Tuesday, 21 October 2014

transformation an ontological condition for learning?

Nope, I changed my mind about this article - it really is getting at the idea of students' developing their own learning philosophy. The first time I read this article I thought it was another article that was conflating teaching philosophy with learning philosophy discussing what the educator does for the learner. A teaching philosophy to my mind is an educator's philosophy for how to set the learning environment for students and thus takes into consideration a philosophy of learning - how do students in general learn? In contrast, a learning philosophy is something the learner develops for themselves. Learners, when taking a course, do not design the educational environment; that is the work of the teacher. A learning philosophy, in my opinion is something that a student discovers and constructs for themselves.

However, the argument that Bramming is making here is that transformation of the student is an ontological condition for learning. If transformation does not occur, then true learning really has not happened. This actually makes sense to me - if learning does not change a student, then what has happened in the process? Nothing, it has not impacted their knowledge structure - they have memorized without processing. Transformative learning will alter students' learning structure - they should see their world in a new way as a result of their education.

Bramming makes an interesting appeal to Nietzsche's acting and reacting forces linking it to Piaget's assimilative (surface) and accommodative (deep) learning. The author, notes however, that Nietzsche did not denigrate one over the other - both are necessary for learning: the actor is the accommodative force (interior) and the social learning structure being the assimilative force (exterior). Learning requires encouragement and the establishment by mentor (authority) of the degree to which skills will be mastered whereas the will/desire to master derives from within the student.

So Bramming is suggesting that we should be considering strong and weak learning experiences rather than strong and weak students. Has the educational environment set the challenge such that students must be actively engaged in their learning? Students need to transform their expectations and desires for learning from passive to active engagement with the course material and consider what the material means for themselves rather than memorizing what it means for an author or instructor - they must construct their own meaning. To do that students must question why and how they are learning something and not only what they are learning. These are the basic questions that undergird my understanding of developing one's own learning philosophy.

The analysis of Nietzsche's strong and weak learning forces is counter-intuitive because the weak forces can actually negate strong learning - they interfere with students' active engagement with the educational experience.

Thus, the argument here is to not allow the nature of the educational experience be determined by students' satisfaction, because for transformation to occur, frustration, anger, and loss may be part of the learning process as students experience a deconstruction/reconstruction of their knowledge structure which forms the filter through which they view their world. Thus real learning - deep learning - alters the way we see the world.


Bramming P. 2007. An Argument for Strong Learning in Higher Education. Quality in Higher Education 13(1): 45-56. DOI:10.1080/13538320701272722