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Bharath Vallabha's picture

Emergence and Values: A Conflict?

I am sympathetic to emergent pedagogy and I like that the discussion here takes seriously the obstacles or further issues it still has to work out. I wonder what people who favor an emergent pedagogy might say to the following argument, which seems to me particularly strong.

1. A good classroom should not force values (or modes of life) upon the students. In this sense, a classroom or the teacher should aim to be value-neutral, so that the values of any student are not thwarted or implicitly rejected by the format of the class.

2. An emergent pedagogy forces particular values (or modes of life) upon the students. For instance, suppose a student is motivated to learn and do well in a class. But suppose also that this student is in part motivated to do well because she wants to get good grades, do well in school and get a well paying job, which she wants to get so that she can help her family financially. How would such a student fare in an emergent classroom? It seems that she would not fare well, and that in order to accept emergent pedagogy, she would have to change somewhat significantly her mode of life. This is because for her education is a means to an end; this doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about learning or has bad motivations; she does care about learning, but she cares about something else even more (say, her family’s financial welfare) and so education is a means to that end. But, if I understand it correctly, an emergent pedagogy requires not having the classroom be the means to some other end, since having an end in view already is what inhibits emergence. So, perhaps the student will feel quite threatened in the emergent classroom and feel that to really participate in the class, she has to forgo the end (at least as far as the class is concerned) of caring for her family’s finances. Therefore she might feel guilty that to really participate in the class she has to care less about her family. If the student does feel like this, it seems that the emergence framework of the class will have a negative impact on her and what she values.

Therefore,

3. An emergent pedagogy will not make for a good classroom. It forces the value of having an emergence view to life, which some students might not favor. In this sense, a more subject oriented, standard class setting seems to do better; if the classroom focuses only on the texts and ideas of an already established disciplinary setting, it is silent about the modes of life of a student and so can accommodate a student with any values or mode of life. An emergent pedagogy might work only for those who already accept the mode of interactions and inquiry it values (Dalke, et al. note that emergence pedagogy works when the participants already trust each other and the emergence process). But if that is so, as a pedagogy perhaps it cannot be generally applied to all students or classrooms without thwarting students who don’t already accept its values.

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