[RE]LEARN 2020 - The Learning Innovation Festival has ended
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Thursday, November 12 • 10:30 - 10:45
Learning about meaning, not things.

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Session Title: "Learning about meaning, not things"

Keywords: Pedagogy, Heutagogy, Wholistic learning, Agency & Authorship, Systems thinking, Social Emotional Learning (SEL), Learning competencies

Conceptual/Theoretical underpinnings: Self Determination Theory, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Bloom's Taxonomy of learning, John Dewey’s Experiential learning, Productive Zone of Disequilibrium & the liminal space

Target audience: Leaders, educators, policy makers

Session learning Objective: attendees will understand and better appreciate the powerful and symbiotic nature of agency as the genesis for change in systems design.

What will participants get out of this experience? Practical insights into findings of common features of successful initiatives generated by educators exercising their agency, and the opportunity to reflect on how these may be replicated or scaled in their own contexts.

Session detail: Progressive societies rely on the correlation between social capital and thriving educational systems.

The degree to which communities effectively weather, adapt, and evolve from existential crises such as covid19 is largely dependent on the depth of social capital. The depth of that social capital is determined by the extent to which educational systems remain relevant through innovation.

In an ideal world, effective systems design reflects and addresses the diverse needs of all. This implies a dynamic, decentralised, multilayered system that relies on the sum of its parts to innovate in response to new and emerging situations. By its very definition, a dynamic educational system is therefore one which is adaptive, tailored, effective and engaging for all users. This infers mechanisms that are relational, non-linear, fluid, and infinite; where opportunities and possibilities for self determination and self actualisation are available to all.

Yet education, a most organic of human endeavours, is by and large characterised by a hierarchical, rigid and mechanistic infrastructure. Tension exists by virtue of the fact that education does not lend itself easily to measurement through arbitrary, standardised and quantifiable management practices. Presumably this is because the need to ensure uniformity, compliance, efficiency and accountability around predetermined outcomes - namely information delivery, exchange and retention and the acquisition of specific skills to as many, as quickly and for as little cost as possible - necessitates functionality and measurability that is only possible under strict guidelines and within relatively inflexible parameters. These invariably restrict educator agency and consequently limit opportunities for collaboration as a source of innovation. Such rigid and linear systems design stifles autonomy and creativity.

However an aspirational view of education as an immersive and iterative experiential process that is part of life itself exists. Educational systems design viewed through this lens evokes a deeply personalised, immersive, responsive and relational investment; one where all stakeholders have the time, preparedness and willingness to embrace the inevitable permutations, trials and tribulations that go hand in hand with any human endeavour. An endeavour in which connection and active engagement are key to a lifelong journey of self discovery and self determination. This prism validates the embodiment of reflective practice and action research in educational design. It recognises that for learners to actively engage, they must be empowered to access opportunities to embrace the liminal space, reflect from the "doing", thus combining the best of both Maslow & Blooms. The adoption of character traits or dispositions as reference points in designing curricula allows an interdisciplinary thematic approach to learning. Done authentically, this means that silos of knowledge are broken and learning expectations evolve as educational cultures are transformed. Personal and collective application and role modelling of this process provides rich educational opportunities of self discovery and authorship for all. Exponential shifts in the status quo are possible when agency and expertise are liberated and encouraged. Thriving and flourishing educational systems promote dispositions that facilitate changes in attitudes, expectations and skills.

Evolving dispositions influence expectations around behaviour. Behaviour shapes systems. Social capital for progressive societies will be generated when our system reflects the needs of the time.

Why is this important?

By and large the dominant educational models that hold sway today have become unreflective of the pressing needs and wellbeing of todays’ students, parents, teachers and society. Student disengagement and teacher attrition rates continue to rise as we systematically strip back, regulate & standardise the nuanced, intangible, unpredictable and creative elements of human interaction. Many current reform initiatives, such as reviews and collaborative stakeholder forums, arguably only come into play “after the event”, once the rot has set in. As such they are only ever designed as a cure to an existing illness and will only ever operate within the assumed existing framework. So despite the best well meaning intentions, these interventions inevitably prove futile in reversing the course of things and preventing the illness. However meaningful change is possible if the fundamental system parameters are flipped. Activating educators’ sense of agency, shifting their own mindsets and dispositions to consider empowered and broader world views will provide the fertile conditions to propagate relevant and engagement learning opportunities. This is a far more powerful ‘preventative’ measure.

avatar for Christophe Menage

Christophe Menage

Founding Educatalyst Partner, e2: educational ecosystems
Chris is an interdisciplinary educational leader with over 20 years’ international and national experience across private enterprise, government administration and most recently education. This cross-sector experience and migrating between countries means Chris sees possibilities... Read More →

Thursday November 12, 2020 10:30 - 10:45 CET