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Latest update: January 9, 2009

LEARNING: a way of becoming


My concern with learning started out as a concern with the learning of others. I have gradually become aware of and am increasingly fascinated by the extent to which one can only effectively interact with someone else's learning by learning oneself.

I define learning as "the disposition of human beings, and of the social entities to which they pertain, to engage in continuous dialogue with the human, social, biological and physical environment, so as to generate intelligent behavior to interact constructively with change." My justification for that definition can be found in the chapter on "Integrity, Completeness and Comprehensiveness of the Learning Environment: Meeting the Basic Learning Needs of All throughout Life" published in 2001 in the International Handbook of Lifelong Learning (Vol 2, Ch. 2), edited by D. N. Aspin, J. D. Chapman, M. J. Hatton and Y. Sawano (Eds.). The publisher is Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands (now Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands). A draft version of that chapter is available on the Web site under "papers."

My current research interests are directed at better understanding human learning. This looks like too broad an area for any researcher to engage in, and indeed it is. Part of my efforts are therefore aimed at getting communities of researchers, pertaining to different disciplines, collectively involved in research around significant transdisciplinary themes that serve as an organizing principle for the research effort. My own contributions in this context relate to the collection and analysis of people's learning stories and to the development of a descriptive framework that allows learning to be understood as a complex adaptive phenomenon. Some of the results of this work are reflected in another Springer publication: Learners in a Changing Learning Landscape: Reflections of a Dialogue on New Roles and Expectations. My second chapter in this book on Constructive interaction with change: Implications for learners and the environment in which they learn reflects some of my current thinking about human learning.

Related to the above is my quest to refocus educational efforts on overall mindsets rather than the often exclusive attention to developing component competencies. As a case in point for this concern, and no doubt biased by my background in the sciences, I am attending to this concern by pursuing questions regarding the development of the scientific mind. An emerging interest in this area is my work on learning for sustainability. I perceive the latter area as crucial for our ability to live, as a species, in harmony with our planetary environment.

My earlier research regarding learning, which led to a dissertation on Enhancing Learner Motivation in an Instructor-Facilitated Learning Context, focused on the key role of motivational communication as an integral component of the facilitation of learning. The study was a first in that its basic premise was that, from an instructional design perspective, motivational communication must be seen as similarly pervasive and thus be attributed the same importance and relevance as content-based educational communication. Follow-up studies by other researchers using forms of motivational communication modeled on the one proposed in the original study but applied in different contexts have since further validated this premise.

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