FLIP: my role as an adult educator

COURSE: Fostering Learning in Practice

FORUM: Koala

TOPICS: Fenwick, reflections, adult learning, experiential learning, constructivism,

WEEK 10 – Task 1: my role as an adult educator

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Task 1

1) Select a quote from this reading that is your favourite or that you find significant for whatever reason

The co-emergence of an entwined understanding:

“The enactivist perspective insists that learning cannot be understood except in terms of co-emergence: each participant’s understandings are entwined with those of other participants, and individual knowledge co-emerges with collective knowledge.” (p. 49)
“The educator’s role might be first, a communicator: assisting participants in naming what is unfolding around them and inside them, continually renaming these changing nuances, and unlocking the tenacious grasp of old categories, restrictive or destructive language that strangles emerging possibilities. Second, the educator as story-maker helps trace and meaningfully record the interactions of the actors and objects in the expanding spaces. Third, the educator as interpreter helps all to make community sense of the patterns emerging among these complex systems and understand their own involvements in these patterns of systems. Naturally, educators must be clear about their own entanglement and interests in the emerging systems of thought and action.” (p. 49)

Think about why you have selected this quote.  Then consider what your insights arising from this process of selection and reflection help you notice about your learning dimension.

There are so many quotes in Fenwick’s paper that would help represent my orientation on adult learning and that would be suitable to address the Intercultural Communication learning dimension outlined in my hot case. I selected a quote on the enactivist perspective as it links my reflections to the broader, global perspective of whole system thinking. That allows me to consider my professional practice as part of a much more complex hologram that relates to the emergence of a new thinking paradigm. Traditional approaches to intercultural understanding have attempted to stereotype cultural traits and perpetuate the Eurocentric, essentialist view of culture. The enactivist perspective allows for ways to transcend such confinements.

How do Fenwick’s comments on the role of the adult educator (identified above) help you to view your role in addressing the learning dimension you have identified?

  • I relate to Fenwick’s quote because it is linked to a new paradigm of learning emerging from a whole system thinking approach. It allows me to transcend the confinements of traditional education and of the established worldview in which our education system is rooted. Acting in a differentiated role of a communicator-story maker-interpreter is really what I like doing as an educator. That entails an investigative, open-ended approach to understanding and learning that is not separate from teaching. The language used in the enactivist perspective is conducive to understanding relations between systems, including the interplay of actors and issues in the education universe.

2) Then reflect on your overall experience in this course. What will you take away with you?

See below under 3)

3) Through this reflection, crystallise a ‘take home’ message. Then describe in one paragraph what prompted this message.

The main value in this course has been the recognition that the vast majority of us learners already engage in their respective professional practices. This implies that, in our daily interaction, the emphasis is more on reflection and effectiveness than on doing research. FLIP has allowed for an open-ended approach to learning, and valued written outcomes that reflect learners’ experience rather than the enumeration of academic scholarly citations. The work group enhanced the processing and reflective phase without turning into the usually debated chore of “writing a group paper.” This course has also showed a conducive and respectful learning environment free of wounding learning drama and has provided a very effective hands-on experience in applied mindfulness and reflection.

I will come away with renewed confidence that “another learning is possible,” paraphrasing the well-known motto of the World Social Forum.

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FLIP: Perspectives on adult learning and my learning dimension

COURSE: Fostering Learning in Practice

FORUM: Koala

TOPICS: Fenwick, reflections, adult learning, experiential learning, constructivism,

WEEK 9 – Task 2: Perspectives on adult learning and my learning dimension

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TASK 2

What insights do you now have about the way you view the learning dimension in your workplace setting?

I am more aware of the established function of the institution, which, in spite of lip service to themes and values found in the contructivist/humanistic perspective, still influences teachers’ and students’ behavior and attitudes towards teaching and learning. These reflections were prompted by my readings on Usher and Edwards, Foucault and Chappell et al. (see my previous post, and my comments below )

What do you feel are the strengths and weaknesses of the selected perspective/s that best ‘fitted’ you in the context of your positioning as a learning practitioner in your workplace?

Since I have engaged in a system, non-linear perspective, I will need to include the major factors in my analysis.

I have selected two levels that will be helpful to outline my position.

Micro level:

  • manages the learning context;
  • promotes dialogue;
  • provides for a conducive and respectful learning environment

At this level I believe in the applicability of the following perspective(s):

Constructivist (humanist/progressive)

Possible strengths:

Learner oriented, geared towards self-realization and growth; mindful of others’ differences; open to dialogue; learning environment based on trust, authenticity, integrity, mutual respect, and patience; scaffholding pedagogy; partial recognition of experiential learning.

Possible weaknesses:

possibly enmeshed with the established institutional structures; focused on adaptation rather than transformation; learning experience may be piloted by educators;

Macro (global) level:

  • Allows for discussion of diverse themes.
  • Awareness and recognition of issues of governmentability (Foucault) , self-subjugation (Chappell et al), and confessional education (Usher and Edwards)
  • Awareness, recognition and critique of social dimensions (radical view and transformation approach (Merizow, p. 13) are suitable to challenge and discuss cultural assumptions)

At this level I believe in the applicability of the following perspective(s):

Constructivist (radical):

Possible strength:

Fostering social awareness and action-oriented learning; mindful of issues of governmentability (Foucault), confessional education (Usher and Edwards) and false consciousness (Chappell et al.); suitable to examine, discuss, and challenge cultural discourses, assumptions, issues of representations and otherization, and personal narratives. A radical orientation could be more effective at uncovering and possibly overcoming issues of oppression, cultural relativism and essentialism, and ultimately addressing the imbalances that are still part of our social and educational models.

Possible weaknesses:

may be difficult to apply to current world view; too theoretical; possibility for culture clashes; difficult to implement given the level of psychological and cultural embeddedness of current learning and teaching paradigms and ensuing social frameworks and discourses.

Constructivist (transformational, Merizow):

Possible strengths:

dialectic, suitable to challenge and discuss cultural assumptions through cognitive reflection (leads “to a dramatic shift or transformation in the learner’s way of viewing the world.” “bringing of one’s assumptions, premises, criteria, and schemata into consciousness and vigorously critiquing them”); (p. 13)

useful for the introduction of learners into a system thinking approach (see macro level)

Possible weaknesses:

Not everyone is interested in shifting perspective; not everyone is interested in or capable of cognitive reflecting; it may feel like a piloted operation;

System approach (enactivist perspective):

Possible strengths:

participation and co-emergence, innovative, forward thinking, global; interdisciplinary; thinking outside the box of current education orientations; empowering; may lead to actual breaks through (The system breaking point sometimes heralds the start of a paradigmatic macroshift, as suggested by Dr. Ervin Laszlo);  “Educators can provide feedback loops to a system as it experiments with different patterns leading out from disequilibrium.” (p.50)

Possible weaknesses:

Not easily understood; requires a lot of reframing of current paradigms and world views;

In what ways do they help you to make sense of how you might approach/ move forward with your learning dimension?

By acting at the two levels suggested above, I will be able to raise awareness of the intercultural communication dimension. By acting as a communicator, story maker, and interpreter I will assist learners in the emergence of a new consciousness through processes of transformation.

FLIP: my position on adult education

COURSE: Fostering Learning in Practice

FORUM: Koala

TOPICS: Fenwick, reflections, adult learning, experiential learning, constructivism,

WEEK 9 – Task 1: my position on adult education

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Task 1

Read the rest of the Fenwick monograph, ensuring that you understand the different perspectives on adult learning that she describes.

Fenwick, T. (2001) “Experiential Learning: A Theoretical Critique from Five Perspectives” Information Series No 385, ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational Education now located at the Centre for Education & Training for Employment at Ohio State University, accessed on June 2, 2009 at http://www.uni-koeln.de/hf/konstrukt/didaktik/situierteslernen/fenwick1.pdf

Which of the perspectives described by Fenwick do you feel best ‘captures’ each of the reasons you had identified in Learning Task 1?

REASON 1: Adult education is important to me because it allows people to create an alternative path to personal development and education, and creates an arena for opportunities that would be otherwise restricted to younger learners.

I would exclude Lave and Wenger’s participation perspective, as it believes that “the educator’s role is not to develop individuals, but to help them participate meaningfully in the practices they choose to enter.” (Greeno, 1997) (Fenwick, p.36) I agree with critics of this perspective on that “Relations and practices related to dimensions of race, class, gender, and other cultural/personal complexities, apparently ignored by situative theorists, determine flows of power, which in turn determines different individuals’ ability to participate meaningfully in particular practices of systems.” (p. 38)

Knowles’ perspective seems to better capture reason 1 as it recognizes the following:

  • The educator is a facilitator of learning
  • Past experiences need to be honored, shared, analyzed, linked
  • The learning environment is based on trust, authenticity, integrity, mutual respect, and patience.

The educator does not need to take on a psychoanalytic role, but remains committed to the learners’ progress, self-development and growth, in line with the constructivist perspective.

However, Usher and Edwards criticize the traps of “confessional” education practices that adhere to standardized pedagogical approaches. Therefore, to create real opportunities that would allow learners to rise above currently entrenched patterns of exclusion, oppression and disempowerment (Foucault, p.42) and to escape the danger of governmentability, I would argue in favor of a transformational perspective. Foucault also reminds us that “the notion of individual choice and freedom within such [confessional” education] practices are illusions.” (p. 43)

REASON 2: Adult education is important to me because it also allows for broader, less academic discussion of issues that are important to many.
The most appropriate approach cannot really be established a priory. There are many factors involved, such as age, culture(s), educational goals, learning context, expectations, desire to learn, level of commitment and participations. When I think of a non-performance-driven learning environment, then I favor a transformational approach to adult education. That would also be more suitable to address the intercultural learning dimension; free the discussion from established, stereotypical essentialist views of cultures; and explore and clarify issues of identity, assumptions, otherization, representation through thick description of discourses and personal narratives.

From a more theoretical vantage point, I would also consider introducing learners to the fascinating realm of the ecological/enactivist perspective. In a sense, I feel that as a teacher I tend to appreciate the roles suggested in this approach: as a communicator, a story maker, and an interpreter. They all help learners “to make community sense of the patters emerging among these complex systems.” (p.49) Ultimately, this is the way that I really believe transformation can be enacted. From an intercultural communication perspective, understanding the intertwined dynamics of intercultural communication and cultural diversity is in my opinion more important that the analysis of cultures as detached, unchanging units of human experience.

What do you notice about doing this learning task:

1. Did you find it easy to find a match between your reason and the perspectives presented by Fenwick?

Yes, it has been relatively easy and very interesting to use a newly acquired vocabulary and adjust it to the learning dimension in my hot case and to the context of my professional practice.

2. What was the basis of the decisions you made about where to locate yourself? What part of the reading made you recognise where you ‘fitted’?

As I said before, I do not really think that I have to fit into any given orientation. I posted earlier in the course that I see myself as a “bridge,” which mean that I am interested in different perspectives and have the ability to synthesize and find meaning across disciplines.

For now I would say that the basis for my decision to locate myself in a certain orientation is to be found in my own approach to learning and experiencing, which is anchored to a systemic world view and partly represented in the enactivist perspective.

3. Were you located in more than one perspective?

Yes, I find myself at the intersection of several perspectives. I will analyze this in more detail in a separate post. Being situated across disciplines and paradigms is not unusual for me, as I also happen to believe in a systemic approach to understanding that emphasizes relationships over the individual characteristics of the actors and context separately considered.

FLIP: orientations to experiential learning at my workplace

COURSE: Fostering Learning in Practice

FORUM: Koala

TOPICS: reflections, adult learning, experiential learning, Fenwick, constructivism, humanistic

WEEK 8 – Task 2: orientations to experiential learning

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Link to blog

Fenwick, T. (2001) “Experiential Learning: A Theoretical Critique from Five Perspectives” Information Series No 385, ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational Education now located at the Centre for Education & Training for Employment at Ohio State University, accessed on June 2, 2009 at http://www.uni-koeln.de/hf/konstrukt/didaktik/situierteslernen/fenwick1.pdf

Chapter 1

Keywords

Experiential learning

Constructivism

Adult Education

John Dewey

Andragogy

Freire

Boud

Watskin and Marsick

Progressive

Radical

Humanistic

I have two part-time jobs. One at a corporate art college, the other one teaching adults in the foreign language evening program at Seattle University. Since my hot issue took place at the art college, I will consider the questions for this task as they apply to that context

1) How prevalent do you feel ‘experiential’ learning is as the basis of an approach to adult learning in your workplace setting? What evidence do you draw on to reach this position?

My workplace is organized around a corporate framework that streamlines educational approaches across its network of colleges.

At first it would seem that my college has adopted many of the elements found in the constructivist-humanistic perspective, including an emphasis on student-centered teaching and critical thinking theories. This is reflected in the course syllabi.

In spite of a number of adult learners found among the students, adult learning practices are not specifically addressed and/or recognized.

Experiential learning, however, finds recognition in the coursework, as many of the college’s programs focus on the development of vocational skills.

2) Are you able to see evidence of either the progressive, humanist or radical orientation to adult learning (Fenwick, p.7) in your workplace? What ‘evidence’ do you call on in making your judgement?

Curricular activities cover a broad range of hands-on learning. I believe that the curricular competencies fall within the progressive and humanistic orientations.

Progressive: Students are made aware of the level of responsibility required in their educational path. They engage in problem-solving activities to become successful in their chosen fields.

Humanistic: The General Education Department emphasizes humanistic aspects by stressing student-centered theories and the development of students’ personal success though the reinforcement of self-awareness and self-actualization strategies. Teachers’ professional development across departments also relies on humanistic guidelines, as I realized during my teacher’s training, which emphasized student-centered learning. (I remember “The biggest enemy to learning is the talking teacher.” – John Holt)

Evidence of these two orientations is found in course documents and school policies.

3) Which of the orientations do you feel best captures your own approach/ orientation as a learning practitioner in your workplace?

As a teacher in the General Education department I am comfortable with a humanistic approach augmented with problem-solving strategies as suggested in the progressive orientation.

However, in the case of my hot issue, which focuses on the intercultural communication learning dimension, I would argue that a radical approach would be more suitable to examine, discuss, and challenge cultural discourses, assumptions, issues of representations and otherization, and personal narratives. A radical orientation could be more effective at uncovering and possibly overcoming issues of oppression, cultural relativism and essentialism, and ultimately addressing the imbalances that are still part of our social and educational models.

4) Is there an alignment between your orientation and the orientations that are enacted in your workplace? Does this matter

At first I connected well with the humanistic-constructivist perspective at my workplace. Later, through my own self-reflections and from conversations with the director of General Education, I have become more aware of the corporate ‘hidden goals” and the “business as usual” power-oriented mentality that influence the academic environment.

Does this matter? Absolutely. At the very least, it makes the humanistic orientation in our teacher training sound phony; and at its worse, it makes the curriculum and relevant coursework look like the usual assembly line of traditional education, so beautifully described by Chappel et al (2002):

“Today, epistemological discourses emphasise knowledge constructed as practical, interdisciplinary, informal, applied and contextual over knowledge constructed as theoretical, disciplinary, formal, foundational and generalisable.” (Chappell et al, 2000, p. 2)

Adult education is important to me:

Because it allows people to create an alternative path to personal development and education, and creates an arena for opportunities that would be otherwise restricted to younger learners. It also allows for broader, less academic discussion of issues that are important to many.

It achieves a more generalized level of active citizenship and participation across many generational, social, cultural and gender barriers.

It fosters personal responsibility for one’s own participation both in society and in one’s personal self-actualization.

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