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elovejoy's picture

emergence CAN work


    During our discussion, we touched upon the concerns that both Brie and I had with emergence after reading the article.  Brie’s main concern was about the focus of individual progress to measure a student’s “talent.”  I can see this as a major concern because so many students and parents put so much effort into doing well because tests like the SAT and ACT create the standards for college admission.  My main concern dealt with the issue of discipline in an emergent classroom.  During our discussion on discipline, we focused mainly on the idea of the amount of effort students put in to a class.  Most students want to feel that all of their peers are putting in equal amounts of effort.  But in most classrooms, there are some students who are completely disengaged and some students that are overly engaged.  This brings an interesting point to light that discussions in emergent courses are extremely sensitive to the students in the class.  It is not always the teacher’s fault if the class does not have a dynamic discussion, and it is useful for teachers to know that the blame can not be put entirely on them, as the students will control a lot of the dynamics.  Paul, Brie, and I came to the conclusion that the best thing to do in an emergent class is to set up a situation in which students forget that they are scared to participate so that more voices can be heard.  This can be done by using different types of readings that will promote some kind of conflict, and in turn will generate feelings in the students that they will want to share.

    Some people may think that teaching in an emergent fashion in a contemporary context is not feasible, but there are plenty of real life examples of when emergence has been proven to work.  Brie and I mentioned that we both participated in Odyssey of the Mind when we were younger, which is an educational program in which students are put into groups to solve problems using their creativity.  Then, the groups compete on the local, state, and world level.  Odyssey of the Mind allows students to take different paths to reach many different answers.  There never is one right answer.  This hands-on program allows for students to think in different ways and have group interactions.  You can learn more about Odyssey of the Mind here:  Personally, I thought that Odyssey of the Mind was a great emergent system of learning.  Every individual in the group had to contribute equally; the score in the competition was in part based on equal amounts of contribution from all participants.  The program allowed for us to think outside of the box and do activities that most children would never do on their own.

    Another example of emergence in the real world can be found in the way that NASA assembles their flight crews (  Paul mentioned to us that they look at group dynamics when assembling their teams, instead of who performs the best on an aptitude test.  I explored the topic a little further:  Although technical competence is also a factor, the final component in assembling a crew has to do with the astronaut's ability to work well in small groups.  Nick Kansas conducted a study in 1971 for NASA that stressed the importance of selecting crew members that were compatible so that during their long journeys, there wasn’t as many social and psychological stressors.  They found that aptitude, sensitivity, and motivation were equally important in selecting astronauts for a team.  I thought this was a really interesting example of a way that emergence has been used as an effective way to assess people.


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