Weltanschauung: My World View of Education

Weltanschauung: German for world view. Generally used as a philosophical approach to life. In this case it is used to introduce readers to the world view of the author as it relates to the practice of teaching and learning.

Unconscious Childhood Learning Experience:

            The most fundamental childhood learning experience within recollection, is the concept of listening. It is a behavior modelled from experiences with parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. The iteration of this process continued generationally until the passing of each aforementioned family member. There was only one time where it was addressed verbally when my father said, “listen with your ears and not your mouth”. Later the same thought was reinforced by a sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Clifford, when he said, “your brain can only do one thing at a time. Never raise your hand while someone speaks, as you are no longer listening to the person you wish to respond to”. This was a profound statement. One that was carried to this day. Probably the single most influential moment in my life’s education.

            Clearly it was the basis of everything that I learned. My educational world view was formed around this two-fold notion. First, a brain can only do one thing at a time. Secondly, speaking or waiting to speak, as concepts are introduced, is not only rude, but detrimental to conversation that may possess a great deal of import. Active listening is an exceptional method of learning. Not only does it convey ideas, but it conveys intent, motive, and the desired outcome of the person speaking. Mezirow says under the “contexts of learning” on pages 13-14 that in the action of learning we must “[consider] the situation encountered, that is, within which an interpretation is made and remembered” (Mezirow, 1991). Without active listening, no transformational learning can take place nor can one’s worldview change. So, what does all that gibberish mean? First, we need one more definition.

Discourse Community

            The concept of community is self-explanatory to anyone with a 10th grade education, for those of you that went to Washington D.C. public schools, we will define discourse community as a group of people gathered at the same time, discussing a common topic. The key feature of this community is that we cannot listen with our mouths open. The other integral part of a discourse community is that everyone is acting as a participant (generally not a provocateur – although sometimes it is very necessary). Let’s also take a look at transformative analysis to ensure that we are playing on the same court.

Transformative Theory Analysis

            Identification

            The experience and its contribution to worldview assumes a few cognitive constraints. Jack Mezirow says that, “presentational construal can be a significant influence on and serve as a monitor of propositional construal. Feelings, intuition, dreams and changes to physiological states bring the influences of presentational construal’s into awareness” (Mezirow, 1991).  To presume that the unconscious learning experience happened exactly as described is in direct contrast to what Mezirow states. There are many perceptions in the above experience that have been altered over time due to environmental and physiological changes. The fact that my family played such a role in my development allows for the experience to be “romanticized”. Explicit learning that has occurred over time has filled blank spots in the experience to bring it to a current meaning. Vocabulary alone may change the way meaning is perceived by others. In the “new politics of the young, Internet fed neophyte’s”, lack of experience to connect the dots, derive a non-experiential, “academic” identification. Fact is, reading and doing provide different experiences that must be linked for learning to take place.

Selection

To decide what is changed is based on what context the experience arises. Alterations must fit that context. In the above experience, in the context of a writing, words flow at a different meter and language level. Relaying an experience to a student as opposed to a professor might not allow for the same colloquial vocabulary. The change in vocabulary may also change the meaning of the whole experience. Combining this change with the listener grouping common past experiences with the one being learned, and everything may vary drastically. “Memory is not an exact repetition of an image in the brain. Rather it is a recategorization that occurs when the connections between the neurons in different maps are strengthened temporarily” (Mezirow, 1991). Ultimately it comes down to a memory fitting the case. An argument could be raised that the changes are implicit without knowledge based on the current condition. Unlike micro-aggressions (a simply foolish idea to aggravate simpletons void of facts), implicit selection is the natural way we organize information in our heads. We find a connection (right or wrong) to an experience and adjust current knowledge or past memory so that our brain may digest new information. Humans pretty much understand that if they touch a fire, they will get burnt. Do they remember the exact moment they learned that fact? No but they may remember a late term memory to make the association of fire to burning skin. Same for the computer mouse, we all no how to use it but we cannot remember when we learned it. In fact, if we have school age children, we are unable to remember when they learned how to use them.  

Prioritization

            The prioritization of the selections is also tacit. Prioritization relates to the reason for relaying the experience. By default, tacit knowledge is difficult to relay. How does a person describe to another person an experience that has feelings and intuitions involved that are necessary to understand the experience? Mezirow says that it depends on the frame of reference. “Our current frame of reference serves as the boundary condition for interpreting the meaning of an experience” (Mezirow, 1991). If this is true then the writing suggests prioritization occurs from the boundary condition to the beginning, meaning every piece of experiential knowledge upon being reconstructed for delivery must have a logical ending constrained by boundary conditions all the way to the logical start. In this process, cognition prioritizes based on the strengths of certain aspects of the memory and the need for the experience to match with the need for relaying the experience. The need for relaying the experience triggers the starting point into existence so no boundary condition is needed. In learning as well as societal constructs this is the red herring.

            Triggers are NOT something that people look out for. In the current political arena triggers are pre-defined words and phrases that MAY cause a person to relive traumatic memories. If the person doesn’t possess traumatic experiences, then the word itself is the trigger. A very strange outcome beyond the scope of this writing. I will, however, state that a trigger word without an associative traumatic memory, may be the highest form of actionable, arrogant narcissism without value, in existence.

 Reconstruction

            Once the prioritization occurs, it must line up logically without inference. As stated above inferential(tacit) knowledge is difficult to relay therefore upon prioritizing the entire experience is put back together and prepares itself for delivery. It is through this reconstruction that we give the experience meaning. This idea seems quite like the Lev Vygotsky theory of “zone of proximal development”. Vygotsky theorized that there are three zones in which we can reconstruct. Within these three zones the level of cognition is based on interaction with others. “The range of skill that can be developed with adult guidance or peer collaboration exceeds what can be attained alone” (Vygotsky, n.d.). Therefore, we practice in our heads the logic as it relates to the experience. As Mezirow was so fond of writing that “our interpretations are fallible and often are predicated on unreliable assumptions” it is important to create meaning within our teaching/learning with others through the lens of our experiences. It is this point where everything falls apart in learning, teaching, religious and political talk, hell, it effects people’s choice in beer or cigarettes. This notion is called “peer clustering”. You can read the studies but lets just say that our ego drives us to perform at a level that matches or exceeds the level of our social network. Therefore, at the end of the day, people (not persons or individuals) are like all groups of pack animals. We inherently want to look cool and get laid.   

Rehearsal adult beliefs/behaviors

            Once the process of reconstruction is complete, the experience is relayed in conversation. It is through the repetition of this discourse that the experience develops “legs of its own”. Timbre, resonance, and emphasis change based on multiple deliveries. Portions of the experience are left out based on validation by others. In the example above, it is often relayed as. My dad used to say, “listen with your ears and not your mouth!” This method allows for multiple inferences. One may think you are explicitly reprimanding them without disrespecting them at the same time someone may think you are singing their praises for good listening.

            Constructivism is an educational /social theory that has served me quite well over the last several years. For learning to take place in children, teens, or adults there must be a cognitive and experiential connection for the learner. That connection is the ability to relate experiences between teacher and learner. The teacher must be able to convey meaning on a level deeper than words in a textbook. There were times when I was a college educator that I would make the connection of an idea to the taste of Syrup of Ipecac. Within five seconds I could count the number of epiphanies that occurred.

More about me later…

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Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-

     Bass

Social Development Theory (Lev Vygotsky). (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/social-development.html

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