Teaching Cartoon: Enactivism I.


Enactivism, a combination of Constructivism and Embodied Cognition, is a theory wherein cognition and environment are inseparable, and learning is drawn from the interaction between learner and environment. It is rooted in the phenomenological work of Merleau-Ponty and Bateson’s biological perspective work. Enactivism is underpinned by the thought that actions are not simply a display of understanding, but they are themselves understandings. This makes it possible to observe how humans learn alone and in groups, and how participation in any shared actions contribute to an overall sense of identity. For the enactivist, what is imagined, what is fantasized, what is guessed at, and what is intuited, are understood as being extremely important to meaning making and contributing to knowledge and what is learned. Cognition is an evolving interaction between systems; the cognitive system is a producer of meaning rather than a processor of information, as in constructivism. Learning is not about gaining information; instead, it is seen as an ongoing process of exploration about consciousness, self, context, and interactions of complex systems in order to adapt to the evolving world. Action and mental process are inseparable; action is knowledge. Applied to an educational context, enactivism stresses that reality and mind are interlinked and cannot be separated; as a result, learning should never occur as isolated events in a classroom. Bernier and Busby 510Wiki Technology-Enhanced Learning Environments

(bold emphasis is my own.) Bernier and Busby ‘s definition is succinct. Definitions of enactivism vary. Wikipedia’s initial definition:

Enactivism argues that cognition arises through a dynamic interaction between an acting organism and its environment. It claims that our environment is one which we selectively create through our capacities to interact with the world. “Organisms do not passively receive information from their environments, which they then translate into internal representations. Natural cognitive systems…participate in the generation of meaning …engaging in transformational and not merely informational interactions: they enact a world.”

This is okay, but its use of participate is question-begging. Yet, definitions of enactivism are, by definition, question-begging too, because each definition terminates in a particular evolving interaction. This is hardly a global termination because what enactivism can be said to be is the best explanation given the integrity of the specific action of grasping what it is enactivism. There is here, then, a recursive aspect. (I would suggest there is here a 1st and 2nd order biosemiotic bridge too. The synthesis of enactivism and biosemiotics has yet to be accomplished.)

Biosemiosis, [is the] processes whereby living systems identify and interpret environmental states or events as signs – visual, olfacory, auditive etc. – [and use] them to guide their activities.  (Jesper Hoffmeyer)

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