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Paul Grobstein's picture

looping in education and in interpersonal interactions

Steve's paper was an effective take-off point for a rich conversation.  Thanks all.  For myself and anyone else interested, a few issues I'll continue to mull, with some perhaps relevant links to things elsewhere related to them ...

I'm intrigued with the issue of "bidirectional interactions" and its various meanings as a way to distinguish different pedagogical approaches/methodologies, and, in particular, the notion of "construction" versus "absorption" approaches to learning.  For more on bidirectional interactions, see Loopiness: conflict, humanness, and the universe ("Bidirectional interactions not only blur simple relations between cause and effect but themselves bring new properties into being").  The notion of several distinct but interacting sets of birdirectional interactions or "loops" was the theme of a paper on pedagogical practice by Anne and myself (Story telling in at least three dimensions: an exploration of teaching reading, writing, and beyond).    Its a framework I continue to work out of, both in educational contexts (cf The three loops and their implications for the classroom) and, more generally, in trying to make sense of "understanding" itself. 

I'm equally intrigued by the perception of "opposition" between thinking of education in terms of individuals as opposed to groups, and the origins of that sense of opposition.  In the three loops framework, interpersonal interactions constitute an essential "loop" and so I never thought of myself as giving priority to individuals over groups.  I probably did though, as per my memories of writing with Anne and other colleagues a paper on "emergent pedagogy."  As came out in the discussion though, there is a further interesting issue here, perhaps related to the "scientific" preference for avoiding "noise".  A "one on one" approach to behavior and to education forces one to confront the enormous variability of individuals amplified by interpersonal interactions.  Both a cognitive approach and an anthropological one help to lessen this variability but then end up as competing versions of simplification, one "individual" and one "social."  The three loops framework would actually require one to deal more directly with human diversity and the complexity of interpersonal interactions.  And that makes it additionally appealing to me. 

Some thoughts to explore these issues further

  • Mike and I talked a bit after the session about "supervised" vs "unsupervised" learning models, and an introduction to this literature by Mike might be of use to the group.
  • I'd like to think more about what I think are two different senses of "social," one rooted in individual variation and its value for co-construction and the other rooted in the comfort of feeling part of community.  These two aspects of social can, I suspect, can sometimes conflict and other times be mutually supportive of co-construction and it would be worth thinking more about  how to effectively understand/intersect them. 

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