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Brain, Education, and Inquiry - Fall, 2010: Session 10A

Paul Grobstein's picture

Brain, Education, and Inquiry

Bryn Mawr College, Fall 2010

Session 10A

Facilitated by LinKai_Jiang



Continued discussion of excerpts from Chapter 2 of Pedagogy of Freedom by Paolo Freire

Summary of session discussion (linkai)

In this session we explored ingenuous curiosity and epistemological curiosity and their relationship to the ethical concern of Freire.  There was broad agreement that we are all born with ingenuous curiosity: the desire to explore the world through senses and the faculties of our mind. Babies are avid learners. They experiment with everything within their reach: touch the object to learn about its shape and texture; throw it around and place it on top of another object to see how it behaves physically; they will bite it and taste it too. They are playing but they are also absorbing enormous amount of information about our world. Most of the debate was focused on epistemological curiosity. Amongst the concerns raised were question about its relative status to ingenuous curiosity: is it higher or equal? Does it come much later than ingenuous curiosity? If we were to define this curiosity simply as reflection, babies seem to do a lot of it in their sleep. But as the brain becomes increasingly inflexible epistemological curiosity needs more critical guidance to continue to develop. We seem to take for granted that of course the goal should be to develop the more critical epistemological curiosity. Undoubtably, critical reflection is desired but need it be at the devaluation of more of a "common sense" curiosity? Some suggested that there need not be such a Darwinian development. The epistemological curiosity builds on the ingenuous curiosity, but is inseparable from it. As Paul suggested that ethical concern corresponds with the third loop of human interaction. It matters then to see ethical concerns as fundamental to human interaction because we cannot do without ethics in constituting the "human" in the human interaction.   

Your continuing thoughts about this and its relation to the classroom in the forum below ....





Paul Grobstein's picture

Friere and co-constructive inquiry

Very rich session, one that for me brought out lots of parallels between Freiere's thought and our earlier discussion of the brains three loops: ingenuous curiosity (loop 1, non-reflective learning), epistemological curiosity (loop 2, reflective, story based), "developing the person," as opposed to "forming the person" (loop 3, interpersonal/cultural). 

Rich as well for the exercise in making text the basis for co-constructive inquiry.  Was a little worried during the first of the two sessions that conversation was being allowed to drift a bit, thought things focused nicely in second.  Worth thinking more about.   Other feelings?

ellenv's picture

Using Curiosity in the Classroom

 When we were talking about the different types of curiosity last class, I couldnt help but wonder how exactly we should shape curriculum in order to bring all forms of curiosity into the classroom. I do think that it is important to foster curiosity in the classroom so that students are actually invested in the material that they are learning, but as we learn more and more about the structures that exist in the classroom (loops, curiosity, conscious, unconscious etc.) as well as the other factors like resources (or lack thereof), standards etc. it seems like we keep adding more and more to the teacher's plate. Is there any way that all of these things can be taken into consideration all at once, or are there time where you are going to have to value one at the cost of another? Should we making sure that all factors come into curriculum creation at some points but maybe not all points?

Angela DiGioia's picture

Transition from ingenuous curiosity to epistemological curiosity

 “…which happens when ingenuous curiosity, while remaining curious, becomes capable of self-criticism.  In criticizing itself, ingenuous curiosity become ‘epistemological curiosity,’ as through greater methodological exactitude it appropriates the object of its knowing.” P.37

Ingenuous and epistemological curiosities are always present from the outset because of genetics and also because babies spend most of their time sleeping and dreaming, which is a reflective process.  However, cultures can act to suppress the development of a child's ingenuous curiosity, and therefore, their epistemological curiosity is handicapped as well.  Epistemological curiosity, although always present, can be developed to varying degrees through an accumulation of a child's interactions with other people culturally and through their education.  This analytical ability that accelerates the development of a child's epistemological curiosity arises through the interaction between the 1st 2nd and 3rd loops.

Why do we educate people?
Education shapes the person; teaches them social and cultural norms.. The interactions between people enable the person to develop their analytical skills and then to apply them to society/culture so that they are not a means to an end but can develop new knowledge through the reflective loop and towards the advancement of society as a whole.




FinnWing's picture

Epistemological vs. Ingenuous Curiosity

  This was a very interesting conversation and one certainly worth delving further into.  It seems that in Freire's view,  epistemological curiosity rises naturally from ingenuous curiosity, according to Freire, "It changes in quality but not in essence" (p. 37).  I think that this is an important point, insofar as, in its purest form, the two forms of curiosity are two sides of the same coin, one more thoroughly minted than the other.  In practice though, it seems that ingenuous and epistemological curiosity often deviate from one another. 

  An example of this, fresh in my mind, is how results of acupuncture are treated by the western medical establishment.  Acupuncture, and its benefits, are gauged in a similar way to pharmaceuticals.  There is an implicit assumption that the relative quality is fairly stable between certified practitioners, however, in practice this is often not the case.  Thus to study acupuncture as effective or ineffective is heavily influenced by the practitioner, just as the quality of music depends on the musician.  In this way, the ingenuous curiosity, or "common sense," tells us that an individual acupuncturist and acupuncturee achieve an unique result.  Yet, in epistemological curiosity, the assumption is made that the results are going to be "close enough" to study on a large scale.  Whether this is correct or incorrect I don't know, but I certainly think that it is worth thinking about how epistemological curiosity can deviate from Freire's ideal when both the quality and essence of the investigation are altered.   

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