If you haven’t watched it yet pop over here to see my first post in this series about defining holistic education.
Today I want to look at three types of pedagological styles. A pedagogy is a style of teaching so the focus is not on the things being taught (curriculum) or the way of learning (learning philosophy). You can right away see the problem with this because looking at pedagogy in a vacuum is pointless. Teaching, in even the least holistic manner, is a two person (at least) relationship. However, as used by college teacher preparation programs pedagogy allows a focus on methods of teaching. Some of the major schools of pedagogy are creative pedagogy and critical pedagogy.
Any teaching experience can fall into one (or more) of the following three categories:
This is a unidirectional teaching style that assumes the teacher has a packet of knowledge that she is handing off to the learner in a direct transfer. The role of the teacher is expert. The learners only role is to accept the transfer.
[box type=”info”]For example: “green is made up of yellow and blue”[/box]
This is a teaching style where the teacher engages the learner in an exploration of learning. Instead of handing the knowledge off an event is specifically designed to allow the learner to see the information. This is the gold standard for most traditional education because it actively involves the learner. You have probably heard of this in “hands-on” curricula and experiment-based learning. The role of the teacher is facilitator.
[box type=”info”]For example: “what happens if we mix these two colors?” while students have paints in front of them to try it out. Learners see that yellow and blue make green.[/box]
Another example would be transfering knowledge that some native americans make rain sticks and the transaction would be creating your own rain stick out of a paper tube, toothpicks, and beans. In this example there is some type of transaction happening that requires a back and forth relationship with the teacher and learners. The learners can ask questions, experiment with different methods of making a rain stick, and generally have a deeper appreciation of (and more sticky memory of) the lesson.
Where these methods of instruction fail is in deeper topics that include not just intellect but emotional, creative, and social aspects. For example, a lesson about racism: you can transfer facts about instances of minority discrimination and you can create a meaningful experience (transaction) to embed the learning (for example, students practice finding similarities and differences in classmates and create a collage like the one here by the Australian organization Prejudice. No Way!). However, neither of these things will create the type of meaning making that someone who has experienced racism will know.
The question is how do we create a learning activity that moves beyond knowing and understanding into meaning.
The goal of transformational learning is that the teacher and learner embark on a journey that facilitates a change in views and beliefs in the learner.
In transfer and transact senarios the goal is learning a new fact or skill (or learning skill like the scientific method) while in transformational learning the goal is learning a new perspective, frame of reference, or habit of mind. In other words the goal is assimilating information and knowledge into a broader understanding of self, community, or nature.
We are most familiar with transformative learning when it is prompted by a crisis (called a “disorienting dilemma”). For example, a cancer scare that makes you change your profession in order to more fully enjoy life. However, educators can create scenarios that lead to transformation without the crisis event.
Transformative learning (TL) is largely the work of Jack Mezirow, Emeritus Professor of Adult and Continuing Education at Teachers College, Columbia University and as such is largely talked about in reference to adult education. Certainly the full cadre of TL is for older teens and adults because children have a more legalistic (black and white) view of morality that makes full transformation impossible. However, Mezirow states, “Frames of reference are primarily the result of cultural assimilation and the idiosyncratic influences of primary caregivers” and I believe that an adaptation of TL in childhood would prime children to become transformational thinking adults. He elaborates;
Children commonly acquire a foundation of the specific learning required to think autonomously. This includes the ability and disposition to (1) recognize cause-effect relationships, (2) use informal logic in making analogies and generalizations, (3) become aware of and control their own emotions, (4) become empathic of others, (5) use imagination to construct narratives, and (6) think abstractly. Adolescents may learn to (7) think hypothetically, and (8) become critically reflective of what they read, see, and hear.
These 8 foundational skills are a normal part of most elementary curriculums and/or parenting philosophy. I have talked before about awareness of emotions and empathy in toddlers. While TL builds on these in adulthood;
In adulthood, the task is to strengthen and build on this foundation in order to assist the learner to understand new subject content, but, in the process of doing so, to become (1) more aware and critical in assessing assumptions—both those of others and those governing one’s own beliefs, values, judgments, and feelings; (2) more aware of and better able to recognize frames of reference and paradigms (collective frames of reference) and to imagine alternatives; and (3) more responsible and effective at working with others to collectively assess reasons, pose and solve problems, and arrive at a tentative best judgment regarding contested beliefs.
The role of the teacher is provocateur challenging learners to define their assumptions and frame of reference.
[box type=”info”]For example, learners design a role play skit where they imagine life as a settler (given information learned through transfer and transaction). Emphasis on teamwork to make the skit and post-activity reflection on feelings about the topic, the process, and working with others.[/box]
A deeper look into transformational learning is definitely neccessary but I hope this introduction brings the three different styles into sharper focus. Here is a summary table comparing the three styles;
[table id=1 /]
My next post in the series about developing a homeschool philosophy will focus on creating learning goals.
My Homeschool Philosophy Series
Part 3: Unschooling