October 19, 2010 by Willy Cardoso
This post is part of the Dogme Blog Challenge (#dogmeme) part II.
The trigger this time is:
If learners are supplied with optimal conditions for language use, and are motivated to take advantage of these opportunities, their inherent learning capacities will be activated, and language – rather than being acquired -will emerge. (Thornbury & Meddings)
Being the complexity theory freak that I’m becoming, I can’t help but to focus on emergence. Also, because I realized that this concept, emergence, is not widely understood.
I’ll start with a quote I wrote on Karenne’s blog not long ago.
When things get together, there then arises something that was not there before, and that character is something that cannot be stated in terms of the elements which go to make up the combination. It remains to be seen in what sense we can now characterize that which has so emerged (Mead 1938)
In layman’s terms: The whole is not simply the sum of its parts. (I’d like you to keep that in mind as you read this post)
By saying that, I highlight the fact that too many things go on between teaching and learning that it’s farfetched to believe that a teacher who walks into a classroom with a rigid lesson plan consisting of preselected target language, stages that apparently make sense (if only in the teacher’s mind) and a lesson aim to achieve that is something like “to present and practice the present continuous”; I say, it’s farfetched to believe that this is a contribution to another person’s education, and here I say education in the sense of how you answer the question “What do we need education for?”
Have I already got you confused? I hope not.
( On this blog’s menu item “Complexity Theory” you’ll find the links to two articles by Scott Thornbury who more didactically and more ELT-driven uses the concept of emergence, and also some more great articles on education through the eyes of chaos & complexity theory)
The point is, if everything is interconnected and interdependent the classroom cannot be the fictitious island of Lost.
The emergence perspective raises the serious possibility that the origins of everything that currently exists lacked any architect, plan, or intention, and that as a consequence we cannot derive meaning from looking either backwards at origins or forwards towards some pre-existing goal. (Grobstein)
A starting point to adopt an emergent pedagogy is perhaps to look at its properties and think if you can see yourself functioning well in a system like this, to make it easier you can think of the classroom or the school as this system, along with the people that are part of it and their roles in it too.
Single leaders ->
Close, dissipative systems ->
Demarcated and detached ->
Closed system ->
Restricted communication ->
Enacted organization ->
Transactional leadership ->
Low-order thinking ->
Sterile environment ->
Private knowledge ->
| Emergent higher order -> Self-organized
-> Distributed leadership
-> Open, evolving system
-> Open system
-> Open communication
-> Learning organization
-> Transformational quantum leadership
-> High-order creative thinking
-> Rich environment
-> Distributed knowledge
This appeals to me, very much in case you haven’t noticed ; )
but I also acknowledge that it’s very difficult for many teachers to see the practicality of all this.
The thing is that there’s still very little evidence of how effective an emergent pedagogy can be.
The main problem in finding the evidence is that they are using old ways to validate new things.
For example, goal-setting itself has to be done as an emergent process. Assessment is another thing that plays an important role in developing new approaches. You see, there’s plenty of work ahead.
…understanding is itself an emergent process, the result of an essential interplay between experience and reflection. The objective of an emergent classroom is to facilitate continuing interaction between intuitive and analytic aspects of thinking as a fundamental aspect of the learning process. (Grobstein et al, here)
Further questions that can only be answered by YOU.
- How can you cope with unpredictability and modify plans in the light of emerging information?
- What are the conditions for emergence in your classroom, how can these be identified, developed, supported and sustained?
If you think there should still be controlled training, then train students how
- To Function productively in a group,
- To Be aware of how interaction with others affect their individuality
- To Ask the right questions in order to find the ‘less wrong’ answers.
From an emergent pedagogy perspective the aim of education is to develop individuals that can fully function in a world that is emergent itself, individuals that being aware of the inherent unpredictability of virtually everything around them, have an enhanced ability to learn, re-learn and un-learn. To do so, these individuals need to be effective independent inquirers.
We need to rehabilitate the role of freedom, self-organization, creativity and innovation, in order to develop better inquirers.
I have a hunch that breaking down past knowledge and passing it on as identifiable bits – that is, subject matters, coursebooks, levels, preset agendas, grades, tests, etc – have very little to do with the aim of education described in the previous paragraphs.
After all, if you remember the beginning of this post, the whole is not simply the sum of its parts.
Thanks for reading!
I look forward to discussing this further with you.
Other fine bloggers in the ring:
Sabrina De Vita http://sabridv.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/fear-of-the-unknown/