Have you ever tried to unlearn something? Unlearning deliberately what you already can do? It is almost impossible. What you can stays with you; as a routine it may be wear over time, get rusty; but once initiated again it will get going. Take for instance driving a car manually again after a prolonged time, or writing with a fountain pen after ages of typing on a keyboard. Probably unlearning is not possible at all (a psychology of the brain will probably say something about rewiring, as if…(1). And what about unlearning what you know? Forgetting – we can do that. But deliberately? Erasing your memory; computers can, but humans? An interesting case is presented in an article by a prominent Australian educationalist looking back on her work over the last 25 years to find developments in her thinking and changes in her views on educating teachers. She acknowledges that her perspective on professional learning has changed quite substantially; roughly speaking from an individualistic, reflective view on learning to a peer to peer, and interactive way; stressing the importance of implicit learning.
The article gives some memorable and worthwhile reflections. What is striking though is that only in a small, final commentary a word is given to a positioning of her changing views. However, apart from having experienced ‘a sustaining space’ no reference is made on how progressing views were dealt with.
Insights may change and views can grow more mature during the course of a career but one wonders; what is done with the old? Is it forgotten, abandoned, discarded, and ignored, or what? How does one deal with what once was cherished but now has worn out? Is the answer: “when I was a child, I thought like a child, now I am a man I …” One way to cope is to disregard and start over; another is blaming it on accumulated wisdom, or age. But the point is: it is still there, in need of reconciliation. Somehow we are emotionally attached to the ideas that are in need of replacement (2). When unlearning is not possible; embedding is.
Rosie Le Cornu (2016) Professional experience: learning from the past to build the future, Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 44:1, 80-101,
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1359866X.2015.1102200