Andre Wojecki’s article: What’s identity got to do with it, anyway?

COURSE: WORK AND LEARNING

FORUM: Participation in education and work; identity and social exclusion.(BLOCK 2)

TOPICS:  ANDREW WOJECKI, wounding learning, relational trust

On Andrew Wojecki’s article: What’s identity got to do with it, anyway? (link to itslearning)

I found this article very interesting, mainly because it focuses on the human characteristics of learners. It gave me the opportunity to connect to my own needs as a learner, and – as a teacher – on the issue of “relational trust.”

It also provided a link to the previous course and my group’s report on the dimensions of global learning. In that report, we examined identity construction as one of the important dimensions in experiences of global learning.

To begin with, I would like to say that as much as I liked reading everyone’s final post for assignment 1, which gave me the opportunity to learn about other cultures’ approaches and relevant learning policies, I believe that – given the particular conditions under which such policies have been formulated – they would not be automatically transferable to other political, economic and learning settings, although they can provide powerful inspiration and more. I feel that by emphasizing the human aspect of the learning experience, the content of Wojecki’s article can more easily be understood and applied to a variety of contexts, including national, regional, vocational, workplace-related, and traditional-education related.

The article introduces the concept of WOUNDING LEARNING (169 – 170 -171):

“Individuals affected by wounding learning practices are learners who have experienced an “injury” through their participation in mainstream educational practices.” (p.171)

“These negative and emotive experiences therefore continue to shape how the individual knows what learning is, therefore framing how she or he engages with formal learning in the future.” (p.171)

Comment: The article presents this concept as one that is limited to mainstream educational practices, without mentioning so-called alternative-experiential learning experiences. I believe that the latter ones can be equally crippling and devastating, should they fail to establish a productive trust relationship between the learning context and each individual learner, as they involve issues of group dynamics that, when not properly managed, they can have serious consequences both at the psychological level and at the level of the learning outcomes.

One way such wounding learning experiences may be re-dressed is by establishing COLLABORATIVE LEARNING BASED ON TRUST = “RELATIONAL TRUST”

A collaborative learning environment helps to foster a sense of ‘relational trust’ (Bryk and Schneider, 2003) within the group of adult learners. (p. 176)

This can be achieved by engaging in active listening within the collective construction of work practices (communities of practice, according to Wenger)

That is possible by recognizing the importance of personal narratives in the identity-building process. This of course would require an intensive investment of energy and skills on the part of educators.

QUESTIONS: Wojecki seems to believe that previous negative experiences can taint a learner’s perceptions and view on learning. The educator should then investigate the learner’s narrative and work with the students to overcome their recalcitrance. To me, this sounds like a therapeutic analytical approach that may – in my opinion – go way beyond the role of a teacher. Of course, I understand the benefits of such approach.

Here are two questions:

1) How much can be expected from teachers – in any of the learning contexts we examined so far – with regard to individual learner’s difficulties? Wojecki says: “Through examining and reflecting on how our teaching and assessment practices cultivate, encourage, and promote opportunities for adult learners to reflect on how they see themselves in the world, spaces may be created where learners experiment in re-authoring their identities for learning. As adult educators, we occupy privileged spaces in which we interact within the stories that comprise learners’ lives. Attending to learners’ identities, and listening to the stories of learning they tell and re-tell may assist us as we shape our own identities and practices as adult educators.” (p. 180)

As much as I like this approach, I can see the difficulties in adopting it, given the already heavy workload placed on educators.

2) What if the learner’s difficulties are not derived from previous negative experience? What if the learner’s attitude toward learning is one that is per se “unproductive,” independently from previous experiences? Such approach reminds me of what Garrison called “naïve constructivism.” I argue that there may be a different kind of poor learner, different from the “wounded learner” presented in this paper.

I’d like to conclude this post on a positive note, citing Wojecki:

“Through committing with learners to creating new learning opportunities

and experiences that help to reshape or open up possibilities for one’s designated

identity, new futures may be imagined.” (p. 175)

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