Progress in Learning – lessons from painting and poetry

I am once again amazed by how I keep coming across poems (in the ModPo MOOC) that resonate with the research I am currently working on with my colleagues Roy Williams and Jutta Pauschenwein.

This week we have been discussing, in relation to a paper we are writing, how difficult it is to succinctly describe emergent learning and how difficult it is to capture it. (My last post relates to this). We attempt to do this through our visualization methodology – footprints of emergence  – but we are aware that each visualization is only a snapshot of a brief instance in time. (See our open wiki for examples of these visualizations).

We have found that if we tell our workshop participants that the footprint they have drawn of their learning experience could be different if drawn the next hour, day, week, month – then they question the value of the process. The idea that progress in learning can’t be pinned down is so counter-intuitive. But this week I feel I had confirmation of the constantly changing nature of student progress in learning from a number of sources.

1. In week 3 of ModPo,  we have been introduced to Ezra Pound’s poem ‘In a Station of the Metro’. In this he tries to represent what he sees in a moment and in so doing acknowledges how fleeting that moment is. I discuss how this resonates with me in my last blog post

2. A book chapter by Ray Land and Jan H.F. Meyer. I was trying to find out more about what we mean by transformational learning. On page xvii of the book (or p.18 of the PDF document) they describe a student’s progress along the transformational journey as like a ‘flickering movie’.

3. This reminded me of Eadweard Muybridge’s book – The Human Figure in Motion, which I have had on my bookshelf for about 40 years.

muybridge

Through his camera, Muybridge captured what the eye could not see as separate movements, just as the imagist poets sought analogy with sculpture, and just as educators try to capture the dynamics of the learning process and progress in learning, usually through assessment, but in our case through Footprints of Emergence.

4.  And finally coming back again to ModPo – Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, which was used to explain that with prolonged exposure motion can be captured in different frames.

Nude_Descending_a_StaircaseSource: http://www.marcelduchamp.net/Nude_Descending_a_Staircase.php

This painting is viewed in ModPo alongside William Carlos Williams’ poem, ‘Portrait of a Lady’

Williams tries to find the language to depict a portrait of a lady. He and Duchamp tried to rebuke traditional depictions. Duchamp attempts to depict multiple perspectives at different points in time and Williams shows how difficult it is to do this in words. Both Williams and Duchamp are saying that if you look at a portrait a 100 times you will see something different each time.

This is exactly the problem we have with capturing the meaning of learning, because it is in constant motion. Not only do we not have adequate language to describe it, but we also cannot fix it in time. These are the issues we are struggling with in our work on Footprints of Emergence, and what we mean when we say that a Footprint depicts a snapshot in time. For us the value in this is in a recognition of the dynamic complexity of learning and therefore the need to surface deep tacit understanding of the learning experience.

2 thoughts on “Progress in Learning – lessons from painting and poetry

  1. Edvin August 3, 2015 / 9:07 am

    Really interesting! Inspiration…

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