A Right Hemisphere Approach to Education

In a week’s time, I will be once again in the Cotswolds, UK, attending the Field & Field 4 day conference at which Iain McGilchrist, author of The Master and His Emissary. The Divided Brain and the making of the Western World, will be the keynote speaker. This will be the fifth time I have attended this conference (or retreat as the organiser likes to call it). On all prior occasions I have shared my notes from the conference on this blog. They can be found on The Divided Brain page, linked to here.

The last time this conference took place in 2019, I ran an hour long workshop in which we discussed the implications of McGilchrist’s work for education (see https://jennymackness.wordpress.com/2019/06/12/coming-to-your-senses-with-iain-mcgilchrist/). For that workshop, I didn’t assume that everyone was familiar with McGilchrist’s book, so we examined and discussed the key characteristics of the left and right hemispheres’ take on the world, how these might affect education, and what changes to education this knowledge might suggest. An hour is nowhere near long enough for this discussion, so we only scratched the surface.

This year, despite the shortage of time once again, I would like to take this discussion further, by focussing on what a right hemisphere approach to education might involve and include. To do this we will first briefly consider the direction that education might take if it continues to be dominated by left hemisphere approaches. We will then spend the rest of the session discussing how some key themes from McGilchrist’s book, related to the right hemisphere’s way of attending to the world, might be implemented in schools. The themes I have selected for discussion are: flow and betweenness; depth and breadth; embodiment; qualification; creativity; the ‘Other’; and two kinds of knowing. There are, of course, many other possible themes, and if participants want to work on an alternative theme, that would be fine with me. I have written about some of these themes on this blog (see The Divided Brain page).

Because of the shortage of time, I will be providing notes to support this activity, but I see this is as a more challenging task than the one we worked on in 2019. It requires escaping from left hemisphere thinking and trying to imagine an alternative approach to education. There will be no one way of doing this, no ‘right’ answer. Hopefully there will be many alternative perspectives. But more than this, my hope is that the session will provoke new ways of thinking, suggest new possibilities for education, or, at the very least, raise questions to take away and think about. McGilchrist has said that we need a paradigm shift, a change of hearts and minds to redress the balance between left and right hemisphere. I will be interested to see whether this sort of activity has the potential to start this process.

6 thoughts on “A Right Hemisphere Approach to Education

  1. Bruno Annetta September 25, 2021 / 10:21 pm

    Oh! I love this! I look forward to reading your blog! I’m sorry that I cannot participate 🙁

  2. Bruno September 26, 2021 / 2:53 am

    As I cannot attend the retreat I thought I’d offer my perspective and suggestions here. I think that play could be a theme. It seems to me that it encompasses a few of the other themes such as flow, embodiment and creativity. With regards to ‘betweenness’ I use the phrase ‘harmonious opposition’ to describe the state in which the opposing poles are working together. I find it more effective than ‘betweenness’ as it implies movement where ‘betweenness’ implies static suspension of two states … and I don’t think our thinking is ever static. I have more to offer but am not sure if it is completely appropriate or asked for here.

  3. jennymackness September 27, 2021 / 9:05 am

    Hello Bruno. Many thanks for your comment. It’s encouraging to know that you find this interesting. Hopefully others at the event will do too. I agree that play could be a theme, and that it fits with some of the other themes.

    With respect to betweenness, I have written about my understanding of this, from interpretation of McGilchrist’s work, in a previous post. Not sure if you have seen it – https://jennymackness.wordpress.com/2018/10/02/betweenness-a-way-of-being-in-the-world/

    The idea of harmonious opposition is interesting. I think for McGilchrist, if I have understood him correctly, that it’s not so much the opposition that interests him, as the idea of having separateness and togetherness at the same time. Perhaps I haven’t understood. Please feel free to add more comments. It would be interesting to hear more about your thinking.

  4. Bruno Annetta October 11, 2021 / 1:03 am

    Hi Jenny
    Will you be giving a summary of your talk at the Field & Field 4 day conference?
    Cheers
    Bruno

  5. jennymackness October 11, 2021 / 10:24 am

    Hi Bruno, Thank you for your interest in this and for the prompt to write something about it which I will try to do sometime this week. There is an awful lot to process from the conference and I hope to make a few posts, but it will take me a bit of time. Thanks so much. Jenny

  6. Bruno Annetta October 11, 2021 / 11:50 am

    I look forward to it … and I can wait. Thank you!
    Bruno

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