November 22, 2017

Trans–formational education

I am currently preparing for my Monash Education Academy event on trans-disciplinary pedagogies and the interdisciplinary curriculum which will include case studies and examples of practice from our 'Open-space Learning' project and its companion book for Bloomsbury Academic. In that publication my colleague Nicholas Monk argues that OSL is trans-disciplinary:

The trans-space exists by virtue of a dialectical process between various theses and antithesis that, in the moment of their opposition, create an 'open' space in which new sytheses develop. This is true, for example, of the teaching space that is neither rehearsal room nor seminar room, the relationship between participant and facilitator, between subject and object, between learning styles, and between mind and body. Indeed on this last point we argue... that OSL promotes a phenomenological experience of learning that follows an anti-Cartesian pattern of unity between mind and body, promoting a richer and fuller understanding of the subject matter. (Monk et al, 2011)

My workshops in Melbourne consider the open-space of the university classroom as an entangled and trans-disciplinary opportunity for researchers and students to re-make their world. In doing so, I not only recall a phenomenological tradition but also critical pedagogies that begin with the learner's body and their situated knowledge in the world. In a recent co-authored publication I argued for an 'ensemble' approach to teaching and learning, recalling the OSL vision and developing it with reference to theatre and performance studies:

One of the things that I find very interesting about the theatrical ensemble as a model for pedagogy is that it is a temporary community, that chooses to dwell together in a collective, whether for a week of immersive practice or many years of theatre making. This community has to evolve a system for behaviour which includes creating of some kind, and those ensemble-based groups tend towards a ‘collectivity’ that resists individual expertise, solo performers or celebrity culture. I have always been driven by the adaptability of the ensemble, across drama education, applied theatre and performance-as-research contexts, and here, I think has a particular opportunity to explore the peculiarity of Beckett in performance, through reflexive behavior. We try and keep that as simple as possible and ask participants to think about three categories during the process: what they expect, what they observe, and what they learn. I think the category of observation is especially important, because it foregrounds the experimental aspect of the process within a laboratory environment. (Heron & Johnson, 2017)

My experience of bringing theatre methods and performance practices into higher education contexts has not only developed an 'open-space' approach to learning, but also a transformational pedagogy that places the student at the centre of her/his own education. In opposition to transactional modes of education, or what has been referred to as the 'banking model' of teaching and learning, this transformational pedagogy insists on real change as well as risk and failure. In summary, I would like to reflect upon the 'trans-space' as a space of radical pedagogy, and I will be working with Monash colleagues to think about trans-disciplinarity in relation to trans-formational and trans-cultural education, which will be the subject of the next blog post.

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