Brain, Education, and Inquiry - Fall, 2010: Session 8
Braiding three lines of inquiry
- our own experiences of education in relation to other peoples'
- doing our own experiment in co-constructive inquiry
- exploring usefulness of insights from studies of brain for thinking about education
Issues of own experiences in re other peoples' (from first web papers)
- importance of encouraging "creativity" in classroom (vs rote learning) - Abby Em, Amenah, Angela Digioia, bennett, evren, FinnWing, jessicacarizzo, kgould, kwarlizzie, LinKai Jiang, skindeep
- importance of achievement gap, standardized testing, acculturation - D2B, eledford, epeck, L Cubed, Liz J, ln0691, mmc, simonec
Exploring a contrast/difference:
Can we find new stories about the objective of education, individual and/or shared? (Enuma, Emily, Abby, Maheen, LinKai; Elana, Christina, Angela, Bennett, Devanshi; Liz, Ellen, Evren, Kate, Naa Kwarley; Mae, Simone, Jessica, Lars)
Overall objective: students are respected and, after years later, are able to apply the skills to the current situation. Students have a certain consciousness in the real world; they seek out what is new and unknown to them to expand their knowledge .... Abby, Angela, Bennett, Elana
the goal of education is to create innovators ... Liz, Ellen, Naa Quarley, Evren
Group statement about the current objective of education: Creativity, discipline and utility are not contradictory; they are compatible. There is a basis/ a foundation and then comes the intellectual creativity ... Emily, Maheen, LinKai, Enuma
Teachers should be held to higher standards, and part of that may involve teachers being perceived differently and more appreciated by society ... Lars, Jessica, Mae, Simone
Class is itself an experiment in a particular form of education: co-constructive inquiry
Learning by interacting, sharing observations and understandings to create, individually and collectively, new understandings and new questions that motivate new observations
Depends on co-constructive dialogue, being comfortable sharing existing understandings, both conscious and unconscious, in order to use them to construct new ones. Need diversity of understandings, need to be able to both speak and listen without fear of judgment. Need to see both self and others as always in process, always evolving
"the school she was in, was known to be a 'difficult' school, with 'problem' kids. and yet, the school in itself, with its infrastructure, reminded us both of the schools we attended, in India. - they weren't in the best condition, we didnt have computers much less a computer lab, the teachers were underpaid and the facilities weren't great. yet. our schools were considered one of the best in our cities. and so, we were treated with respect, and intelligence, and people spoke to us like they expected things from us - as a result of which, we learned to work and rise up to those expectations. and i cant help but wonder, how much of the problem we face right now, has to do with this - stereotypes, labels and expectations. if you dont think a child can do something, and everyone around him believes he's bound to fail, one day, he'll learn to believe it too. and whats the point in that? ... skindeep
Breaking off into small groups this evening was excellent. There is a lot to say and hear in class, and being in a small group enabled me to say and hear more depth of perspective, which I really appreciated ... FinnWing
Sign up to try facilitating co-constructive inquiry yourself, individually or in small groups. Email me with names/topic/date preferred. Something on how something about brain does (or doesn't) help think about education. Paper on this topic due 1 November.
Continuing from where we are: from last weeks forum
It's pretty transparently cynical of me, and maybe lazy too, to appeal immediately to our baser instincts – ideally, it be nice if people just "cared about the things that matter," rather than having to have some kind of material incentive. But I also think there's a good chance here to use some of the things that I've learned about the brain to make a less cynical, less reductive claim. It's probably not true that people simply always do things for money, or that money is somehow inherently worth doing, and our brains are hard-wired to stay focused always on making money. The brain, as we've learned, is a system that flexibly and adaptably handles inputs and outputs. It seems reasonable to imagine that there is or could be a way to reconfigure the relationship between conceptual inputs and outputs – we're not stuck with a system that demands that money have a high value. So then the question is how exactly to affect those changes, which is something I think we could explore in class, if we want to ... bennett (and lots of others re teaching/money)
I wonder if what we've learned about the brain would actually encourage us to depriviledge the conscious even more and focus on what the infinitely fecund unconscious is telling us. Not just as a receptacle for "unacceptable" conscious impulses, but rather a free, id-governed (or ungoverened) space, ie sans the negative moral connotation ... jessicarizzo
when the world starts getting wobbly and things seem dreamy even though I'm awake, I'm able to take a deep breath and just know that it isn't the end of the world. I can roll with it. And the events haven't been as bad, or I haven't noticed them as much. I've been slowly changing my reception of and reaction to them. I guess, because of all of this, I am more than willing to acknowledge the brain as a construction, as the world as a construction, of no one, right reality. My experiences with SLE aren't wrong or crazy. They're just another perspective, another reality, another self. And it's helped me develop my own interests and skills and paths. Not all bad, I guess ... kgould
i found this really interesting. the idea that something doesnt need to happen to you for you to be a certain way - just thinking, or rather believing, it happened is enough .... i wonder how we distinguish between what counts as confabulation and what doesnt. when it comes to matters in faith, or matters of consciousness, who apart from the person who has experienced the situation can fairly decide if it actually happened or not? this makes me wonder about people with schitzophrenia, or people who claim they have seen god. it also makes me wonder where then, is it okay to draw the line? because to be functional in this society, people need to be at a certain consensus about what did and did not happen, and what qualifies as an experience, and what does not. how else would we build concepts like morality, law, even education? ... skindeep
see Brain Fiction by William Hirstein, MIT Press, 2006
Last class we established that the neocortex is essentially a story-teller. It takes information from all the different parts (that communicate with each other and the outside world) to create a single, coherent story. So everything we know, everything we have ever known is a construction ... But where does that leave us? We can take either end of the spectrum - either there are an infinite number of truths/realties/equally valid constructions or there an no truths at all - but both are equally problematic. If there are no truths then there is no right or wrong and society falls apart. If all constructions are valid, then which ones do we adopt because surely we apply all of them to society (some, for example, might contradict each other but that doesn't make them any less valid). Sure, we can have a shared construction, but then who decides which construction is right and the best one to follow? The majority? The bourgeoisie? The past/the way things have always been? Moreover, if nothing is true, what are we teaching/should we teach our kids? ... Amenah
For group consideration: "if nothing is true, what are we teaching/should we teach our kids?"
Implications for education (to date):
- Brain as loop, active empirical inquirer, can create new things
- Perception, action, knowledge as construction
- Stop presenting understandings as "right," "definitive"; present instead as foundation for developing new understandings?
- Diversity in classrooms an asset rather than a problem?
- Ability to see things in multiple ways a virtue, a desired result of education?
- Inquiry skill is present at birth, rather than dependent on maturation/education
- Acknowledge, make use of distributed/bipartite organization, internal "conflict"?
- "boldness/vision," "choosing ... questions [one] wants to ask, or articulating those questions [oneself]" is related to thought/feeling and neocortex, reflective versus unconscious process
- There is a space between the cognitive unconscious and the story teller that leaves room for change/newness/individual agency
We are distributed systems, constantly using conflicts to generate new understandings
The bipartite brain - adding in the neocortex (where is Christopher Reeves?)
More on bipartite brain
Dreaming, sleep walking, locked in syndrome
Relevant for thinking about constructedness of world but also of self: pain, phantom limb pain, confabulation
Interactions of cognitive unconscious (Marvin Minsky, Society of Mind) and story teller
Thoughts, feelings, aspirations not parallel to cognitive unconscious but rather derived from it
Emotion, intuition not distinct from thought but a part of it (Antonio Damasio, Descartes' Error)
Internal co-constructive dialogue/inquiry as well as external
Internal conflicts (weight control), added capabilities: to conceive beyond experience
Constructing a story of the world
- informed guessing and beyond
- some more examples
- and beyond
- creating meaning
- Implications for understanding "understanding"?
Constructing a story of the self and of one's relation to the world
Loop 1 Empirical knowledge generated by conflicts with outside world
Loop 2 New understandings generated by internal conflicts
Revising the conscious
Revising the unconscious
Loop 3 Interpersonal relations, society/culture, morality: new understandings generated by conflicts between brains
- Culture as disability
- The emotional dog and it rational tail (click on title for .pdf after entering info)
- The moral life of babies
The brain uses three intersecting loops to detect conflicts/differences, uses them to create new ways of being, over and over again - The objective of education is to facilitate that ongoing process
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
- Rumi (1207-1273)
Your continuing thoughts about all this and its relation to the classroom in the forum below ....