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Learning to be

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 8 months ago
Lecturing can be a very effective way of communicating information about a subject and listening to a lecturer and following up with reading and discussion can help students learn about something. But to learn to be requires a student to become an apprentice, to immerse themselves in ways of being in a particular social enterprise and context.
Learning about is essentially the communicating, memorising and making sense of explicit codified knowledge while learning to be involves the sharing and enculturation into the tacit and informal knowledge of the practitioners involved in doing and being.
Learning to be involves: enculturation into the practices and ways of being, seeing and knowing in the field. It involves sensing what constitutes an interesting problem; knowing what constitutes an elegant solution (or novel solution); able to engage in productive enquiry – deliberately seeking what we need in order to do what we need/want to do. John Seely Brown captures very nicely the differences between learning about and learning to be in his iceberg picture of knowledge.
We agree with John that we have to find ways for our students to “learn to be” much earlier in their formal education and also recognise the ways in which they are learning to be elsewhere in their lives. Today’s students want to create and learn at the same time. They want to put content to use immedi­ately. They want knowledge that is situ­ated and able to be acted on—all aspects of learning to be, an identity-forming activity. By proceeding along this path, a student bridges the gap between knowl­edge and knowing.
Jean Lave’s theory of situated cogni­tion focuses on learning as enculturation into a practice, often through the process of “legitimate peripheral participation” in a laboratory, studio, workplace or other experiential set­ting. Although this term is often thought of as equivalent to apprenticeship learn­ing, it is a more general concept. In an apprenticeship, the student is there to learn a practice under a master who, if he or she is good, has carefully meted out a set of increasingly challenging activities for the student to perform. In peripheral participation the student is engaged in real work, fully participating in the tech­nical and social interchanges. He or she is able not only to learn to do the job, but also to pick up, as though through osmo­sis, the sensibilities, beliefs, and idiosyn­crasies of the particular community of practice. Learning happens seamlessly as part of an enculturation process as the learner moves from the periphery to a more central position in the community.
Needless to say, each community is itself embedded in a broader epistemic frame, which suggests what prob­lems are considered interesting, what an elegant solution is like, what warrants are acceptable in an argument, and so forth. The frame is often only implicit, but being in a community of practice enables the learner to intuit and embody it. Underlying this all is the notion of en­gaging in productive inquiry, that aspect of any activity in which we deliberately seek what we need in order to do what we want to do.
This sparkler for thinking is drawn from John Seely Brown’s Exploring the Edge article.

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