Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Three Role Circus

There are three roles that must be fulfilled in becoming educated, but only one of them requires a person, the other two can sometimes be fulfilled by inanimate objects.
The roles are a learning agent, a learning catalyst, and the learning context.




The learning agent is the active map-maker.
The learning agent is obviously the student as that role is normally thought of in schools.




The learning catalyst is someone or something that the agent engages in a deep relationship with and attempts to understand how the catalyst fits into the agent’s world.
In goal directed activity the agent will engage with people or things that s/he assumes will be instrumental in the process of attaining the goal until the agent concludes otherwise and then may attempt to disengage.
A catalyst can be a person fulfilling the school role of teacher, but it can also be a book, a tree or a rock.
What causes learning in the learner is the development of a particularly deep relationship in which the learner opens him/herself to internal transformation under the influence of the catalyst.




The learning context is everything else around the learner and catalyst that influences their relationship.
The learning context is all the biological, psychological, cultural, social, and ecological factors that shape how the agent relates to the catalyst.
There are a myriad of variations that will occur based on differences of physical health, the presence of coercion, what particular slang or jargon is used, what language(s) are being used, and what the climactic conditions are in the learning situation.
In the school setting the context is the classroom, the school, the community, the society, and if we want a person to fulfill the role then the best icon is the school principal, who is supposed to be responsible for facilitating the educational aspects of the relationship between students and teachers.




The Classroom
Consider the classroom using the cognitive cartography metaphor.
The student is generally assumed to be the learning agent, but as Paulo Friere emphasized, the teacher who is not also learning is not really teaching.
The teacher is generally assumed to be the learning catalyst, but once again, there are many more opportunities for other students to be learning catalysts than the teacher given the usual ratio.
Finally the classroom itself is assumed to be the learning context, but there is an entire world beyond the classroom that impinges upon what happens there.
The No Child Left A Dime Act is a great example of the nefarious influence of a factor far removed from actual learning situations based on creating public policy using an inadequate definition of education.




Capturing The Complex Dynamics of Real Learning in a Definition of Education
The beauty of using the cognitive cartography metaphor as a definition of education is that it implies the actual dynamics and complexity of real life learning situations.
At any given moment in a solid well-led group of kids there may be a multitude of simultaneous catalysts and agents and the adult leadership will have plenty of opportunities to be both catalyst and agent, too.
What really counts is the creation of a high level of trust in and respect for each individual’s capacity for both learning and teaching.
When we, as teachers, create an intimate group that develops the love and trust to pay attention to each others needs, then we are immersing the children in the ultimate learning experience.
The inadequacy of the delivery of knowledge, skills and information as a definition of education is that it gives absolutely no account of the love and respect that are necessary for real education to emerge.
For instance, because of the nature of testing today, it cannot account for love and respect.
And until they can account for the quality of relationships in the educational setting, then testing is irrelevant to what really matters in education.





My definition of education is the cognitive mapping of the world by agents who have intentions to move themselves from where they are to where they want to be.

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