At the spot where communities junction an increase in variety of activity can be found – -this is called the edge effect. The interface between different spaces creates fertile ground for new possibilities (like what happens in waterfront regeneration in landscapes (1)). In the ecology of the classroom edge effects could happen when, for instance, students of different age groups or background come to work together, or when students differing in ability join forces. But education is not that prone of creating edge effects. Most of the time some kind of drawback for not having to ‘edge’ will come forward: “ takes too much time, lowers standards, no resources available” , and the like. These voices must not be ignored for sure, but in reality when edge communities are created, for instance like in inclusive education, concerns turn out to be relatively mild and manageable.
An Australian study supports this observation by looking at what happened to concerns of teachers when adopting inclusive education in their classrooms. There were concerns, as one could imagine. But it also showed that concerns decline with a teachers’ level of confidence in their own teaching ability in teaching a mixed class. Since level of confidence was a significant predictor the study also analyzed if training would add to raise confidence. This turns out to be the case – a reassuring outcome indeed.
So, why be afraid of the edge? Concerns may look like walls too high to climb but with a little help one dares to try, the study seems to say. Still, we need to consider that concerns may also warn us for ‘sharp’ edges or boundary objects (3) i.e., markers that stand in between different worlds as objects that are not fully accepted by either community. In that respect considering concerns as boundary objects becomes necessary to negotiate the nature of overlap. The systemic nature of a sustainable learning landscape requires connectedness, next to confidence. Looking for boundary objects then may help to generate edge communities.
Penny N. Round, Pearl K. Subban & Umesh Sharma (2016) ‘I don’t have time to be this busy.’ Exploring the concerns of secondary school teachers towards inclusive education, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 20:2, 185-198,
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13603116.2015.1079271
Interacting with the world – we all have to learn it one way or the other. So, better start early. Children’s play is probably one of the most powerful ways to explore opportunities, rules of conduct, hindrances, and limitations in what surrounds us. A playground can be harmful but is also a space for repossession and gaining confidence. In our play, for instance at the schoolyard, we learn how to communicate with others: setting rules, disabling interpersonal blockades, and negotiating arrangements. Not all children are efficacious tough. Children with autism fear the playground. To communicate, to interact in rapidly changing social interactions, to bend the rules if only for a short while; these are difficult things to manage for an autistic child. And other children spot this immediately. It is much safer for a child with autism to retract in an inner world of playful experimentation and exploration, in this way to be able to learn about the World. However, it is often considered bad that autistic children withdraw in mindful play, as if it is of a lesser kind (1) .
Fortunately, there is a study that gives a more detailed accounts. Autobiographies of adult autistic persons were carefully analyzed with regard to the nature of their play during childhood. What strikes most it the intensity and vividness of remembrances and height of sensory imaginations in the playful interaction with the ‘world’ in these memoirs. By using varying forms of pretending from different perspectives this play created representations that were orderly and predictable. And especially, provided an enjoyable play time activity.
Play can open a world not previously explored and enables creation of new horizons (2). What can be taken from these autobiographies is the strong sensory experience to get to know the real sense of things. In this way delivering a more intense involvement in what otherwise would remain perhaps superficial or unnoticed. The experience of vivid imagination allowed for a playful manipulation on details and specifics of objects. Children without autism could learn from such a deep engagement with the world of their fellow autistic playmates. That is, deploy another looking glass to gauge at what lies behind ‘normal’ things –, at least, that is what is the essence of play (3) .
Carmel Conn (2015) ‘Sensory highs’, ‘vivid rememberings’ and ‘interactive stimming’: children’s play cultures and experiences of friendship in autistic autobiographies, In:Disability & Society, 30:8, 1192-1206, To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2015.1081094
3. http://developmentalpathways.com/program-essence.html Continue reading
Gaming is a serious business. This is not to refer to the international contests for gamers to win considerable prize money or the huge communities in game play and -development (1). Gaming is not for geeks anymore; it has grown into a widespread, common leisure activity for all to participate in. Actually, it is more than a way to pass the time, or get into contacts with other gamers, for instance through massively multiplayer online role-playing games, MMORPG’s (1). Above all, it is to enter a world of meaning giving and self-discovery. In interaction with a game play a lot is learned about oneself: on handling stress, persistence, ability, shrewdness, and so forth. Almost the real thing, so it would seem, but is it? We are passed the debate on whether gaming can be educative; it is (2) . In fact, gaming can be considered as an activity in identity formation. By creating virtual self’s, gaming opens up ways to reflect about oneself and discover insights in journeys undertaken through the quests offered in a game. As such it is a practice of becoming a person.
An interesting article discusses the issue whether gaming blurs the distinction between the inside and outside, between control in gaming and agency in reality. We all are aware of frightening occurrences that reach us through the news where such a distinction has failed, and an isolated person committed a act of cruelty (3). The position paper proposed we welcome the digital opportunity of gaming to discover identity and “the transformative power of digital agency and production, the heightened consciousness of human relationality, and the ritualized and reflective practice of gaming”.
Gaming is here to stay, gaining in reality resemblance. The interaction between a gamer and virtual contexts offered increasingly will become more sophisticated. But that does not mean the gamer will become a more moral, reflective, relational person or have a “polyphonic digital identity” (as mentioned in article). The thing with games is that they provide contexts (“worlds”) to play in, but no contesting of (moral) choices made. There is no ‘other’ as a real person to question and challenge game experiences. A gamer remains a tragic hero. It is not like a playground at the schoolyard where there is interactional modification (by peers or supervision). It would be great to add that to game play.
This article: Karen-Marie Yust (2015) Digital play as a spiritually formative activity, International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, 20:2, 129-138, DOI:10.1080/1364436X.2015.1055459
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1364436X.2015.1055459
No one likes to be told what to do, or say, or believe. Of course not. Still, we are being ordered, coerced, or persuaded all the time. Be it sneaky or overt, concealed or blunt, convincing or forced. Main reason for our dislike is that it is confronting, and ultimately implying that “we must change our lives” (1). But what if we do not want to adjust, or follow imperatives stated for us? What if the required changes conflict with our beliefs and orientation? In education, and other helping professions, this creates a huge dilemma. A mentor, a teacher in interaction with a student, would like to point out certain learning needs, specific learning problems but this takes effect only when acknowledged by the mentee, the learner. One interesting aspect of this huge (helping) dilemma is the part that deals with the interaction between helper and the one being helped. Are they both accepting, acknowledging each other point of view? Are they creating space for bridging between another? In interactions between an advice giver and a mentee there can/will be inequality in power and position. Therefore, a bridging relationship calls for cognitive justice (2); that is, recognition of integrity in knowledge creation which starts by creating space to allow for expression of views. You cannot “force to know”.
A matter of concern would be the case when bridging faults, when the space in-between is too wide. Then the twain will never meet. An illuminative study in counseling helps to clarify this concern. It looked into the position and role of a counselor interacting with Black Pentecostal clients. These clients belong to a faith group with strong convictions and emotional ways of interaction. The study points to the importance of creating space by 1) counsellor awareness of personal cultural identity, 2) counsellor awareness of the client’s cultural identity, 3) setting up a working alliance, and 4) recognizing social justice as the foundation for practice.
Still this does not illuminate how space making would work. May be it is simply (although it never really is) to be invitational in interaction (3). Inviting to: express, clarify, show, maintain …, there are a myriad of ways to engage in interaction that allow for making a space that invites. The core of it would be: not telling what to do, say or believe but listening to what the other says, does or thinks, … in order to…
Sandra Dixon & Nancy Arthur; (2015). Creating Space to Engage Black Pentecostal Clients in Multicultural Counselling Practices Published online: 19 December 2014 by Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014. Published in: Int J Adv Counselling (2015) 37:93–104; DOI 10.1007/s10447-014-9228-x
Failure, you want to avoid that! How annoying and discomforting is it to experience that you flopped. A reassuring response would be to say to yourself: well, a lesson learned, or well, that was not the real me, next time better. Or blame it “on the boogie” (1). We all have our motivational and approach-avoiding strategies. The classroom is a place where you become aware how to deal with evaluations of your competence and performance. Mostly in reference to what your peers manage to accomplish (2) . You learn how tricky the balance is between effort and ability, and hot it depends on the (un)fairness of your teacher who does the assessing. On top of that exist parents as a complicating factor; they mostly seem interested in end-results, not the efforts made. It is a delicate thing: dealing with failure. Success breeds success but how do you cope when foreseeing bad results on tests or assignments to be made? Being high in avoidance of failure could mean you are setting your performance goals low and that would imply low attainments as well. Climbing the achievement ladder causes you to make tradeoffs. Now imagine you are not the only one involved in making these tradeoffs but that others, most notably parents, are looking over your shoulder. Suppose they set standards high, for many reasons. Then it becomes really delicate. 10 to 1 that you decide to try to avoid failure.
This is precisely the situation a French study looked into in more detail. The study particularly gauged ‘first generation” students from immigrant backgrounds. Often these students outperform regular students in their school achievement scores (3) and are highly motivated to excel. The study found these students were also high in trying to avoid failure and avoiding high performance goals (being afraid of performing poorly). The study’s contribution is to point out that it is not simply a matter of motivation but clearly one of social belonging and cultural environment of students. Pressure or expectations in your immediate life space are being internalized, as the study suggests, and affects study orientation and motivation.
Apart from the lesson learned that motivation is not merely internal but framed by others and circumstance, a warning is given by the study’s results in that teachers might misinterpret underperforming. Students potentially high in mastery may show a low motivation to perform but while low in setting their performance goals this may be caused by fear of failure. Complex.
When first-generation students succeed at university: On the link between social class, academic performance, and performance-avoidance goals by Mickael Jury,, Annique Smeding , Martine Court, Celine Darnon; Contemporary Educational Psychology 41 (2015) 25–36;
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2014.11.0010361-476X /c 2014 Elsevier Inc.
Education requires participation. If not, how else would one benefit from it? But what if circumstance, conditions, and, or prerequisites are hindering a full involvement? In urban areas school drop out can rise up to 54%! (1); young people, 18 years old, are leaving formal education without any certification. This can amount to 45%. But numbers do not tell the whole story here. It is the sad deduction that an opportunity was failed and a talent was lost. Education must be for all.
The author of the study cited, J. Smyth, wrote a review on the position of schooling in poor areas. Between the lines you feel anger and astonishment about current practices and failing results when it comes to participation of students.
When it comes to the debate on disadvantaged students and socio-economic inequality there is often fierce and sometimes offensive discussion in which the role of research is quite often misused. One quote in this either-or fashion: “Pisa evidence suggests that child poverty has less impact on children’s test results in the UK than it does on average in the 66 countries that participated in the survey. Perhaps Britain’s under-performance has more to do with low teacher standards”.(3). Especially the transition in argumentation needs to be noted here.
The author having a long research engagement in the issue of poverty and education notes there is more to it than the eyes meet at first glance. Stimulating and qualified teachers, student emancipatory action which is embedded in a local community makes education and schooling worthwhile to them again. It is the concerted action of all three that counts. (tongue in cheek: teachers could make the real difference here).
Improving schools in poor areas: It’s not about the organisation, structures and privatisation, stupid!
Improving Schools 2014, Vol. 17(3) 231–240
www.sagepub.co.uk/journals ; www.DOI: 10.1177/1365480214556418
The above picture was taken from a sculpture by Yue Minjun
How did the great explorers from the past (Stanley, Amundsen, Scott…) proceed? Did they know precisely in advance what to look for and where to go? Or was it joy in the endeavor and challenge itself that drove them? Searching, exploring can be fun. The thing is: without some sort of a plan you will be lost soon. Even more so; without some prior knowledge of what to look for, and how to interpret what you find you will end up nowhere. This is nicely illustrated in the conversation Socrates had with a slave boy called Meno. Trying to explain a problem to someone without any prior familiarity with it is doomed to fail and Plato (who documented the conversation) interprets this as learning not being a matter of discovering something new but rather of recollecting something the soul knew before birth but has since forgotten.
I wondered if this would apply to the study cited. Students having a strong mastery orientation (“want to learn”) no doubt must have encountered difficulty when the task is relatively new (and all good instructional tasks should be). Having adequate problem solving strategies helps to approach the task but may not necessarily be enough to conquer the task. Therefore, just exploring could put them off track (with considerable consequences for the teacher to bring them back on track again) .
Put otherwise : there is a third compass needed in completing the travel: 1) learning style/preference/approach/orientation of the student (1) ; next to 2) task specific, instruction based problem solving strategies (2) , next to 3) student prior knowledge gained from previous instruction. I suppose exploration will be successful within already familiar tasks (just following Plato here) .
Exploring in a performance orientation simply is counterintuitive for these students. For them a task which is not dealt before in previous instruction should be taught first (building up prior knowledge); then relevant strategies might work to cope with the task.
In order to travel a landscape you need a goal (an orientation), a plan (previous knowledge), and a route (problem solving strategies); but having all three is no guarantee you get there.
Achievement motivation and knowledge development during exploratory learning by Daniel A. De Caro, Marci S. De Caro , Bethany Rittle-Johnson Learning and Individual Differences 37 (2015) 13–26.
Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2014.10.0151041-6080 /© 2014 Published by Elsevier Inc.
Learning can be faked. Does not everyone recall at least one awkward moment when you said that everything was understood, clear, and copied but in fact it was not? Not all learning is straightforward or productive from the start. One needs time to grasp the gist of things, and people differ in this respect. When all learning must be visible and laid open for evaluation, i.e., be explicit, few of us would dare to explore, try out, and ask for help. We simply need the experience of probing (1).
The study cited looks at organizational places where learning can be done informally and casually. The authors provide us with a handy tool (a matrix) to identify spots that give rise to learning achievements. They mention three processes that govern these spots: reflection, sharing, and being innovate.
Considering these processes more closely reveals that in fact they are making the informal explicit – the upper right corner of my diagram. And that is fine; it is a prominent way of learning (2). The tool offered in the article would also apply, I guess, for the lower left corner: for instance, in making symposia resourceful.
But let us not forget there are more wonderful spots at which learning occurs (the non-shaded areas for instance). I would plead for learning as a play-ground – the upper left(3): to discover, walk around, inquire, and seek for emerging understandings. Being able to appreciate that the end-results can be put on hold (for a while) could add much to the value learning has for all of us.
Organisational learning as an emerging process: The generative role of digital tools in informal learning practices by Stefano Za, Paolo Spagnoletti and Andrea North-Samardzic
British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol 45, No 6, 2014, 1023–1035
School-time for life-time it was said in one of the previous blogs. But how can that be? Do not elderly people learn different from that what is asked in schools (1); is it not obvious that learning at the workplace is not school-like at all? The issue of differences in learning has been raised before: Can there be one theory of learning for all; or should we diversify? The issue has not been resolved however.
Back in the thirties, in the US Hull and Spencer, and later Hilgard disputed about a General Theory of Learning; In Europe a theory of learning was considered relevant only in as far as it supported pedagogy (Herbart, Kohnstamm, and mostly Kerschensteiner (2).
The article by Tam picks up on that long standing issue . Most of the arguments pro and con can be found here. For a distinctive way of viewing how people learn pleads the following: there are identifiable periods across the life span; changes in society call for targeted learning; not everyone experiences the same typical learning problems; and different people have different motivations.
On the other hand one could argue that: learning is a core human activity from birth to old age; in essence based on curiosity and built on experience. In all its varied forms learning is “engaging in direct encounter and then purposefully reflect upon, validate, transform, give personal meaning to and seek to integrate their ways of knowing “(cited from Mercken 2010 by Tam p. 815).
Now there lies certainly an interest in the above dispute when we embed it in the demand for Life Long Learning (3). Is “school-time for life-time” to be equated with this? I would not say so. The LLL demand is primarily one for employability and adaptation of the workforce to technological and management development (4). An alternate viewpoint is captured with the idea of “school-time for life-time” which has to do with “educating minds “ (5) and that is based in Mercken’s classification and characterization of exploring, searching, studying and valuing what matters in one’s life. And that goal fits us all.
Maureen Tam (2014) A distinctive theory of teaching and learning for older learners: why and why not?, International Journal of Lifelong Education, 33:6, 811-820,
link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02601370.2014.972998