about doctorate stuff but I go back to Give and Take by Adam Grant as much as possible (sadly not that often). The part I read today was discussing this idea that being powerless can be a powerful negotiating tool.  When we go in asking questions like, “How would you do this?” or “What would you do in this situation?” it can put us in a powerless position. But most of the time, especially if we are a giver and well respected in our work community, it can reap large rewards.

Most of the time we try to pretend like we know something or have some sort of power. When interacting with others we try to show how we deserve something or argue about our importance to our institution, but if we really just ask and try to learn I think we can maybe go further with both our relationships and our actual understanding of how to do our job better.

How do we position ourselves to be better at asking for help? When and how could this backfire? What do we need to be actual givers? I had a lot of questions today.


Trying to write

 Some rights reserved by M Prince Photography

So far my research has been going alright, I’ve thought of some interesting thoughts related to what I’m reading, and I think (for now anyway), that I’m on the “right” path.

So, that means I have to write, and this part is always a struggle. One of the main reasons I wanted to blog early on is to get in the habit of writing. When you get into the habit of something it becomes easier, it makes more sense, and things flow a little better when they have to. So, now I’m wondering if I have to try to up the output of this blog.  Not really for something worth writing, more for just the process. I’m not sure if this is a good idea, or a bad idea, or just an indifferent idea, but it’s something that often comes up in my thoughts.

One of the interesting ideas that hit me this week was, we are actually nothing without place, as in we would not exist.  I guess to be more technical, we are nothing without a space, which we develop into a place. But we need a place to survive, and that place, very likely does shape us (more than just socially, and we do more than just shape it) we are dependant on that place. I know that some of the literature goes into this at different points. But it never actually hit me before that we need place. Places (from the research I’ve done so far, and I’m not sure how we could get it from a human point of view) don’t need us. We might help shape our perception of that place, but I’m sure that a space will exist without humans (and if it doesn’t I guess I’ll never know).

Anyway, trying to write, trying to think, trying to sort out the thought process.