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Brain Behavior Institute 2009 - Emergent Pedagogy and the Web



Session 4


Emergent Pedagogy = Open-ended Transactional Inquiry

Thoughts about/discussion/further development of ideas in/growing from "Emergent Pedagogy: Learning to Enjoy the Uncontrollable and Make it Productive" (pdf), with Anne Dalke, Wil Franklin 


The Web as an Educational Tool,
and Incentive for "Getting It Less Wrong"

The promise and possibilities

Mining the Web

Web Authoring


General Assignment

During the rest of the institute, use afternoon open time to develop/enhance your skills as an interactive, transactional educator and web user/author in that mode.  

  • Get used to using/organizing/updating your "blog" pages
  • Put in blog a summer project: use the web to explore something related to variations in brain and behavior that you are curious about.  Learn/think about/create something that interests/surprises you and that you think will interest/surprise others.  Based on your work, create a web page (or set of pages) that you (and others) can use to encourage further conversation on this topic (perhaps in, among other places, your own classroom).
  • Put in your blog some thoughts about what you will do differently in your classroom next year.
  • Update blog during the year.
  • Have fun discovering/creating new ways to think about things, in education and life.
"The point is that thinking, and being able to think, is the only way to make anything BETTER than it is, and sure there's a risk in that but its a hell of a lot better then sitting in one place and trying to hold everything together, particularly when it isn't really quite what you want and you know damned well that its all going to come apart one way or another anyhow. Thinking IS fun ..." This Isn't Just MY Problem, Friend

Today's Assignment

Create an introduction to yourself in your "blog." Who are you, what do you distinctively bring to our conversation, what would you like it to achieve for yourself?  for others?  If you have time, do some surfing, add to your blog links that you think are interesting, may help in developing your summer project.




Jill Bean's picture

Emergent pedagogy and learning styles

I continue to wrestle with the question "Is emergent pedagogy the best type of instruction for all learning styles, or is it good only for certain learning styles?"  I'm thinking about the child who has weak inter and intrapersonal skills.  Will he learn best through a transactional learning experience that seems to require strong metacognitive skills?  Or the child who is grounded in the concrete world and who struggles with even the most basic abstract concepts.  Can she truly engage in emergent pedagogy and create her own stories for some of the phenomenon in the world? 

I'm also thinking about Wil's suggestion that some students are simply not yet ready for their story to emerge?  When I think about my students from this past year that I can envision thriving in a classroom based on emergent pedagogy, they are all students who brought with them at the start of the school year vast amounts of background knowledge.  Perhaps they were able to engage with some of the questioning, story telling, and story revising that we did throughout the year because they already had sufficient exposure to a variety of experiences, different contexts, and being encouraged and expected to think about and ask questions about the world.  Perhaps the other set of kids that struggled with these activities will be ready later in their lives, after they too gain more experience in these areas.  Which leads to Deb's question, "Does parenting style impact the effectiveness of emergence pedagogy?"  Reflecting on my students this past year, I think the answer to that questions has to be yes! 

Jill Bean's picture

Emergence - partial application?

I am curious about the discussion this afternoon about using emergence as one approach within a whole variety of approaches to teaching.  Is a teacher that attempts to use teach a lesson through emergence one day a week, one class out of five, really engaging in emergent pedagogy?  Or does emergent pedagogy need to occur continuously over long periods of time in order to develop the deep questions and understandings that emergent pedagogy seems to suggest?  My instinct is that the only occasional use of emergent structured lessons and experiences does not really mesh with the theory of emergent pedagogy as I understand it. What do other people think?


Deborah Hazen's picture

I don't think I fully grasp it yet

I've decided that I don't fully grasp emergent pedagogy yet. I'm getting there....but I think that my filter has to be adjusted somehow. You know that irritating little itch in the brain that you get when you are on the verge of "getting it" but you also know that something is eluding you. I'm very itchy.

Verolga Nix-Allen's picture

Emergent Pedagogy

I didn’t finish reading the material because I did not understand it.    However,  I found the discussion in class, with the different examples and scenarios, very interesting.  In 1990 I retired from the Philadelphia Public  School System after being a Music Education Teacher for approximately 20 years. I realized that in my teaching career we were the masters of not only our class rooms but the materials we taught.  We had a Curriculum Guide but we also had the freedom to execute what was in the teaching guide.  We actually had fun and entered a 110 voice SATB choir to sing with excellence while representing our school in the Music Festival.  I realized that many school districts have dropped music in the schools.  So, I am thankful that I am not teaching in the school system now.  Instead I now have a 30 voice auditioned adult choir which demands my attention and to which I am directing the knowledge from this class.


Geneva Tolliferreo's picture

7/7 PM Summary

As an side to ending this morning's session, please know that you can not, nor should you want to, or try to manipulate The Holy Spirit.  The Gift of The Holy Spirit is the speaking in The Heavenly Language of Tongues.

In summary of this afternoon...

We want to learn to be effective contributors to information on the web and teach our students how to be the same ... as stated by Dr. Grobstein; and I agree.

Is the brain what changes or is it the process of the brain that changes to accomodate each thought, situation, question, good time, dilemma, experience, etc.?

What is a 'brain freeze', which seems to be a result of eating something cold such as a water ice or icy pop?  Is it the result of the brain experiencing a shock from the cold?

Can what you do in your classroom, as a teacher effectively demonstrate what you are teaching / your students are learning?

2 models of teaching:                                                                                                                                         1- teaching to the test                                                                                                                                      2- not teaching to the test.

We are teaching students, not materials.

Society has created a mirage that the most affluent / expensive university education will afford you the best opportunities life has to offer.  I believe that a graduate of these so called hallowed halls of institutional learning, that are unemployed, at least in part because they are 'over educated' would  differ with this school of thought.  The graduate from a commonwealth or state college is happy to have a  job, eventhough it may not be regarded as the 'position' from which they may or not become unemployed.

*You can not stick to the script when teaching 100% of the time.  We all experience teachable moments, whether caused by the teacher, a student, or an occurance.

Yes, this class today is in session during the Michael Jackson Memorial Service.



Brie Stark's picture

I think that emergent

I think that emergent educaiton challenges the concept of the teacher's responsibility beyond the realm of school.  I believe that emergence fosters an idea that education and learning is lifelong, while the temporary education system tells teachers that they must ready students for college; that college professors must ready students for "life," which seems to say that there is no longer any need for learning in life.  I think that this concept is sorely mislead.  Learning should be a lifelong process, and our education system doesn't entirely encompass this ideal.  Perhaps emergence can start a new process: stress the development, stress the ideal of lifelong learning, with conclusions and right answers as a secondary, helpful addition.

From a student's point of view, I feel like tests that colleges require, such as the ACT, are geared toward telling students that they should pursue what they are good at rather than what they are interested in.  I am quite positive that colleges thought that I wanted to pursue a degree an english because I did so well on the english and writing section of the ACT.  I think that this underlying assumption of the test really discourages the need to explore.  I believe, then, that emergence can tend to foster interests rather than what students are "apt" or "good" at -- because, while I have always been praised for my english abilities, I have no interest in pursuing an english degree.  However, when classes are taught in an emergent fashion, I would be more interested in taking an english emergent course because I know that the discussions could include my own interests and I would not just be fed information.  This, to me, is particularly stimulating and makes me want to learn more.


Blog Examples:



Deborah Hazen's picture

What if it's a motivation thing?

What if no one really believes that you should learn just to take the test or get into college? What if, instead, teacher preservice training programs just do a really poor job of teaching about how the brain learns and MOTIVATION. And what if all of the years of "do this to get into college" are just a whole lot of clueless, but well meaning teachers trying to motivate students to do their best?!?!?!?!?

Jack Marine's picture


I don't know if this is a beginning of my blog... But I am an educator who has been teaching for ten yaers. I love seeing children get excited about life sciences. I like teaching with artifacts and specimens- allowing brains to wake up and react to things that are unusual and unfamiliar. For the past three years I've taught science to grades 1-5 at a local charter school.

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