Monday, October 18, 2021

Creating Spaces for Graduate Learners to Emergently Design Curriculum Inspired by Complex Systems

 

 

Lens of Time: Secrets of Schooling, Biographic, 2017

How do we come to know and understand more about ourselves as part of the emergence of the universe in becoming? Inspired by the characteristics of The Living Universe (Elgin, 2011), as part of Living Systems (Capra & Luisi, 2014), and nurtured by insights from the dynamics of complex adaptive systems and complex emergence, complexity-informed teaching and learning open up fresh perspectives and approaches.

In emergentist approaches, the process of teaching and learning itself becomes centered as a part of the curriculum. Go meta! This term, that means in an eight-week graduate course, I am designing two of the weeks of the curriculum, and also supporting the students as co-designers developing five weeks of the curriculum. We all engage in synthesis in the last week. 

There are river banks to this river of emergent curriculum. These river banks in this case are guidelines for mini-syllabus development and materials curation. Many of these students are doctoral education students, so the approach of engaging in co-designing the curriculum is particularly relevant. We have core texts and readers that students select some chapters from to weave into their particular approaches. They also innovate catalytic experiential activities to warm up the Zoom class sessions. 

 A key approach is that in order to facilitate complex emergence, rather than focusing on linear outcomes that rely on cause-effect and reductive logics, complexity and systems-informed educators CREATE CONDITIONS. How do we create conditions for transformation and growth?

Two grounded resources come to mind for those interested in this approach:

  • Crowell and Reid-Marr's luscious, narrative-based descriptions in Emergent Teaching: A Path of Creativity, Significance, and Transformation (2013)
  • and Marilyn Taylor's Emergent Learning for Wisdom (2011).

Two research-based volumes that support this kind of approach include Bill Doll & Jayne Fleener et al's Chaos, Complexity, Curriculum, and Culture: A Conversation, and Mark Mason's edited collection on Complexity Theory and the Philosophy of Education (2009). 

The journey begins...

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Teaching and Learning Regeneration - Part 1 - Riffing on Linda Hogan's Phrase, "Give Praise and Nurture Creation"

 

Linda Hogan offers in Dwellings...


"Without deep reflection, we have taken on the story of endings, assumed the story of extinction, and have believed that it is the certain outcome of our presence here. From this position, fear, bereavement, and denial keep us in the state of estrangement from our natural connection with land.

"We need new stories, new terms and conditions that are relevant to the love of land, a new narrative that would imagine another way, to learn the infinite mystery and movement at work in the world. It would mean we, like the corn people of the Maya, give praise and nurture creation."
from "Creations," in Linda Hogan (Chickasaw)'s Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World, p. 94

What does it mean to generate learning contexts that nurture regenerative frames and forms? There is a key dimension of the processes of regeneration, and regenerative education, where things get composted and forms shift. What if we reframed the current entrancement with the apocalyptic toward what Macy terms, "the great turning" (with Johnstone, 2022): a perspective shift, from obliteration, to regeneration? Yes, forms are changing. Cultures, lifestyles, and what Eisler and Fry (2019) call the partnership way offer pathways of shift from systems of domination into mutuality and reciprocity. And as all these resources suggest, the pivot is about nurturing.

How can this relate to teaching and learning?  

Regenerative teaching involves nurturing. Regenerative learning invites a creative engagement, an imagination of possibility grounded in vivid relationship with/as the land that nurtures us and that we can nurture. We invite ourselves into remembrance, often difficult and sometimes trauma-filled, as is the nature of our current situation. As Toni Morrison (2019) suggests in the following passage, remembrance is an act of coalescing, a pulling together, generating a greater belonging. When Morrison says text or narrative or plot, I also think, curriculum:

"Rememory as in recollecting and remembering as in reassembling the members of the body, the family, the population of the past. And it was the struggle, the pitched battle, between remembering and forgetting, that became the device of the narrative. The effort to both remember and to not know became the structure of the text... the narrative strategy the plot formation turns on the stress of remembering, its inevitability, the chances for liberation that lie within the process." (Toni Morrison, The Source of Self-Regard, p. 324)

Teaching can invite and nurture regenerative remembrance. And in this regenerative remembrance, we are remembering, and unerasing and reclaiming, in somatic and experiential as well as earth-based and creative engagements. We are remembering our interrelatedness, our possibility, and our wholenesses. We are regrowing the ligaments and tendons of connectedness. We are re-bodying the healthy ancestors and ancient lifeways. We are remembering our futures and building relationship with the future beings, for they are the ones that know the brave acts we undertake that create their future. We are reconnecting our experience of wholeness, as Morrison suggests, nurturing "the chances for liberation that lie within the process" (p. 324).

Regenerative education, then, grapples to reclaim and re-aim our own further rebecoming. Our tissues and sinews of connection regrow fibril by fibril from the matrix of our pain, our denial, and our situated knowing. The creative powers awaken in the midst of this radically transforming world. Regenerative education nurtures this conscious action of restorying, regrounding, and active nurture. 

We aren't done yet, as a species or peoples. Whether through active earth hospice for the species angst and despair that opens us to remembrance of greater connectedness from which such pain springs, or via our own considerations of regenerative meta-storying, all those co-generated learning spaces can be sites of nurture. In the coming weeks I will consider some specific teaching and learning practices to embody regenerative remembrance and possibility. As the leaves up north here flare into golden leaf flame and layer into mulch, what compost can we be tending in our own hearts and hearths? What changes and shifts can we spark to sustain transformation? To nurture land connection, cultures of connection, and the sometimes long way home...

Original Montage, Marna Hauk, 03 October 21 - "Regenerative Remembrance 1 "  [Montage of Montana pond in autumn (MH, 21), aspens (MH, 21), radiant stone circle (Pexels)]

References

Eisler, Riane, & Fry, Douglas P. (2019). Nurturing our humanity: How domination and partnership shape our brains, lives, and future. Oxford.

Hogan, Linda. (1995). Dwellings: A spiritual history of the living world. Norton.

Macy, Joanna, & Johnstone, Chris. (2022). Active hope: How to face the mess we're in with unexpected resilience and creative power (Rev. ed). New World Library. 

Morrison, Toni. (2019). The source of self-regard: Selected essays, speeches, and meditations. Vintage.