The Living Art School
JW's incomplete, working notes for a new HE learning framework
See possible contributors (currently restricted) | See Art School Futures essay
A new HE learning framework
- We think the world needs a less specialised, more creative, fully-embodied higher education system.
- Our framework regards experiential learning as more important than attaining standard assessment targets.
- It augments the HEAD-BASED (monastic) university tradition with learning for HAND, HEART & HUMOUR.
- It therefore encourages curiosity, purposive inquiry and a learner-led agenda for the whole body-mind-spirit.
- The following (working) notes are offered as an introduction to this practical and timely educational initiative.
- Many of our ideas emerged from our metadesign research - see our recent book.
What is the purpose of education?
- In our view, the deep purpose of education is to help citizens to adapt resourcefully/convivially to their habitat.
- The climate emergency brings urgency to this question, so we need radical and practical answers.
- Unfortunately, the current (UK) educational system has become increasingly cost-driven & bureaucratic.
- A learner-centred, adaptation-based education system would work at the ecosystemic and job market levels.
- Moreover, learning how to learn (e.g. heutagogy) would be more cost-effective than a pedagogic approach.
The Biological Order gave way to the Industrial Order
Every learner is unique
- Each human being is different from any other. This one of the outcomes of sexual reproduction and evolution.
- Even when twins are genetically identical, culturally acquired behaviours (or epigenetics) will amplify differences.
Every experience is unique...
- "...consciousness cannot go through the same state twice..." (Bergson - Creative evolution, p.171)
- This has implications for creating egalitarian frameworks, such as fair examination systems in schools and universities.
- How might we reconcile this with the increasingly bureaucratic, examination oriented procedures of universities?
...scaling up societies encouraged standardisation
- Humans appear to have acquired the ability to use hand tools around 2.5 million years ago.
- This might be regarded as an important step in the sensory alienation of our species from its habitat.
- 10k years ago Homo sapiens began the transition from hunter gatherer to agrarian empire builder.
- But colonialism & imperialism means learning to live in groups that greatly exceed Dunbar's number.
- This led to a less personalised communities (e.g. division of labour / categories / castes / specialisms).
- Quantity began to rival quality as accountancy & alphabetical writing emerged, some 5K years ago.
- This helps to explain the emphasis on logic, analysis & reason (i.e. philosophical 'truth'.)
- Today, the summation of learning & coursework into a single final grade (i.e. bottom line) resembles accountancy.
Living systems don't add up
- Fee-paying students in HE are accustomed to the quantification (or grading) of their coursework.
- Often, their final grade or mark is a summation of marking criteria that are incomplete or ambiguous..
- Sometimes, incongruities between different performance criteria are reconciled by academic judgement.
- The need to manage empires and remote colonies is the reason why education emphasises writing and counting.
- If learning always occurs as a unique process for a unique learner, then it cannot be defined, codified, exchanged and evaluated in terms of data, information or knowledge.
- The word education (from Latin word ‘Educare’) implies a teacher’s perspective (i.e. is a top-down idea).
- It is a unidirectional process (i.e. the act of ‘drawing out’ ) in which potential is extracted by the master.
- The word pedagogy also privileges the teacher's, rather than the learner's standpoint.
- By contrast, the Welsh word Dysgu means 'learning', but is also used to mean, in effect, 'teaching'.
- Replacing 'education' with 'dyscovering' (from 'dysgu') announces the intention to share the learning process.
- It technologies designed to diminish / usurp / replace human trust
Our four-fold system
Fig. 1 - Reconciling Four Modes of Learning
- John Ruskin described fine art as an approach that combines 'hand, head and heart'. (see fig. 1).
- Our framework uses this 'art school' approach, but also adds the fourth element: humour.
- Unlike some conventional HE approaches his approach implicitly values tacit knowledge and lived experience.
- It would enable universities to create 4 faculties (Head/Hand/Heart/Humour) with their 6 adjoining pathways.
- We would cultivate/encourage Visioning - with special attention given to how we experience opportunities.
- Artist Anab Jain creates installations offering multi-sensory experiences of likely futures e.g. for climate emergency.
- Her approach is informed by psychological research into why we resist scientific data or intellectual argument.
The 4-Fold Format
- Organisationally (mathematically) the relationships between these values is important, but is limited by being a trio
- This is because quartets have a combinatorial advantage over trios.
- Whereas the trio (3 players) implies 3 relationships, the quartet implies double that number (i.e. 6).
- Although Ruskin names only 3 elements (Head, Hand, Heart) his description of craftsmanship implies 6 relationships.
A set of relational synergies (inspired by John Ruskin's 1885 description of a craft-worker)
- Modern universities evolved from the mediaeval, monastic cultures of silent reading and reflection.
- We use the term head-basedto refer to the predominant mode of learning that is strongly document-centred
- Book learning is important, but it can limit what is learned to knowing that... rather than knowing how....
- Today it is not uncommon to find courses in which learners, teachers & examiners do not meet face-to-face.
- If considered within the more hands-on context of the traditional art school this would be strange .
- Our learning framework will encourage Head-based learning, integrated with skills of the Hand, Heart and Humour.
- In mediaeval times, monasteries hand-copied books as a devotional practice of silent rumination and reflection.
- The advent of printing presses made it easier to validate and to share knowledge that could be written down.
- The Enlightenment further validated Head-based ideas of knowledge (e.g. evidence-validated science).
- Information Technology made books more accessible and distributable.
- Databases, AI, etc, enable the automation/standardization/monetization of large bureaucratic institutions.
- Plato (387 BCE) identified the brain as the seat of the mind.
- Aristotle (335 BCE) saw the heart as the key site for mental processing.
- This debate continues to have important implications for how we design higher education systems.
- Enlightenment mathematician Pascal argued that "The heart has its reason of which reason cannot know" (1670)
- In purely rational terms, the heart's unfathomability makes it untrustworthy? (e.g. it defies quantification).
- Post-Enlightenment industrialisation reflects the search for reductionist systems of time and motion (e.g. Taylorism).
- Many have argued that an over-emphasis on rationality caused a lack of support for creativity in learning
- Medical science has since emphaised the importance of emotional intelligence within management and education.
- It also shows that good intuition can be enhanced by a healthy gut (e.g. bacterial content and diversity).
- See Goleman, (1996), D., Emotional Intelligence; why it can matter more than IQ, Bloomsbury, Great Britain, 1996
- Art School ethos owes less to the mediaeval monastic traditions and more to the mediaeval crafts guilds.
- Instead of analysing and validating truth claims, it seems more concerned with making things work.
- e.g. creative atelier-tradition and art school ethos
- John Ruskin said: Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together. (1859)
- Our approach adds 'humour' to Ruskin's trinity of 'hand, head and heart'. (see fig. 1).
- Playful and performative activities are essential to creative and adaptive living.
- This means creating safe spaces in which it is permissible to challenge the status quo and to have fun.
- Making the process work calls for a radically optimistic and affirmative spirit
- unique or strange combinations of things that may not be noticed by most of the population
- shamanic emulsifiers
- thrive on diversities
- ineffable ambiguities
- = new opportunities + FUN
- Our relational framework for learning is heutagogic and learner-centred.
- It offers a unique ((Tool-1-Tetrahedral-Logic|four-dimensional) framework.
- The Relational Learning Tool (RLT) encourages a more self-reflexive approach.
- It encourages role play - either in collaboration with others, or alone (e.g. at home).
- It relieve examiners from making 'absolute' quality judgements on coursework.
- Instead of the teacher assessing 'specific work' the learner submits a 4D map of the whole context.
- This helps learners to map the key elements of their learning journey in a self-reflexive way.
- It encourage learners to be more ambitious, entrepreneurial, empathetic and risk-taking.
- Learners are marked on how well they recognise their strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures.
- This encourages a risk-taking, ambitious approach.
- This is because learning from failure may win as many marks as achieving success with an easy task.
- When used within an examined curriculum, it makes plagiarism virtually impossible.
Designed to grow and evolve by itself
- Our template is intended to evolve by itself, therefore it will use a Creative Commons license
- We also aim to make the terms & conditions of Share-alike work more effectively.
- Initially we will trial classes as an art foundation course that includes some non-art projects (e.g. science, literature).
- Is free for learners at the point of learning
- Whereas learning in conventional HE colleges and universities is fee-based, ASP is free at the point of use.
- N.B. some regard access to healthcare, food, etc. as human rights to be resourced by local communities.
- May also support non-art disciplines
- Encourages open-ended and playful learning at the pace of curiosity
- A strongly learner-centred approach
- Encourages and supervises self-directed programs of learning
- Offers a heutogogic approach
- i.e. it aims to help learners to learn how to learn better.
- It asks each learner group to assume that each of its member has some learning difficulties (e.g. autism / ADHD / dyslexia)
- It invites each learner to become part of a collective resource (e.g. knowledge base) for the benefit of the other learners