A New Learning Framework

(Return to the introduction)


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  • How might a society transform itself from the inside?
  • An essential part of this process is to reimagine the world very differently from how governments see it.
  • It means daring to think beyond (what we had assumed to be) 'possible'.
  • A perfect starting place is to re-imagine the education system differently.
  • We can invite each individual to envision how he/she/they would like to live.
  • Granting learners a 'licence to dream' might require them to trust one another's imagination.

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Education in a Neoliberal Economy

square-50cm-spacer.jpg What's the Point of Education?

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  • We need to review the common assumptions and habits that maintain the status quo.
  • Which, for example, is more important?:
    • 1. - to concentrate on the skills known to produce better exam grades?
    • 2. - to re-invent the criteria that encourage and enable transformation at the global scale?
  • Today's universities were shaped by market forces that affect recruitment policies and grading criteria.

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Future Learning

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Q: - what is the deep purpose of education? (not all professional educators appear to address this question).
A: - to help us (as living creatures) to adapt to our habitat in a resourceful and convivial way.
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How Can We Improve?

  • Presumptuous 21st century lifestyle habits are making our habitat increasingly dangerous.
  • Biodiversity depletions and the Climate Emergency make it both poignant and pressing.
  • Radical and appropriate change is required.
  • We therefore need citizens:
    • who know who they are
    • who know how others see them
    • who are able to invent, make and mend things
    • who know who their own cognitive styles
    • who know how to find others with complementary skills
    • who know who they want to be
    • who know how to learn
    • who are more socially engaged
    • who are more creative
    • who are more observant
    • who are better informed
    • who are more resourceful
  • Ultimately, we aim to broaden the scope of art schools whilst developing some of their pedagogies for non-art subjects.
  • This will include taking knowledge out of its disciplinary silos and to offer a learning and assessment framework that treats learners as responsible citizens.

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The University Paradigm

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  1. Fortunately, many of the above skills are fostered by modern universities.
  2. However, the Higher Education traditions reflect the solitary habits of rumination and book copying that grew from the mediaeval monastic traditions
  3. This explains why numeracy and literacy are assumed to be essential pre-requisites to entry into universities.
  4. Traditional university reasoning is typically associated with critical thinking, intellectual analysis, deductive reasoning and the ability to conduct scholarly research, rather than, say, craft skills, emotional intelligence or abductive reasoning.
  5. One of the shortcomings of scholastic (book-based) reasoning is a lack of clarity around the question of how, where and when'' we can identify knowledge.
  6. It will be important to reconcile lived experience and book-based knowledge more closely.

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The Head-Based Paradigm

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  1. The Age of Enlightenment was a time for the blossoming of Head-oriented reasoning in which methods of detached observation and measurement grew into what we now call evidence-based science.
  2. However, we need more than scientific reasoning to create the cultural metamorphosis we need to address the world's biggest problems.
  3. One way to augment the 'Head-based' approach is to add a touch of Art School Thinking.

The Art School Paradigm

  1. To some extent, the art schools have a similar pedigree to other universities, albeit one that is closer to the practices of the mediaeval Crafts Guilds, rather than the monasteries.
  2. Here, arguably, the idea of 'knowing' is less definable as a truth-claim and more as knowing how - i.e. as an outcome-oriented process of shaping to make things work.

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  1. Although art schools have been assimilated into a common university framework this has failed to change the University Paradigm.
  2. Universities set 'standards' in order to uphold so-called academic rigour.
  3. Their practices therefore have become ossified by common bureaucratic procedures that - at worst - value the fairness of grading above the joy of learning.
  4. We can apply the best of both traditions by widening the scope of learning and by giving learners a greater level of creative autonomy.
  5. The deep purpose of learning can also become overshadowed by bureaucratic reasoning that focuses on hierarchies and quantities, rather than qualities and values.

"There are no subjects at all..."

  1. In the 20th century, hypertext 'ate the book' and spewed it out in ways that defied older notions of 'knowledge' or 'wisdom' (e.g. Wikipedia and Zoom).

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  1. Several centuries ago, handwriting was displaced by the printing press which, in turn, was usurped by technologies of sound and vision.
  2. The book-based practices and assumptions that inspired scholasticism dissolved into more recent developments, such as the World-Wide-Web and evidence-based science.
  3. In 1974, internet visionary Ted Nelson coined the term 'intertwingling', saying that “...there are no subjects at all; there is only knowledge, since the cross-connections among the myriad topics of this world simply cannot be divided up neatly” (Nelson, 1980).
  4. The picture gets more complicated when one remembers that all knowledge is also embodied knowledge.

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