Glaserfeld and Intercultural Communication

Glaserfeld and Intercultural Communication

In his article, von Glaserfeld explains that, according to Piaget’s Theory of Cognition, for learning to occur, it is necessary to go through assimilation and accommodation. Piaget’s Learning Theory also recognizes that “cognitive change and learning take place when a scheme, instead of producing the expected result, leads to perturbation, and perturbation in turn leads to accommodation that establishes a new equilibrium.” (p.6)

I believe that these stages of learning are also relevant to the experience of experiential learners in a cross-cultural setting, as they mirror similar stages of intercultural learning. I also believe in the possibility that a social constructivist approach may result in a kind of cultural transformation that may give birth to a new kind of social context that I refer to as third culture.

When we find ourselves outside our familial cultural environment a scheme approach as described in the article may lead to a kind of perturbation that is specific to intercultural settings. In fact, when dealing with other cultures, we may misinterpret symbols simply because we tend to perceive them through the lenses of our culture and filter them through our cultural schema. Such experiences may progress through learning stages such as perturbation and adaptation, resulting in new knowledge and possibly in opportunities for personal transformation.

Furthermore, in von Glaserfeld’s article, perturbations are presented as those fundamental events in the occurrence of learning. The social dimension of perturbations is also emphasized: ‘the most frequent source of perturbations for the developing subject is interaction with others.” (p.11) This reinforces my argument that cross-cultural situations, typically charged with human interaction, may lead to perturbation and subsequent adaptation.

At this point I would like to ask myself and the forum if constructivism could also include a dialectic transformation between (among) interacting learners, one that would establish a new shared compatible conceptual framework that could lay the foundation for a “third culture.” I define a third culture as one that would result from a Gestalt, wholistic vision, a culture that is not merely the sum of disconnected and independent cultural fragments.

This idea sprung into my mind from the readings on constructivism, and particularly from Constructivism and Online Education and its description of social constructivism. Specifically, two quotes prompt me to consider the possibility that constructivism may indeed serve as a platform for cultural transformation, in ways similar to those explored by David Bohm. He even went beyond the vision of truth as “socially constructed and agreed upon, resulting from ‘co-participation in cultural practices’ ” (Cobb &; Yackel, cited in Doolittle), and embraced the possibility that a new paradigm and relevant social context may emerge from the transformational power of dialogue and open communication.

For more on David Bohm, I suggest reading the book On Dialogue, partly available on-line.


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