2001 Conference (May 27-29)

Vancouver, B.C. Canada

Sonia MacPherson

Ecological creativity, refle(x)ive pra(x)is, and "the real world" of education




The full articulation of an ecological approach to education has yet to be fully realized. To date, pedagogical practice has been constrained by the predominance of outmoded views of cognition. These range from information-processing to dualistic constructivist orientations that accentuate, to varying degrees, the separation between the observer and the world. In these dualistic views, students' and teachers' minds become scripts to write or rewrite, and the world of classrooms a stage where the scripts are performed. This has led to a preoccupation with "reflective practice" in education, whereby teachers and students are encouraged to reflect back on their experiences in classrooms to enhance learning and classroom teaching practice.

As beneficial as such reflective practices may be to help us to understand experience, they tend to cast experience as just more information, rather than the site where our living and learning is enacted. In a similar way, ecological knowledge is reduced to just more "information" with which to form decisions

In this paper, I explore how a reorientation from reflective practice to reflexive praxis in education can support ecological pedagogies capable of changing the way we live in the world. Even the phonetic and syntactical shift from "ct" to "x" suggests moving from the dualism or two sounds and two letters to the singular sound and mirror image implicit in the letter "x." In terms of the connotation of the terms, unlike the script/stage analogy suggested by "reflection," reflexion suggests understanding the world as a mirror, never entirely separate from the underlying activities of one's own bodymind. The "real world" in such a view, is not located on either the side of the mind or the world, but rather in the experience that is generated through their encounter.

In marked contrast, the dominant view pervading education and curricula is that "the real world" for education is the future marketplace. Yet, by understanding the biology of cognition from a systems theory orientation, we can appreciate that the marketplace is a third order system, more abstract and recursive than "the real world" of immediate classroom experiences and relationships. Nonetheless, the perpetuation of the mind-environment dualism in education fuels distorted views that treat social and economic systems as if they were living systems needing serving, rather than as recursive spaces designed to further the well-being of underlying living systems.

So, when people speak of preparing students for the technological world of tomorrow, for example, what they are really doing is pressuring students to "conform" to their own images and desires of how the world should be-that is, more technological. These desires and image, in turn, are imposed on local classrooms through standardized, mandated curricula and exams to impose conformity over creative adaptation in learning processes in classrooms.

After considering some of the differences between what it is to conform or creatively adapt to classroom environments, I will conclude by offering some potential methods for cultivating reflexive praxis in education, principally through attention, mindfulness and awareness.


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