Daily Archives: January 3, 2011

Stop Boxing

Ralph Waldo Emerson om experience

When I’m working playfully in my squareONE transformative learning mode, I’m always doing a version of the following experiment, here defined as its hypothesis:

Given experiential engagement of a novel process and its novel set of data, the learner will be moved to discover insights as a matter of his or her exploration within the field of this unusual process and its unique data.

There is a ‘meta’ hypothesis, surrounding this too: that such insights are not easily derived from other “non-novel” varieties of engaged learning.

My hypothesis has been proved in one-on-one work just about every time; maybe 90% of the time. In groups, where the facilitator–me–cannot apply experienced guidance evenly, the successful demonstration of the validity of the hypothesis approaches 50%. I’d estimate in groups of six or less, the success rate is around 75%.

What is being proved is that novelty is a powerful source for transformative learning. There is a third instance of novelty: the learner’s approach. I understand this to be the learner’s ability to move beyond their most naturally familiar and often habitual approach.

My guidance is fit to the challenge of gently compelling the learner’s shifting their approach to a novel one. I could go on and on about the various obstacles in the way between a learner’s familiar approach and something innovative. Likewise I could describe the facilitator’s skills!

I’ve learned a lot about what characterizes the elite learner in this kind of process. These kinds of learners combine, in different measures, the qualities of openness, playfulness, creativity, and, its clear to me such learners often have some prior experience with inhabiting a different perspective.

As well, negotiating innovative approaches can seem to be easeful where the learner possesses a deep, personal culture. The consequential effect of this is that the learner has some prior experience with, and has practiced their own flexible, (third order,) capabilities. Another way to describe these kinds of capabilities is to say the adept exploratory learner uses a practiced, diverse, repertoire able to be used to explore in novel ways a novel process and its novel data.

In my ‘soft’ theorizing, from observing such learners, it is apparent they can bring to bear on experiential learning what I term, g>a doubled-double loop learning; (the third order referenced above.) This is a style of engagement in which a third, or meta order, comes into play. Not only can the learner re-adapt their approach in the real time circumstance of the process, the learner also can navigate a variety of means for doing this, so, the adaptation found in the so-called double loop is itself subject to a further selection from an overarching ‘meta-loop,’ or, in my terms, diverse repertoire.

An example of this is when the learner uses symbolic data discovered in the novel data set to modify their approach to the data. This secondary data is used to alter their scheme in manipulating, etc., the primary data.

It is possible to point out, or cue, some of these possibilities to less practiced learners. This move goes like this: instead of suggesting ‘Have you ever looked at this other way?’ the suggestion is, “Have you ever looked at how you look, when you’re looking to look, at it another way?” But, this is would be a very unusual move for me to make. (I do not risk pulling the learner into my world, so-to-speak.)

From my perspective, the point is not to get outside the box, it’s to get outside of boxes.

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