Reflection 9: Are the Students Ready?

I believe I now have a much better appreciation and knowledge about constructivism. I have touched on the ever expansive social development theory in an earlier posting and how it has grown into different branches of learning theory.

To develop an effective learning community is to inculcate collaborative learning at the core of the community. Cognitive development starts at individual level supported at the community level. Trialogical learning theory explains this best through the 3 metaphors of learning (Paavola & Haikkarainen, 2005).

The 3 Metaphors of Knowledge Creation

The three metaphors exists since time immemorial. It was how our ancestors learn to survive and progress from hunter-gatherer, to farmers and eventually to the modern day state that we now are in. A child in a hunter-gatherer community learns and internalises as he observes the elders in the community hunting and sharing the bounty. He builds schema in his mind through the monologue in his mind. As he grows, he participates in the communal hunt and through his interaction he learns a techniques and tools of the hunt. This is the social dialogue where the exchanges with his elders and peers enrich and sharpen his knowledge further. With time, he grew older both mind monologue and social dialogue help him to create new knowledge in the form of new tools, techniques and leadership. This is the knowledge creation metaphor which is further elaborated and expanded by the activity theory mentioned in my earlier post.

The criticism of trialogical model in the learning continuum, in my mind is in the communal elements. It doesn’t elaborate on the social change but rather on individual level. This shortcoming is refined in third generation activity theory. For example, the hunter-gatherer status will stay static for as long as the community clings on to the belief that is is the best way of life. Only when an individual in that community starts to explore other communities, say a farming community, that he starts to learn new techniques which explains the rise of barter trade. I reflect on my journey as an accountant and the plunge I made into accounting education. As I move into accounting education, I was still roaming within the accountants community. Nothing had changed much even though it was still part of the wider education backdrop. Only when I get into the education learning that I start to see different perspectives being surrounded by educationists and instructional design experts.

Nonaka further enhance the understanding on knowledge creation theory through the SECI model which states that cognition process gains momentum in a spiral dynamics moving from socialisation to externalisation to combination of cognitive process and internalisation.

Nonaka’s SECI Model

The application of SECI has much relevance in the modern day living. However, one element of SECI that struck interest in my mind is the concept of Group Tacit Knowledge (GTK) which is concerned with the community’s capability to consider the best actions for common interest of the community. GTK is also can be related to the communal response to uncertainty and ability to think of multiple contingencies of such uncertainty.

Now this has a deep and meaningful impact in the education system. A child in a poor environment will find it a challenge to move out of poverty and will continue to look up to his elders as the epitome of life. This doesn’t do justice to his personal development as he will continue to stay in the same circle. He may have mastered the skills but will find a challenge to compete in an open and competitive world. However, his future becomes better the moment the community he is in realises the challenges that potentially exist and takes steps to overcome it by looking outside the community for the benefit of the younger generation’s education.

The event or condition that changes the outcome in many instances are not merely the learning process (as explained by the plethora of theories) but rather the leadership either at individual level or at communal level. The direction of the community towards progress is driven by its leadership. This is evident in our education system, and the geo-political landscapes. Global climate crisis is one great example. As I mused in my earlier post whether the student is ready, the bigger question in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) age is whether the leadership of communities, nations and the world is ready for change. Again, we may develop the best of theories but it is leadership that will eventually making the difference in the end.

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