The role of involvement in learning how to learn

I found this reprint from Hubert Dreyfus quite inspiring to engage with again, over a decade since I read the original book. It feels more relevant than ever when considering the constraints of education during the pandemic, with the core challenge posed by Dreyfus of how much involvement can be established remotely being one which anyone teaching via Zoom will have felt over the last year. He describes on pg 169 the significance which that involvement has on the orientation of students towards learning:

teachers can play a crucial role in whether students will withdraw into being disembodied minds or become more and more emotionally involved in the learning situation. If the teacher is detached and computer-like, the students will be too. Conversely, if the teacher shows his involvement in the way he pursues the truth, considers daring hypotheses and interpretations, is open to student’s suggestions and objections, and emotionally dwells on the choices that have lead him to his conclusions and actions, the students will be more likely to let their own successes and failures matter to them, and rerun the choices that lead to these out- comes.

This foregrounds what matters to the educator and to the students. Why do they care about the subject matter? How do they move towards these issues and how does it feel to do so? In this sense, he’s pointing to the significance of the fact the material matters (or doesn’t) to the teacher, as well as the influence this involvement (or absence thereof) has over how students relate to the material. It’s helpful to distinguish between involvement in this evaluative sense of mattering and involvement in the broader Heideggerian sense of embodied relations within a context. The former can be sustained much more easily through telepresence than the latter, even if it might require careful work to ensure it emerges in discussions.

This is why I think reflexivity is key to how we orientate ourselves to remote teaching and learning. We need to be able to surface our concerns, the things that matter to us, in order to make them a platform for discussion. This obviously has value in face-to-face teaching but, I increasingly think, it’s indispensable online.

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