Presentation on theme: "Facilitating Experiential and Existential Learning Through Distance Education by Peter Jarvis."— Presentation transcript:
Facilitating Experiential and Existential Learning Through Distance Education by Peter Jarvis
Ideal Lecture Theatre The ideal lecture theatre is vast, truly vast. It is a very sombre, very old amphitheatre, and very uncomfortable. The professor is lodged in his chair, which is raised high enough for everyone to see him; There is no question that he might get down and pester you. You can hear him quite well, because he does not move. Only his mouth moves. Preferably he has white hair, a stiff neck and a Protestant air about him. There are a great many students, and each is perfectly anonymous. To reach the amphitheatre, you have to climb some stairs, and then, with the leather-lined doors closed behind, the silence is absolute, every sound stifled; the walls rise very high, daubed with rough paintings in half tones and silhouettes of various monsters can be detected. Everything adds to the impression of being in another world. So one works religiously. (History student –cited in Bourdieu et al, 1994, p.1)
The LectureTheatre and Distance Education it would not be hard to adapt the first part of this picture to distance teaching – since the teacher is often far removed in time and space from the students, presenting knowledge in an academic discourse that the students have to learn.
Structure of this Presentation The paper builds on material that I have published before (Jarvis, 2006a, 2006b) although the argument is different: it has three parts – Learning, Teaching Teaching and learning.
Definition of Learning The combination of processes throughout a lifetime whereby the whole person – body (genetic, physical and biological) and mind (meaning, knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, emotions, beliefs and senses) – experiences social situations, the perceived content of which is then transformed cognitively, emotively or practically (or through any combination) and integrated into the individual person’s biography resulting in a continually changing (or more experienced) person.
Re-thinking Definition I am, however, currently reconsidering the word ‘perceived’ in this definition since I feel that some of our learning occurs pre- consciously. Therefore I intend to drop it from the definition
Figure 1 The Transformation of the Person through Learning The Whole Person– Time Body/Mind/Self - Life History (1) An Experience – (Episode) The Life-world Socially constructed (2) Thought/ Reflection (3) Emotion Action (4) (5) The Whole Person The Changed (Body/Mind/Self) changed Person in the world The changes memorised Body/Mind/Self Person more experienced Life History (6) (Next learning cycle) (1) The Life -world
The Person is Changed In every experience, and all the learning that ensues, changes the learner’s biography – it is always the whole person who is learning and not just the cognitive domain. Each time we learn we are changed people, Significantly, we are not always aware of what we learn or when we learn it. Consider the emotions – can you recall learning any of them? What about some of our deepest beliefs about human existence – can we recalled precisely how and when we learned these? No – a great deal of what we learn is incidental and we may learn some of it pre-consciously at the same time as we are consciously learning other things. We have to conclude that we cannot teach the emotions but they can be learned. This is what makes learning both experiential and existential. In our teaching we need to be aware of this additional dimension of learning.
Knowledge What, Knowledge How and Being Able To Through teaching, we can learn knowledge what and even knowledge how but this is as far as we can go. It is generalised information and even if I learn it and make it my knowledge it is still insufficient. Knowledge how does not equip me to do anything – it is still in the cognitive domain. If I taught you how to play a game of cards (secondary experience), you still cannot play it until you have the cards in your hands and the experience of playing the game: this is the primary experience. Now I learn from that experience and eventually I am able to play, but I also learn from that experience a different form of knowledge how and even knowledge that – now it is the subjective,
Relationship between Primary and Secondary Experience There is no conceptual relationship between the knowledge learned in secondary experience and being able to – I can only learn that by doing and having done I have learned my own knowledge (tacit) – it has never been information or data and it only becomes data or information if I try to teach another
Our Teaching Every situation for which we have prepared teaching material will be delivered as secondary experiences to our learners – we cannot teach primary experiences although the situations within which the students learn are primary experiences for them and we have to recognise this at the same time. In this sense we have to try to imagine the level of knowledge and the type of situation in which our learners are receiving the information that we have prepared for them. Additionally, we can provide opportunities for other primary experiences and the subsequent learning to occur.
Distance Teaching as Otto Peters (1984) suggested, is like industrial mass production.
The Production Process But in the production process it is not the learners who are the end-product of teaching but the successful delivery of the teaching material to the learners and it is this that must be evaluated.
Aims and Objectives in Teaching The aims of a great deal of educational production are contained in the objectives of the course, usually behavioural ones, and the achievement of these objectives must be measurable by certain forms of testing
Teaching as a Science (technique) We are providing the students with a secondary experience and, in this sense, we can see teaching as an instrumental technique – a science, if you like and in a sense this is inevitable. It is also the easiest option for the teacher – to go through the procedures and produce a finished product – it might also cost less. It is also a way to ensure that the quality is high. When we have a team producing programmes on line, it is easy to see teaching as a technique – but does this exhaust the teaching process?
Does this exhaust the teaching process? This is another question – for teaching is not only a science or a technique – it is an art. We are dealing with people – people who are free and able to reject what we teach – people who might want to debate the propositions that we espouse and present and unless they are given opportunity to do so, our teaching approaches the indoctrinational.
The Production Process It is almost inevitable when we produce learning materials for so many people that we forget the uniqueness of each person and provide them with information to be learned cognitively: that is we provide them with secondary experiences but can we actually provide them with primary experiences This is another question
The Art of Teaching It is possible for those who design the teaching and learning process in distance education to be genuine artists of teaching.
Teaching Styles (Apps) Lamplighters – those who seek to enlighten their students; Gardeners – those who seek to cultivate and nourish their students by providing the right climate in which they can grow; Muscle builders – those who strengthen flabby minds; Bucket fillers – those who provide information; Challengers – those who question learners’ assumptions; Travel guides – those who assist their students along the pathways of learning; Factory supervisors – who supervise both the inputs and outputs of the process; Artists – who regard learning as an aesthetic process; Applied scientists – who seek to apply research results about teaching to their teaching; Craftspeople – who seek to use a wide variety of skills.
All Things to all People We are all of these people but some more than others: we can use all of these approaches in a wide variety of combinations as we prepare our teaching materials for our students. In this sense the design of our courses becomes more of an art – but even now we need to push our thinking a little further forward and ask – why should we try to use all these different approaches? Is it just because we want to make the course interesting? Is it just so that we can continue to motivate the students to continue learning? Of course it is both of these but it is more.
Gardeners (1) We saw at the outset when we discussed learning that it is the whole person who learns and not just the cognitive dimensions - the outcome of the learning is that the students are changed as persons. We, as teachers, have the responsibility to help each of our students grow and develop as persons and so there is a sense in which, to use Apps’ terminology, we are all gardeners
Gardeners (2) But gardeners love their garden, tend to each plant, make sure that each is in its right place in the garden and they can contribute to the way in which each plant can grow in the most wonderful ways and how they will contribute to the beauty and perfection of the garden as a whole. The gardener provides the best conditions for the plants to grow. This must be our vision for our students in their world, and in order to produce this in our students we have to get near to them. Now we cannot do this physically in distance education – but we have to try to do this metaphorically – perhaps we have to learn to ‘sit where they sit’ and ‘think the thoughts that they think’ and so we are far removed from the professor in his lecture theatre.
The art of teaching lies with our empathising with the learners. This is as close as we can get to entering into an interpersonal relationship with each of them.
A Beautiful Vision As gardeners our job is to nurture the students and let them learn and grow – we have to provide opportunities so that they can grow and want to keep on growing/learning and this is probably even more important than providing the secondary experiences that we can assess. Secondary experiences set parameters on growth and development of the learners and the danger is that we will try to locate our learners within these categories: We must look beyond this to see that garden full of beautiful blooms. This is the paradox of teaching: the only way we can help our learners to learn is to free them and provide them with learning opportunities that do not stunt their growth
Aims of Teaching And so what are the aims of teaching?
Learning I want to revert to my definition of learning. We want to provide opportunities for the learners to become more experienced and continually changing people and their learning is whole person learning – body (genetic, physical and biological) and mental (meaning, knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, emotions, beliefs and senses). We see immediately that skills occur in both body and mind – it is physical and mental and we relate the aims of our teaching to whole person learning:
The Aims of Teaching the Whole Person We aim to: provide opportunity for knowing and reflecting/questioning – attitudes, emotions, beliefs and values; provide opportunity to do/create and also to relate; enable students to be and to become.
Knowing and Reflecting: Teaching can never be purposeless and when we prepare our distance learning programmes we have certain things that we want students to learn, which we call knowledge. But when we prepare it and put it into our teaching materials – it is data and information. It may be our knowledge but it is not our students’ knowledge – they have to learn it. In this sense, all knowledge is personal knowledge (Polanyi, 1962) and it only becomes knowledge for our students when they have learned it. One of the four pillars of learning in the Delors (1996) report is learning to know.
Knowing and Reflecting: But knowledge is not truth and so we want our students to make the information we provide them their knowledge but only having reflected upon it and learning it to be valid knowledge. Action and criticism without having first learned and reflected is impetuous but we in the West tend to start our learning in this impetuous fashion. Only when we have learned it can we be critical of it and so the reflection follows the initial learning. In our teaching materials we must lead our students through the process of learning and then give them license to criticise it – unless, we as teachers give them that license they may not do so.
Knowing and Reflecting: The more we reflect upon our experiences the more that we will learn from them: this is what Crawford (2005) calls attentive reflection: she suggests that it results in spirituality but also we gradually develop wisdom through our attentive reflection. It takes time but in this world where everybody is in a hurry, we need to slow down and think about what we are learning.
Knowing and Reflecting: But in that definition of learning there were a number of mental dimensions- knowledge, attitudes, values, beliefs and the senses. We have to help the learners think about these dimensions and then given them license to be critical of them. It is not only knowledge that we want our learners to focus upon but also the other dimensions of the cognitive. We have to help the learners think about these dimensions and then given them license to be critical of them. And so, we must be aware of the reflective processes when we prepare our teaching materials and we must also remember that knowledge never exists in isolation: we nearly always have feelings about what we learn (Goleman, 1995) – we will also have values and beliefs about much of it – and so the good distance educator creates space for attentive reflection to range over all the dimensions of the experience and we have to learn more about emotions, values, beliefs and attitudes in learning so that we can enrich our teaching. Much thought and reflection prepares our students to become scholars and this is the potential of every learner.
Doing, Creating and Relating: Doing is at the heart of being human but creating is the process of building our world and making it a better place for us all to live: we all need to become experts in doing and creating – we should not be content with mere competencies – in our contribution to the world. We need to give our students opportunity to do and to create as a result of them learning with us.
Doing, Creating and Relating But we have always to recognise that when we do things, when we create things, we use the resources of the world and in my own discussion on the Delors Report I have added (Jarvis, 2008, p.218) a fifth pillar of learning – learning to respect the planet for it is our home and the home of our children and our children’s children.
Doing, Creating and Relating Another pillar of learning in the Delors Report is learning to live together – a world of peace. Every culture in the world, almost without exception, has longed for a world like this and the desire is perhaps even greater when our world appears dangerous and disordered. Within the Confucian tradition there have been many thinkers who have written about this: Liu (1955, p.74), commenting on Meng K’o, writes: Living in the midst of a chaotic age, in which the common man suffered from untold miseries, Master Meng felt most keenly that all human endeavour should be directed to the creation of an ideal state like the Great Commonwealth, in which mankind could live happily and harmoniously together.
To Be and to Become Here we met the fourth of the Delors Report pillars of learning – learning to be. Learning to be a person – and this is precisely where we began. All our learning contributes to our personhood and our personhood is in some wonderful way a combination of all that we have learned the changes bare life (Agamben, 1998) to human being. As we learn to be we are in the process of becoming – becoming more human, more complete as we achieve the richness and fullness of our humanity.
Concluding Discussion Can we help people fulfil their human potential through distance education?
Concluding Discussion There are many student-centred methods, from peer group to project, from using real problems to locating the learning in the community (see Rogers and Freiberg, 1994, Gregory, 2006). We have to prepare our teachers and the designers of our lessons to embrace this humanistic perspective and learn these methods, experiment with them and develop techniques appropriate for our communities.
Concluding Discussion As Parker Palmer (1998, p.6) wrote: I have no question that the students who learn, not professors who perform, is what teaching is all about: students who learn are the finest fruit of teachers who teach. Nor do I doubt that students learn in wondrous and diverse ways, including ways that bypass the teacher in the classroom and ways that require neither a classroom not a teacher! But I am clear that in lecture halls, seminar rooms, field settings, labs and even electronic classrooms – the places where most people receive most of their formal education – teachers possess the power to create the conditions that can help students learn a great deal – or keep them from learning much at all. Teaching is the intentional act of creating those conditions and good teaching requires that we understand the inner sources of both the intent and the act.
Concluding Discussion We can help build or we can hinder the process of building full human persons by the method and content of our teaching – this is the responsibility of the teacher – it is more than a science – more than an art – it is the moral responsibility that is laid upon all of us who have the courage to teach.